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Fires and Feasting


Fires and Feasting


A cosy blog all about Winter and there's a heart warming recipe for a Beef & Porter Stew to please family and friends.


What does December mean to me?  Well it is my birthday month, so it’s very special of course! But unlike many I believe that this month has so much charm to offer with its pale Winter light, and yes I do know there will be cold and grey days but eventually this dark month brings us the shortest day of the year, and it’s down from these dark depths that we begin to feel we are finally coming up and out of the other side.  There’s a reason why in this month there are so many festivals of light – Hanukkah, Yule and the biggest one in our part of the world, Christmas.  In order to bring hope and light, we feast and light fires, lanterns and candles to ward off the darkness, and it works.  But my favourite part is of course the feasting! We all need to feel warm, cosy and comforted.

There are so many foods in season in this month – decadent and rich foods such as black truffles, Jerusalem artichokes, duck, goose, guinea fowl and venison. But it is those comforting staples that really appeal to me and they are in abundance – carrots, leeks, parsnips, cauliflower, kale, winter cabbage, squash, apples and pears – these always provide the basics for those one pot dishes that bring everyone around the table to feast.

In Thixendale we cling to the light – living in a valley can make a winter feel endless with cold air plunging down the valley sides and the limitations of the sun’s rays.  Add to that the landscape being all bones – with just the barest of leaves clinging to the ends of the branches, it can feel like the longest month.  In the skies above the village swallows and swifts have now long gone, to be replaced by fieldfares and redwings escaping colder climes.

Here’s a hearty recipe using those winter staples to please family and friends.  I know they may not be in favour with younger cooks, but if they are to make a comeback in your life they really are not a lot of work. Prep time isn’t too long and then you are free whilst they are cooking on the stove.  The other positive is that they taste best the next day, so ideal for serving over the busy festive period, and make for a relaxed dish with no last-minute hurdles to overcome. This dish is best served with a buttery mash, wilted kale and a roaring fire to bring that hope and light we so crave!

Beef & Porter Stew (serves 4)


1kg beef skirt or stewing steak, cut into bite sized chunks

50g plain flour

2 tsp smoked paprika

50ml Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil with Black pepper (or just use our natural oil)

1 large onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely sliced or use a garlic press

½ red chilli, finely diced

1 large leek, finely sliced

4 carrots, washed and sliced into rounds

2 parsnips, washed and diced

1 small swede, peeled and diced

125g button mushrooms, cleaned

500ml beef stock

500ml porter or stout

A couple of anchovy fillets, chopped


1. Dredge the beef skirt or stewing steak with the mixture of plain flour and smoked Paprika (the easiest way is to put the meat, flour and the paprika into a freezer bag and shake it about until the meat is coated).

2. Take a large pan and heat the Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil. Brown the steak in batches over quite a high heat (if you put too much in the pan at a time it won't brown very well), season with salt and black pepper and keep it moving in the pan to avoid burning. Remove each batch onto a side dish.

3.Turn the heat down to medium. Now add to the saucepan the onion, garlic, chilli and leeks and let them soften for 5 minutes or so - be careful they don't burn - then add your vegetables and let them soften, stirring occasionally for around 10 minutes.

4.When the vegetables have softened put the meat back into the pan along with the couple of anchovies and give it a good stir until the meat warms up. Gradually add some good beef stock and the porter, stirring until the mixture thickens a little. Then cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for 2 hours.  Do keep an eye on the stew and if it gets too dry just add a bit more stock, porter or plain water. If it is too wet, remove the lid, stir and let it reduce to the consistency you want. Enjoy!