Christmas Eve Comfort Food – Christmas Carollers’ Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve Comfort Food - Christmas Carollers' Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve Comfort Food – Christmas Carollers’ Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve Comfort Food – Christmas Carollers’ Casserole:

Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve Comfort Food - Christmas Carollers' Casserole -  Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve Comfort Food – Christmas Carollers’ Casserole – Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve is often a very busy time, with last-minute present wrapping, and even buying in some cases, plus all the preparations for the big day with mounds of potatoes to peel, sprouts to trim and “pigs in blankets” to make. For us, it is the night we put our tree up – I know it may seem late to lots of my readers, but the mystery and excitement of finally dressing the tree is wonderful, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. We have deviated  from this tradition over the years; after my daughter was born we used to relent and put it up on her birthday, St Lucy’s Day on the 13th December, but as she got older, we reverted back to Christmas Eve and so the family tradition has been restored.

Christmas Eve Comfort Food - Christmas Carollers' Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve Comfort Food – Christmas Carollers’ Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

I used to boil and bake a festive ham and make piles of sandwiches, mince pies and sausage rolls, and nice though this was to have a “running buffet” throughout the evening,  more recently we have all enjoyed a sit down meal together on Christmas Eve, and this recipe for Christmas Carollers’ Casserole, or Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew has  become a frequent request for our Christmas Tree decorating supper. The beef is beautifully spiced with added honey, chestnuts and plump prunes, and it is a very “well-behaved dish”, keeping warm for a few hours, as well as being easy to reheat.

Christmas Eve Comfort Food - Christmas Carollers' Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve Comfort Food – Christmas Carollers’ Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

It’s a dish that can also be prepared in advance, and I have often made it in my slow cooker (crock pot) in the past, which works beautifully and allows you to forget all about it after the initial cooking steps. Plus, the aroma of all the spices in this recipe are redolent of Christmas and are very enticing. We often forget that British cookery was one of complex flavours and excessive spicing, for those who could afford spices of course; and the Elizabethan period was famous for its spiced meat dishes, often exotic and sweetened with honey, they are very similar to what we consider to be the cooking of The Maghreb nowadays, a region that is defined very loosely as North Africa.

Christmas Eve Comfort Food - Christmas Carollers' Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve Comfort Food – Christmas Carollers’ Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

This is a dish to eat with mulled wine or sherry, by a roaring fire with candles lit and excitement mounting; it’s a dish to share with all the family and is perfect when served with spiced red cabbage, and I have a recipe here, Spiced Red Cabbage with Apples, as well as piles of fluffy mashed potatoes. It’s a veritable Christmas Carol of a recipe, with high notes of spices and low notes of tender, rich beef……it also has a fruity jingle with plump prunes and nutty chestnuts, it’s simply divine and I will be making it again this Christmas Eve, as we decorate our tree. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do, think of it as an English Tagine, comforting and yet slightly exotic…..and if your little ones aren’t keen on spices, just cut back on them, but experience has proved that children love this dish as much as the grown-ups! That’s it for today, see you soon with more Christmas and seasonal recipes, Karen 

Christmas Eve Comfort Food - Christmas Carollers' Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Carollers’ Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Serves 6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 2 hours, 30 minutes
Total time 2 hours, 45 minutes
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish
Misc Gourmet, Serve Hot
Occasion Christmas, Formal Party, Halloween, Thanksgiving
Region British
By author Karen S Burns-Booth
The use of spices and fruit in savoury recipes during the Elizabethan era was very popular, especially with the upper classes and the Royal court. This is based on a genuine Elizabethan recipe, which I have adapted for modern day cooking. This is the perfect comfort dish to serve on a cold night and can be re-heated if you make it beforehand.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
  • 750g stewing beef, or brisket (trimmed of fat and cubed)
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 300 ml red wine (or beef stock)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 100g dried prunes (pitted)
  • 50g cooked and peeled chestnuts

Note

The use of spices and fruit in savoury recipes during the Elizabethan era was very popular, especially with the upper classes and the Royal court. This is based on a genuine Elizabethan recipe, which I have adapted for modern day cooking. This is the perfect comfort dish to serve on a cold  night and can be re-heated if you make it beforehand.

Directions

Step 1 Heat the oil in a large oven-proof casserole dish and gently fry the onion for 8 to 10 minutes.
Step 2 Toss the cubes of beef in the flour combined with the spices and seasoning and then add them to the onion.
Step 3 Gently sauté the beef until it is browned and an even colour.
Step 4 Stir in the red wine with the honey and continue to cook over a medium heat, stirring for a further minute.
Step 5 Add the prunes and then cover, before simmering over a very low heat for 2 to 2 and half hours - the beef should be soft and tender and the prunes rehydrated. Add the cooked chestnuts for the last 10 minutes.
Step 6 Serve with spiced red cabbage and mashed potatoes.
Christmas Carollers' Casserole

Christmas Carollers’ Casserole

As this has spices in it, I am entering it into the Festive Cooking with Herbs Challenge, which has also included Spices for December

Cooking with Herbs

Christmas Carollers' Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Carollers’ Casserole: Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve Comfort Food - Christmas Carollers' Casserole -  Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

Christmas Eve Comfort Food – Christmas Carollers’ Casserole – Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew

* In association with Schwartz*

Comments

    • says

      Thanks Lizzy! Yes, I HAVE tried vanilla in savoury casseroles and dishes before, and I loved it, it also works very well with seafood such as scallops! Great tip though, many thanks for popping over!

  1. says

    ooooh… j’adore sweet and meat… LOVE prunes and beef, how glorious… and yes, those old traditions are the best, we don’t really have any other than ‘eat lots of yummy stuff’… will be making this stew for sure x

  2. says

    This sounds perfect for Christmas eve, you’re right we do forget that our food used to be spiced and full of exotic flavours. We always put our tree up on Christmas eve too, but over time it has got earlier. I haven’t bought ours yet but that is for this weekend so the tree will go up early next week. I loved the anticipation of the tree as a small child. Waiting until Christmas eve was part of the fun of Christmas. GG

    • says

      It’s so interesting to see that other people also decorate on (or have decorated) Christmas Eve too! I remember that Christmas Eve was exactly as you described it, fun and with all the anticipation too, such a magical evening. Thanks GG and make sure you get that tree sorted this weekend! :-)

  3. Zsuzsi says

    This looks amazing! I am wondering if it would be possible to cook it one day ahead and reheat it the next day? Would it effect the qiality of the meal? Thanks for your answer and this amazing receipt! Zsuzsi

    • says

      Thanks Zsuzsi! This is a perfect recipe to make ahead and then reheat later, as long as the beef is fresh and has not been frozen. The taste will be slightly better, as the flavours will meld overnight. Karen

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