Reading Donna Leon's bestselling Commissario Brunetti's novels, you can't escape the culinary descriptions and references. Food plays an important part both in Brunetti's life and in the series. I have bookmarked many a tempting recipe mentioned in the novels, with beef stew being one of them.
It appears in "A sea of troubles"
"He finished his lasagne and looked across at Paola. "Is there any more? It's delicious", he added.
"What else is there, Mamma?" Chiara demanded, appetite overcoming Raffi's warning.
"Beef stew with peppers", Paola asked.
"The one with potatoes? Raffi asked, his voice rich with feigned enthusiasm.
"Yes", Paola said, getting to her feet and starting to stack the plates.
The lasagne, to Brunetti's disappointment, proved to be much like the Messiah: there was no second coming...
... as he ate, his attention drifted from the chunks of stewed beef to the cubes of carrot, the small slices of onion. When he paused, Brunetti looked across at Paola and asked, "Did you put Barbera in this?"
She nodded, and he smiled, pleased he'd got it right".
So, what do we have here: beef, carrots, onion and red wine.
The Brunettis clearly have very good appetities, if they can eat stew after lasagne.
I have checked a few books on Italian cuisine, trying to find a recipe for any special Venetian beef stew.
I also have a book "A Taste of Venice/ At Table with Brunetti" by Donna Leon and Roberta Pianaro. There is a recipe for beef stew with pepper, onion and carrot, however, I was a bit confused. The recipe uses minced beef, and the final result sounds more like ragu than a stew. A stew is usually made with chunks of meat, though don't quote me on that.
I have adapted the recipe, deciding to try to cook the stew with minced beef, though serve it not with potatoes but with pasta, like tagliatelle, especially that the recipe ends with "This is a superb sauce for pasta", while the Brunettis have it with potatoes. You see, it is confusing, isn't it?!
Beef stew with sweet pepper and carrot
3tbsp chilli-flavoured olive oil + 3tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 big white onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped, about 300g
400g minced beef (I used Hereford beef mince, 10% fat)
a bottle of tomato passata (540g)
250ml red wine
2 sweet peppers (orange or yellow)
a pinch of sugar, sea salt
In a deep frying pan heat up the olive oil, add the chopped onion and carrots, cook stirring for 10-15 minutes. In a separate frying pan, fry the beef mince with finely chopped shallots in chilli flavoured olive oil, until the mince is browned on all sides.
Put the beef in the frying pan with the carrots and onion, mix together, add the passata, red wine and chopped peppers. Season with salt and a pinch of sugar. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and cook simmering for an hour and a half, covered with the lid.
Serve with freshly cooked tagliatelle. You could also serve it with mashed potatoes or polenta.
It is a delicious beef ragu/stew, flavourful and moreish.
This amount of ragu will be enough to feed a big family. You can also freeze it in plastic containers.
In this recipe I used La Classica Passata from Cirio. This is an authentic Italian tomato product made with ripe luscious tomatoes, and it's a perfect base for any tomato sauce.
I used chilli flavoured olive oil from Filippo Berio. If you don't have it, just substitute with a standard olive oil, and add a bit of chilli paste, or fresh chopped chilli to add a nice kick to the dish.
I didn't have Barbera for the recipe, the red wine I added to the recipe was just average red wine which I think was part of dinner for £20 from M&S. In these deals they usually add a cheaper bottle of wine.
Have you read a book recently which inspired you to run to the kitchen and cook to your heart's content?
I hope you are inspired by books to join in the #ReadCookEat challenge.
The idea is to choose a book, either a world classic or modern fiction, or even memoirs and pick up a dish mentioned or described in that book and then recreate it in a recipe. Please say a few lines about your chosen book, and maybe even do a quote from the book.
If you decide to take part, please add the badge to your post and link up back to me, and either use a link-up tool or add the url of your post as a comment. Alternatively, email me with the link to your post (my email is sasha1703 at yahoo dot com).
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