Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Beef" Stew with Cheddar Cobbler Topping

As previously noted, I've had kind of a thing going with The Guardian's food column lately. While I appreciate their vegetarian section - which features lots of Indian dishes - I confess to taking a special, perverse pleasure in appropriating the most stodgy, old school, meat-and-potatoes recipes to serve my twisted herbivorous agenda, and this week's post is a case in point. The original dish, posted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (how's that for a moniker?), calls for bacon, butter, "dripping," and "1.5kg stewing beef or shin [eewww! - ed.] cut into generous chunks," and features a cobbler topping filled with a variety of animal secretions, excretions, fluids, and solids. In short, a veritable one-dish slaughterhouse/major cardiac event, piping hot while you wait for the ambulance to arrive.

But never fear, my pretties - your furry friends and your arteries are perfectly safe; behold as I perform the culinary magic trick of transforming Hugh's cholesterol-laden meatfest into a delicious, healthy meal! Instead of shins (seriously, shins?), I used soy curls, those miraculous morsels of protein-packed pulchritude, cooked with a bunch of vegetables in a brown ale gravy, then baked in a casserole with a doughy, crunchy biscuit crust. YUM. We had this for Sunday dinner, with some sauteed broccoli and spinach to hit that "green" spot, and it was hearty and satisfying without that "Ooof - where can I lie down?" feeling. I'll definitely be making this again, but for a more properly British experience I might serve it with brussels sprouts next time, or as Hugh suggests, "some buttery savoy cabbage on the side." Just make sure that "butter" is margarine, right? Mwahahahahahahaha!

"Beef" Stew with Cheddar Cobbler Topping
The "Beef" (Soy Curls)
~ 2 heaping cups soy curls
~ 4 - 5 cups vegetable broth
~ 2 tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1 tsp. Marmite
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, marjoram, sage
~ 2 bay leaves
~ A few grinds of black pepper

~ Mix the broth and all the seasonings in a large beaker, bowl or pot. Add the soy curls, then cover and bring to a boil (about 4 minutes in the microwave, probably a minute or so more on the stovetop).
~ Leave covered and set aside for at least an hour, then drain in a colander (remember to discard the bay leaves!), reserving the remaining marinade.

The Vegetables
~ 2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 2 cups chopped red onion
~ 1 cup carrots, diced
~ 1/2 cup celery, diced
~ 3 cups sliced mushrooms
~ 1 leek, washed and diced (about 1 cup)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, sage
~ 1 12 oz. bottle good brown ale
~ 1/4 cup flour

~ Preheat the oven to 425 fahrenheit.
~ In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the red onion over medium heat about 5 minutes.
~ Add the carrots and celery and cook about 5 minutes more.
~ Raise the heat to high, stir in the mushrooms, leeks and seasonings and cook another 5 minutes, pouring in a little of the beer to deglaze the pan as necessary.
~ Toss the drained soy curls in about 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the pan, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes.
~ Pour in the beer and reserved marinade, and combine thoroughly. Lower the heat to medium and cook 10-15 minutes more, until the stew has thickened a bit, and remove from heat.

The Topping
~ 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose, if you prefer)
~ 4 tsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, sage
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 1/4 cup chilled Earth Balance or other vegan shortening (I freeze it and then grate it into the flour)
~ 1 cup grated cheddar flavor Daiya cheddar (or other vegan cheese)
~ 3/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk

~ In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and seasonings.
~ Add the shortening and cheese. Mix with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs.
~ Add the soy milk, and mix with a fork until you have a smooth dough (don't overwork it or your topping will be tough).

The Assembly
~ Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray and pour in the stew. (It's a good idea to place the casserole on a cookie sheet in case it bubbles over during baking.)
~ Take handfuls of the biscuit dough and arrange it on top of the stew (it can be rough, don't worry, we're going for a sort of "rustic farmhouse" aesthetic), making sure the whole casserole is covered.
~ Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the topping has risen, the casserole is bubbling, and the whole thing is a beautiful golden brown.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to set for 10-15 minutes before serving.


  1. Delicious as usual. Big ups on the Tomie De Paola pic!

  2. omg, I'd give anything to try your stodgy awesome beef comfort dish. And that picture is all kinds of great! ^.^

  3. Sounds so satisfying and yummy! Love the cheddar cobbler topping!