Rich beef and ale casserole with leeks and potato mash

guiness beef stew and mash potatoes ok

The calendar claims Spring will be here in a few days, but the weather man (and the knees) say otherwise.  As snow starts falling again, it seems Winter will be here forever.  It is definitely time for another comforting stew…. Believe it or not, each portion has less than 500 calories.

Rich beef and ale casserole with mash potato (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)


Beef stew 

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons mixed herbs
  • 1 kg lean braising beef, trimmed from hard fat and cut in 3cm chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500 mL of dark ale or stout
  • 250 mL of beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puréee
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 5 carrots (about 275g), peeled and thickly sliced
  • 2 parsnips (about 300g) peeled, halved lengthways and sliced
  • freshly ground black pepper

Leeky potato mash

  • 750g floury potato, peeled and cut in 4cm chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks thinly sliced
  • 100 mL low fat milk
  • Salt and pepper


Beef stew 

Preheat the oven to 180oC

Put the flour and dried herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Fold in the beef chunks and toss in until they evenly coated.

Heat the oil in a oven- and flame- proof casserole dish.When the oil is pipping hot, drop in the onions and season then with salt and pepper. Fry them over medium heat until they are lightly browned (about 5min).

Tip in the beef and mix until coated.

Add the bay leaf, ale, stock, tomato purée and sugar. Stir well and bring to boil. Cover with the lid.

Transfer the casserole from to the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours. At the end of this time,  take the casserole out of the oven and stir in the parsnips and carrots. Put the lid again, and return to the over for about 45min until the vegetables are tender.

Leeky potato mash

Put the potato chunks in  a large sauce pan and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let boil for about 20min, until the potatoes are very tender.

In the meanwhile, put the oil in a frying pan and heat. When is hot, drop in the sliced leeks and sautée until soft and tender, stirring often.

Drain the potatoes, and put them back in the sauce pan. Season with salt and pepper and mash with the milk until smooth.

Stir in the sautéeed leeks. Mix until they are well incorporated.

Roasted chicken with sweet potato

I had done dishes by Mafalda Pinto Leite before (here and here), and I knew she has good hand with combining different tastes and textures. Last time I was in Lisbon, I bought her book Cozinha Para Quem Não Tem Tempo [Cooking for those who have no time], to give it a try. Now that I have a regular office job again, it seemed like a good idea to have a bunch of recipes that are easy, quick and good all together. This was my first dish out of that book, and I have to say it seems I only got the last one right…. It is indeed an excellent combination of flavors and it  warms your soul. However, it actually took way longer than she claimed and the recipe was a bit confusing. Nothing a good cook cannot fix, but nevertheless, a bit lame…  Still worthwhile redoing and eating for as long as the Winter is here. Mind you, I ate it all and scrapped the Pyrex.

Roasted chicken with sweet potato


  •  4 pieces of chicken (either breast or thighs)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup of chopped coriander
  • 3 baby leeks, finely sliced (or 2 regular leeks, only white parts)
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons of grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of runny honey
  • 1/3 water cup
  • 200g sweet potato, peeled and sliced
  • Olive oil to brush


Pre-heat the oven griller to medium-high

Put the garlic, coriander, baby leeks, lemon zest, ginger, soy sauce, honey and water in a tall jug or beaker. Blend in with a mixer for about 2 minutes, until is chopped but still with pieces. Poor this sauce on top of the chicken and spread well. Reserve.

Brush the sweet potato with olive oil.

Put the chicken and the sweet potatoes on an oven proof dish and grill until it is golden and cooked.

You can serve this dish with a green salad.

Pumpkin Soup with Chicken and Ginger-Braised Leeks

This is not an easy to make soup. But, it is totally worth the effort… It might even be the best pumpkin soup I have had,  with the obvious exception of  Mrs Caramelized Sr’s creations. Just bumped into the recipe almost by accident on David Leite‘s website. By coincidence, I had all the main ingredients, a lot of time in my hands and the inclement weather was unsuitable for any attempt to try anything outdoors.

Half way through the making of the soup,  while struggling with so many elements and details, I took a closer look to the post header. It turned out this dish is authored by  Charlie Trotter, better know for its stylish and imaginative cuisine (meaning – a bit too difficult for the rest of us mortals). I probably would have never had the guts to try it if I had realized this earlier. But, once you start doing it, what else can you do but carry on and finish the dish?

A couple of tweaks were made though. The original recipe calls for thyme to be added to the pumpkin roast, and sage to finish the dish. I had none, either dry or alive, and simply omitted it. Also, instead of chicken breasts I had chicken thighs. Ended up doing the same that  Yotam Ottholengi does for its chicken and buttermilk cold soup.

Pumpkin Soup with Chicken and Ginger-Braised Leeks


 For the preserved ginger

  • 6 tablespoons peeled and julienned fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups (=300g) sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (=375mL water)

 For the soup

  • 1 small pumpkin, halved and seeded (I picked already cut pumkin, about 1,5kg)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4 cups (=mL water) chicken stock, or enough to cover the chicken thighs
  • 2 leeks (white part only), cut into 1 cm inch-thick slices
  • 5 tablespoons (=70g) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups (= 375mL water) chicken stock (or enough to cover the chicken thighs)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup preserved ginger
  • 4 chicken thighs
Make the preserved ginger

Place the ginger, 1/2 cup (=100g) of the sugar, and 1/2 (=125mL) cup of the water in a small saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes, strain the liquid, and repeat the process two more times, reserving the final cooking liquid to store the ginger. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Make the soup

Preheat the oven to 350°F (=175°C). Season the flesh of the pumpkin with salt and pepper and rub with the olive oil. Place the pumpkin pieces on a baking sheet. Add enough water to have about 1cm water in the oven dish 45 to 60 minutes, or until tender.[the recipe called for thyme sprigs to be put under the pumpkin, but I had none at home.]

In the meanwhile, start the kitchen broth. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion and garlic on a low heat for five to 10 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the chicken, and the salt and the pepper to taste. Pour in stock just to cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Reserve the broth and shred the chicken off the bones while it is hot . I always discard the skin, but that is entirely up to your taste.

Cook the leeks with 2 tablespoons (= 30g) of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add 1 cup of the stock and the 1 tablespoon ginger and cook over medium-low heat for 25 minutes, or until the leeks are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Keep warm.

Puree the 1/4 cup ginger and any residual ginger juice, the chicken broth, and the pumpkin pulp until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the soup in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until warm. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons (=40g) butter and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon some of the leeks into the center of each bowl and ladle the soup around the leeks. Arrange some of the shredded chicken in the center of each bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately. [the recipe called for sage leaves to be added, but I had none at home.]

Leek fritters.


A Yotam Ottolenghi‘s family dish, with its usual kilometric list of ingredients and a recommendation: do not skip any of them. If anything, spare yourself the bother of doing the sauce. Recipe was found on Plenty, his latest cookbook.


For the sauce

  • 100g Greek yogurt
  • 100g sour cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 20g finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 30g finely chopped coriander leaves

For the fritters

  • 3 leeks (450g trimmed weight)
  • 2 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped (I used regular red onions)
  • 140ml olive oil
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
  • 25g parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1 teaspoons  ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoons  ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 1 egg white
  • 120g self-raising flour (or regular all purpose flour with 2 teaspoons of a raising agent, like Royal).
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 150ml milk
  • 55g unsalted butter, melted


Start by making the sauce. Put all the sauce ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, blitz together until a uniform green, then set to one side.

Cut the leeks into 2cm thick rounds, rinse and dry. Over medium heat, sauté the leeks and shallots in a pan with five tablespoons of oil until soft – about 15 minutes – then transfer to a bowl and add the chilli, parsley, spices, sugar and salt. Leave to cool.

Whisk the egg white to soft peaks and fold it into the vegetables. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, egg, milk and butter to form a batter. Gently mix this into the egg white and vegetable mixture.

Put two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Spoon the mixture into the pan to make four large fritters, and fry for two to three minutes a side, until golden and crisp. Transfer to kitchen towel and repeat, adding oil as needed, until the mixture is used up. Serve warm with the sauce on the side or drizzled over.