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Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat -- cut in 1 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet
2 large onions -- peeled and chunked
6 medium carrots -- chunked
4 medium potatoes -- peeled and chunked
2 stalks celery -- cut in 2" slices
16 ounces canned tomato wedges -- optional
1 cup frozen peas* -- optional
1 cup frozen green beans* -- optional
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn* -- optional
1 clove garlic -- minced
2 beef bouillon cubes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper -- coarsely ground
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika -- optional
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cups water

*Add frozen vegetables 1 hour before serving.

Optional: substitute 12 small pearl onions for the onions in the recipe; substitute 1 cup dry red wine and 1 cup water for the water alone in the recipe; substitute 2 cups cooked small pasta for the potatoes.

Combine flour with salt and pepper; toss to coat beef cubes. Set excess flour aside. Brown meat on all sides with oil in a skillet. Put meat in a slow cooker. Add bay leaf and vegetables. Combine bouillon cubes, Kitchen Bouquet, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, paprika (if used) and water; mix well. Pour over vegetables. Cook on low for 12 to 14 hours; or on high for 6 to 8 hours. One hour before serving, find and remove bay leaf; make a paste of the flour and water. Add to mixture and stir gently until thickened.

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