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We’ve had 15 house guests here at Castle Farm over the course of the last week and I don’t think I’ve done so much washing up since my time at Brownie Camp. That particular incident and my objection to Fairy Liquid led to a telling off from Brown Owl and my untimely departure from this hallowed organisation.  Somerset Cider Brandy

The Brownies today appear to be just the kind of club I’d have loved.  These fearless tank-girls are all in pursuit of wild adventures and are feminist to the core but back in the day it was all about learning how to be a good mothers-help, getting your knitting badge and learning how to cover a book in sticky-back plastic. I wanted to learn how to light fires using a magnifying glass, make money from selling lemonade and how to rule the world – sadly these vital life skills where deemed suitable only for the boys.    Now I’m all grown up I still shudder at the thought of dancing round a toad-stools  but my love of entertaining means I’m happy to live with the washing up.

One thing the Brownies did teach me was to be prepared when it came to domestic planning. So, with many mouths to feed this week I’ve embraced Aga cooking and have been perfecting my one pot wonders.  These are the staple of any house party when the hostess would rather be tucking into champagne with her guests than cooking at 8 o’clock as they can be prepared the day before they’re needed.  My Somerset Beef recipe is a rather tasty take on boeuf-bourguignon, drawing inspiration from the French classic while using the very best of Somerset produce.

You’ll need

  • 1.5kg/3lb5oz of braising steak (preferably raised in Somerset!) cut into pieces
  • 3 tbsp of Somerset rape seed oil (vegetable oil if you can’t get it)
  • 4 large onions cut into chunks
  • 2 sticks of celery cut up
  • 1 litre of Scrumpy Cider (normal cider will do if you can’t get hold of the good stuff)
  • 5 cloves of garlic finely cut
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 50g/2oz unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp of plain flour
  • 375g/12oz of mushrooms (what ever you can find or forage) 
  • 450ml or a pint of stock
  • 5 tbsp of Apple Brandy

How to Cook

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large saucepan. Add one of the onions, the garlic (both cut up) and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the cider and the bay leaves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Place the beef in a large bowl and pour over the cold cider marinade. Cover and keep somewhere cool (and away from your greedy dogs) overnight.
  3. Drain the beef from the marinade. Keep the marinade safe.
  4. In a frying pan heat of some of the butter and a little oil and fry off the rest of the onions.  Then add and brown the beef in the pan. Tip all of this into a  casserole dish.
  5. Deglaze the pan with some of the marinade and tip this liquid into the dish.
  6. Stir in the plain flour, the remaining marinade and stock into the casserole dish.
  7. Bring to the boil, cover and place in the bottom oven of the Aga (or a low heated normal oven) for 4-5 hours or until the beef is very tender.
  8. Halfway through cooking, heat the remaining oil and butter in your frying pan brown off the mushrooms – finish off with the brandy and cook down for a couple of minutes.
  9. Add the mushrooms to the casserole.
  10. You can either eat this straight away or keep safe and cool for 24/48 hours when it can be re-heated.

If you’d like some suggestions for producers and suppliers of Somerset meat I can happily point you in the direction of Pynes the Butcher and his amazing farm shop.

Somerset Brandy has to come from The Somerset Cider Brandy Company and Somerset Rape Seed Oil from Fussels