Instant Pot Beef and Guinness® Stew Recipe

After my success with the Instant Pot Beef Bourguignon, I really wanted to use my new toy to make some Guinness® beef stew for my husband, since it’s one of his favourites. Unfortunately none of the Instant Pot cookbooks that I bought after Christmas (because of course that was one of the first things I bought) contained this recipe. I’ve had fantastic luck with the Chef John’s Beef and Guinness® Stew, which creates a delicious stove-top version of this dish. To try and keep the flavour the same as the version we love, I adapted the preparation method for the Instant Pot. Here’s what I did:

Instant Pot Beef and Guinness® Stew
Serves 6

Cut* into small pieces:
4 slices low-sodium bacon
Peel and dice:
2 medium-sized yellow onions
Turn on the Instant Pot and select the Sauté program. If necessary, press the Sauté key repeatedly to toggle to the Normal setting. Wait until the LED displays “Hot”.
To the inner pot, add:
1 Tbsp olive oil
Stir the bacon and onions into the oil and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the bacon is cooked and the onions have begun to turn clear.
Add to the pot:
2 1/2 lbs (1.1Kg) boneless beef chuck**, cut into bite-sized pieces
Sprinkle the mixture with:
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Press the Sauté key repeatedly to toggle to the More setting. Being careful not to burn the onions, cook until meat has browned, about 5 minutes. Stir often.
Press the Sauté key repeatedly to toggle to the Less setting.
To the pot, add:
1 can (440mL) Guinness® or other dark beer
1 cup low-sodium beef stock
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 sprigs fresh thyme OR 1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp white sugar
Stir all ingredients together until evenly mixed.
Press Cancel on the cooker.
Place the lid and turn to lock. Turn the steam release handle to the Sealing position.
Select Pressure Cook, High Pressure, and set for 30 minutes. 10 seconds after settings are set, the cooker will beep three times and display “On” to indicate that it has started the preheat cycle.

While the Instant Pot program is running, you may wish to make:
4 cups mashed potatoes (OPTIONAL***)

When the cooking cycle has finished, the cooker will beep and enter the Auto Keep Warm mode. (If the Auto Keep Warm function has been turned off, it can be turned back on at any time.) Once the cooking is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, and then turn the steam release handle to the Venting position to let the steam out for a Quick Release. Once the steam is safely released, remove the lid.
Turn the cooker back on to Sauté > Normal and simmer stew until it has thickened somewhat, about 15 minutes. While thickening, stir regularly, and remove the sprigs of thyme, if using fresh.

Serve stew in soup bowls, either as-is or atop a mound of mashed potatoes with a divot in the middle to hold the toppings.

*I find that bacon is easiest to cut up using kitchen shears.
**Most kinds of beef are good in stew, so use whatever is in your budget. The pressure cooking (or slow cooking, in traditional stews) will transform even the toughest cuts into something you can cut with a fork. Whatever the cut, make sure to cut off the worst of the fat, since the texture can become off-putting.
***I prefer this stew served over mashed potatoes to soak up all of the lovely broth, but many people like it plain.

Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner is traditionally hosted by my parents. It used to be served on Christmas Day, but after the gigantic breakfast that often lasts until lunch, it seemed kind of overkill. A few years ago by consensus we moved it to Boxing Day, and it has just made everything so much more relaxed.

One of the things that I love about Christmas at my parents’ house is how their brilliantly-lit tree fills up the front window. From the street outside, as you’re pulling in to the driveway, it really welcomes you in. While my parents do have lights strung up outside, the tree outshines them all. I’m told that there are 600 or more lights on there. To compare, our tree only has 200 lights, and it seems positively dim by comparison.

Mom is generally the one who is responsible for the roast turkey dinner, although Dad’s specialty is the Yorkshire pudding. They used to only serve Yorkshire pudding with roast beef dinners, but enough pestering by my brother and I (and then by my kids) over the years convinced them that they were appropriate to any meal served with gravy. Mom’s turkey dinner this year included stuffing, whipped potatoes, mashed potatoes almondine, carrots glazed in my carrot jam, squash with orange juice and walnuts, and of course lots of gravy. It was all delicious! My contribution to the meal was dessert: homemade apple and dairy-free pumpkin pies, baked in advance and reheated in the oven. It always seems a shame to me that a meal that takes all day to make can be scarfed down so quickly, but there is always lots of chatting after the meal as we all digest.

Tandoori Chicken on Basmati Rice with Glazed Carrots

It has come to my attention of late that there are a few companies out there now that make lactose-free Greek yogurt. This means that there are a couple of dishes that used to be in my regular repertoire that I had to drop when I was diagnosed as lactose-intolerant, but I can now add them back to my regular rotation. The first thing I wanted to try was tandoori chicken thighs. I know that for a proper tandoori dish it should be baked in a traditional tandoor oven, but that’s just not something that I have available. Instead, I combined Pataks Tandoori Curry Paste with some of that lactose-free Greek yogurt to create a marinade, and I left the thighs in in it overnight to absorb the flavour. Then I baked the chicken on a broiler pan in my regular oven.

It was very tasty and packed with flavour, if a little bit sweeter than I’m generally used to. That’s because somehow I didn’t read the yogurt label properly and bought vanilla yogurt instead — and I didn’t realize until after I’d already put the chicken in the marinade. I’m actually rather surprised that it still tasted pretty good, but it did!

I served the chicken over steamed basmati rice and alongside glazed carrots. I steamed the carrots in the microwave and then tossed them with a bit of my carrot jam, just enough to coat the veggies. Carrot jam is really great as a glaze on steamed or baked root vegetables, and it’s also surprisingly good used to glaze pork roast.

Family Sushi Night

One thing we share as a family is that every single one of us loves sushi. However, we do differ as to which one is our favourite — the best bribe ever to use on Thing 1 is salmon nigiri, while Thing 2 is a big fan of a California roll or any maki with shrimp tempura in it, my husband prefers hand rolls (temaki), while I actually like sashimi (just the fish/seafood), possibly with a bowl of rice on the side to fill me up.

That being said, I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before now to make sushi at home. I used to do it all the time in high school and as a young adult; I actually hosted a few dinner parties where we all rolled our own sushi. However, it is very time consuming for one person to make a family’s worth, and I guess I just set it aside until I thought the kids were old enough to help me out. But the kids are both old enough now to assemble their own soft tacos or burritos, and sushi uses many of roughly the same techniques, so I thought it was time to give it a go.

Last night I made up a big pot of sushi rice and cut up all kinds of toppings: smoked salmon, cooked shrimp, scrambled egg with a bit of mirin mixed in, cucumber, carrots, and avocado. Then I dug out one rolling mat per person and let everyone assemble their own sushi.

The nice thing about making sushi this way is that everyone can have it just how they like it, although probably not as pretty as they’d like it, that comes with a heck of a lot of practice. I find it surprising that a lot of people around here still assume that sushi automatically equals raw fish, when it’s really all about the vinegared rice. You can top it or roll it with just about anything you’d like. You can even avoid fish or even all animal products altogether, although the purists may take objection to that. But let’s be honest, purists aren’t going to be rolling sushi at home with their six-year-old, they’re going to be paying a very skilled professional chef to create the perfect mouthfuls.

I really liked the combination of the saltiness of the smoked salmon with the sweet egg and the crunch of cucumber.

The egg-and-shrimp roll I made could have used a little more punch; perhaps I should pick up some spicy Japanese mayo for next time?

My husband’s rolls generally turned out nicer-looking than mine, except, of course, when I went to take a picture. His egg, cucumber, and shrimp roll tasted pretty good, though.

After a couple of messy (if tasty) attempts at maki sushi rolls, the girls tried their hands at hand rolls, which are the closest in assembly to a taco, which is where there experience lies.

We had a really good time making and eating this dinner, and I’m starting to think I should have introduced homemade sushi long before now. I loved watching the kids’ faces light up when I told them that we could actually make sushi at home. Not only that, but it’s a pretty healthy meal that’s infinitely customizable. We are definitely going to do this again, and soon. It needs to become a regular thing in my house again.

Thanksgiving Dinner

We celebrated our family’s Thanksgiving last night, and this year I hosted. Usually my mother makes Thanksgiving dinner (and all of the big family get-together meals, really), but my parents were supposed to be out of town. Well, plans changed last-minute, so I ended up scaling up my little family’s dinner to accommodate my parents as well. To be honest, when you’re making a meal this big it’s just a matter of throwing a couple of extra potatoes in the pot and doubling the batch of Yorkshire pudding, but still. I’m pretty sure that this was my first time doing the full Thanksgiving dinner all by myself. Mom even remarked how weird it was to come over to my house and watch me cook for everyone!

To get everything ready in time, cooking had to begin on Sunday night. The first thing I had to do was make some room in my fridge, which meant making up a big batch of Green Tomato Salsa (page 106, Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan (2014), as well as a smaller batch of Blender Salsa (page 92, also Preserving by the Pint). Six and a half liters of salsa out of the way and I finally had a bit of room in my fridge — although I still have two large containers of green tomatoes to cook up.

Preserves out of the way, I got to the baking. I made my usual combination of the Purity Pastry crust (page 73, The All New Purity Cook Book by Elizabeth Driver, 2001) and the Pumpkin or Squash Pie filling (page 686, Joy of Cooking 75th Anniversary Edition, Rombauer & Becker, 2006). This time I was very careful not to forget the sugar.

Last thing that night, I ripped up two loaves of cheap grocery store bread and left it on the counter to dry out. One of the things my mother has taught me is that if you want good stuffing, you can’t start with fresh bread or it’ll become soggy once it’s baked in the bird. It’s actually better to start with stale bread, which will soak up the cooking juices and become quite flavourful without getting squishy.

When I seasoned my bread for stuffing, I used my mother’s traditional parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme… And summer savoury. I had Scarborough Fair in my head for about two days.

The next day I stuffed the turkey as densely as possible, shoved pats of butter under the skin, and put it in the oven. I was so afraid that it wouldn’t turn out well; the only other time I cooked a whole turkey, it was extremely dry.

However, I think it turned out really well! I had to take a picture before I scooped out the stuffing for serving.

Another trick I learned from my mother is that because everyone like stuffing (or at least everyone to whom we’ve served dinner), it’s a good idea to make extra stuffing in a casserole dish, and then mix it all together. This also helps alleviate the potential moisture problem; the stuff cooked outside the bird will be dryer, but mixed together it helps absorb the excess moisture from the other kind.

On top of the bird, there were all kinds of side dishes! Circling clockwise, that’s stuffing, Yorkshire pudding, turkey, gravy, potatoes, carrots, asparagus (which ended up being quite bitter, sadly), fresh bread (Bread Machine Fluffy Herb Bread, but with no herbs), and of course more gravy.

In the end, except for the asparagus, I’m really happy with how dinner turned out! I hope that you and yours had a lovely Thanksgiving as well — or that you will have one in November, if that’s when you celebrate.

Nasturtium Pesto on Cod

We’ve been getting a lot of rain over the past few days, after getting practically none all summer. This means lots of hot, humid days, with really no chance to cook outside. I mean, I’m all for barbecuing in the rain, but I draw the line at thunderstorms.

So I dug through my freezer (which I am trying desperately to free up so I can defrost it) and found a lovely package of cod that I’d been meaning to use. I baked it in the oven with a coating of nasturtium pesto that I’d made last summer. (I learned last year or the year before that nasturtium leaves are totally edible, and they make a lovely, slightly-peppery pesto.) I paired it with mashed potatoes — the last of the bag that had frustrated me so over the weekend — and steamed carrots. It was a deliciously light meal to eat while watching the sky open up outside.

Roadside Produce Stands

One of my favourite things about summer is when the farm stalls start popping up in parking lots and along the main drag, not content to wait for the next farmers’ market to get all that great produce out to their customers. Sometimes it’s a single pickup truck with its bed full of corn or flats of foraged berries (if I’m ever near Sudbury in the summer, wild blueberries are a must). Sometimes it’s well-established farm booths, neatly organized with multiple products all protected from the sun and rain by pop-up tents. Whatever the style, the food is always much fresher and tastier than the stuff from the grocery store, which is usually picked when not-quite-ripe and shipped in instead of ripening properly under the sun. Due to ordering in bulk, grocery stuff is often cheaper, but you can’t beat the quality of the roadside stand.

Of course, due to our short growing season, the roadside farm stand is subject to seasonal and weather-driven fluctuation. Last year, when we had so rain that there was flooding and standing water in so many fields making it impossible to cultivate, there was a lot less available when it came to fresh local produce. Ditto the particularly dry years. But such is the way of the farm and garden.

Right now there’s a great variety of farm-fresh goods available. Garlic scapes are one of the first crops available around here in June, but the garlic plants keep growing flower stalks, so farmers can sell them for a good long time into summer.

Young carrots — true young carrots and not those “baby cut” fakeries available by the bag in the grocery store — are starting to become available now. The ones from my garden aren’t usually available until fall (if I tried to harvest now, they would look a lot like this), but most of the farms around here start their growing seasons early under the grow lamps.

The green onions are nice and crispy…

And zucchini are starting to become available! I’m particularly fond of the ones that grow in such interesting shapes, although they taste exactly the same. I’m trying to grow zucchini this year, but the chipmunks and earwigs love my gourds, so I historically haven’t had any luck. My friends, who generally have better luck than I, often have excess zucchini to gift me come fall, though. The kids love it, especially as zucchini sticks. The round ones pictured above are better shaped for stuffing, though.

We’ve been gorging on raspberries for a week or two now, but they’re still a personal favourite.

And most exciting at the moment, the corn has started to roll in! The local peaches-and-cream corn is my husband’s personal favourite, so we eat it in every form starting about now. Last night we just threw it on the barbecue whole on low for half an hour, and then peeled it and ate it off the cob. Delicious!