Most families have their own version of a casserole with their own secret ingredients. Not many meals are as filling and comforting on a cold winter’s night than a homemade casserole. This is our family’s favourite beef casserole.
It’s full of flavour, without resorting to a packet mix or a jar sauce. My magic ingredient is red lentils. Not only do they give a nutritious boost of fibre, vitamins and minerals, they make it deliciously thick without needing to flour the beef.
Casserole is a very versatile and forgiving dish. Most ingredients can be easily substituted with something else depending on what you have and like. You can reduce the amount of beef in this recipe, and simply increase the quantities of vegetables or add some canned beans towards the end of cooking.
750g chuck or oyster blade beef , cut into cubes
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, thickly sliced
2 medium potatoes, skin on and cubed
300g mushrooms, sliced
500 ml salt-reduced beef stock
250 ml red wine (or water)*
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
4 tablespoons dried red lentils, rinsed
1 cup frozen peas and corn
*Most of the alcohol from the wine will be removed during cooking, but not all of it. It is fine to serve this dish to children, however you may wish to replace it with water for babies and toddlers.
- Place the beef in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt, pepper and paprika. Toss well to coat.
- Heat some of the olive oil in a large non stick casserole pot over medium-high heat. Fry the beef in batches, until brown all over. Remove each batch to a clean bowl between cooking. This step is important, you don’t want the beef just cooked and grey – we want brown bits they add flavour. A crowded pan will prevent the meat from browning.
- Turn the heat down to low-medium. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, potato and mushrooms then cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often.
- Add all the beef back to pan, add the stock, wine or water, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, and lentils.
- Turn the heat up to high and bring to a simmer. Stir will, reduce the heat to low, add a lid and cook for 2 hours. Stir often, making sure to scrape the bottom as lentils tend to sink, if it starts to look to dry, add more water.
- Stir through the peas and corn in the last 5 minutes of cooking to heat through before serving.
To turn this casserole into a pie, simple transfer to an oven proof dish and top with a sheet of defrosted reduced-fat puff pastry (or enough to cover the pie). Brush with a whisked egg and bake at 180C for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and flaky.
Sarah Moore is a mum, and university qualified Registered Nutritionist with a decade of experience working with families to improve their health and well-being. Sarah has a simplistic and practical approach to family nutrition and can help the overwhelm of eating and living well with private consultations, email Q&A and her school lunchbox ebook. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.