Simmering as I type…

So today I had a day off and I ventured out of the house mid morning and the sheer number of students back on the streets was astounding. Every year, I forget that they’re due back and that Liverpool will double in size and then I get distracted in the throes of freshly sharpened pencils daydreams and I find I’ve gone the wrong way.

All their bright, eager faces and ring binders got me to thinking about when we were at Liverpool Uni and our big, happy house in South Liverpool and I had a yearning for something we would have eaten back then. Meals were a very important affair as we did, and do, adore our food.

The emphasis was on cheep, cheerful and filling and we must have eaten our own body weight in roast chickens and herby, fat sausage casserole. Lunch was forever a speedy affair, often eaten over Diagnosis Murder or Doctors and sometimes we would stop for a mid afternoon custard cream supplied by Nor. She had an amazing skill for producing a pack out of her dressing gown pocket at any given time and I was always jealous of such magic! As students we were enormously proud of ourselves for eating very little in the way of takeaways or noodles or pasta. My heart always sinks at the bland and grey food that most students seem to exist on, but we were very good at filling our meals with fresh vegetables and plenty of exciting and different dishes. The house, itself, was a hive of activity and was the vessel for some of the best and worst days of our lives. Four years on, we’re so envious of people who get to do it all over  again but we mark the passing years with bottles of wine and cackling over photos and I’m lucky to have met some of the best people in my life passing through that front door.

With this in mind, I am cooking a staple stew. A cheap and cheerful, hearty and warming equivalent of  a draught excluder tonight. This is a perfect student meal but also delicious.

Balsamic Beef and Butternut Squash Stew

(serves 4)

600g (2 large) beef rump steaks, diced, 2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned, 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 red onions, finely chopped, 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, 2 tbsp tomato purée, 150ml red wine, 250g butternut squash, diced, 2 red peppers, sliced, Small handful fresh thyme leaves, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, Good dash Worcestershire sauce, 500ml beef stock

1. Toss the beef in the flour. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a casserole over a medium-high heat. Add the beef, in batches, and cook to brown all over. Spoon into a bowl and set aside.

2. Add the remaining oil, onion and garlic to the casserole and soften for 5 minutes. Add the tomato purée and cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and bubble for a few minutes more.

3. Return the beef to the casserole, then add the diced squash, sliced red pepper, thyme leaves, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and beef stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes until the beef is tender. Check the seasoning.

4. Serve the beef stew with garlic mash (made by squeezing roasted garlic from its skins and stirring it into hot mashed potatoes with some salt, pepper and hot milk).

And now I’m going to go and eat it!!

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