Plotinus' Special Stew!
OK, it's not *very* special, apart from my famous secret ingredient, discovered when I needed to make a stew but had no wine or ale to hand.
Serves - well, depends how much stuff you put in, doesn't it?
(Vary the amounts, leave out what you will. If you include all these it will be a stew to contend with, and no mistake. But the best stews, I find, need to include meat and alcohol. I'm sorry, but there it is.)
A packet of stewing steak, appropriately cut up
A packet of kidneys, also cut up
Quite a few potatoes
An onion or two
A couple of carrots
A parsnip or two
Half a swede, cut into chunks
Some sticks of celery
Lots of mushrooms, quartered through the stalks
Half a packet of dried lentils OR a tin of cooked lentils (much more convenient)
Some pearl barley (don't be stingy with this)
A big pile of herbs. Dried herbs are fine, but for the love of God don't touch dried tarragon, which is an abomination. So is dried parsley, but why put parsley in a stew? You want rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram and suchlike.
A couple of handfuls of linseed. Failing that, cornflour or maybe okra (not sure if I've ever tried that, though).
And most important - WHISKEY. Yes, sounds vile, but stick with me here.
Chop up the meat and fry it in a pan until it's "covered". Drain off any revolting fat that emerges and rinse.
Throw some water in a big saucepan and turn the heat well up. Note, if you're making a big stew you will need a BIG saucepan. If you don't have one, you could use a casserole dish if you have a big one. If you are doing this then you will need to cook it in the oven rather than on top, and I can't help you because I have never done this. I suspect you will want a seriously hot oven to penetrate all the way through, and it will take a lot longer - maybe 90 minutes. When it's done you will have a casserole rather than a stew. Identical except to the highly trained chef. I've made stews like this in a slow cooker, which is good fun, although it takes all day. Also, my slow cooker wasn't very big, but perhaps you can get huge ones. If doing this, simply add everything in one go in the morning, turn on, and retrieve your splendid stew in the evening. No problem.
Put the potatoes in. Ideally these are baby potatoes and go in whole, otherwise cut them up first. Leave the skins on. Fibre fills you up and makes you regular! Put the meat in as well. Ideally you haven't already cooked it all the way through in the frying pan, so you should still get nice juices coming out of it to make the stew all gravylicious.
Chop your garlic and add it, together with lots of herbs. If you're feeling heretical you can put in a vegetarian stock cube as well. Other possibilities include a generous splurge of Worcester Sauce or something similar. You could use brown sauce, but I wouldn't speak to you again if you did.
Pour in a *generous* amount of whiskey. Really generous. Don't skimp on this. Use your imagination. Honestly, it will work. Wait! Don't go overboard. Are you insane? And yes, if you don't have whiskey, you can use red wine or some decent ale if you prefer. You would want half a litre of ale, and don't have any water; or maybe three or four glasses of wine, and a bit of water to make up the numbers. If you do either of these you will have a good stew, but it won't be Plotinus' *special* stew.
Chop the onion(s) and throw in as well.
Add the swede, parsnips, and carrots in approximately that order. Chopped, obviously. Nice and thick.
Throw in the pearl barley.
Give it all a big stir. It ought to be boiling by now, so turn the heat down and cover. It ought to simmer for - oh, I don't know - say 20 minutes? Make it 25 to be on the safe side. Depends how soft you want it all, but please don't liquefy it as that's a bit disgusting. Halfway through this, add the lentils (you did boil them already, didn't you? unless they're the tinned kind, of course). Near the end, add the mushrooms and celery. Also stir in the linseed, which makes a sort of glop rather like that caused by okra and thickens it admirably. Failing that you could always use okra and go all Nwarlins on us. If you don't have any of that either, then put a couple of spoonfuls of cornflour in a cup, add a bit of cold water, stir vigorously, and then mix that into the stew. If you don't have cornflour either, you will have runny stew, and there's nothing wrong with that. Just don't try to balance the plate on your knees whilst watching hilarious TV comedy, or you could create some hilarious comedy of your own, but you won't be laughing.
Serve generous portions and consume. The leftovers can be liquidised later to create nourishing soup, especially if you add an extra tin of lentils or two.