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Beef & Spinach Stew _ photo by Ronnie Ann

Yup…that’s accidental and not occidental, although I guess it’s also occidental, since I live in the Western Hemisphere. Anyway…this stew happened totally by accident, as does much of my cooking.

I actually planned to make some kind of meat loaf, having defrosted a small wad of frozen hamburger. Or so I thought. But after putting a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and even adding some rice, similar to the way stuffed cabbage has rice in it, I opened the defrosted meat and lo and behold…it was stew meat that I had re-wrapped and put in the freezer after buying a large package of stew meat about a month ago.

Well, not to let something minor like not having the right main ingredient stop me, I decided to go with it. And so I added the stew meat to my bowl o’ stuff, placed the mix in a sauce pan, added a bunch of water and some spices to go with the stew, put it on the stove to simmer, and voila…it actually turned out good! (That’s the real surprise in the spicy surprise beef and spinach stew.)

Recreating the scene of the crime

As I warned everyone in my last post Non-Recipes: My Happy, Healthy Easy-to-Make Cod and Kale Soup, I’m not an especially good cook. And I am definitely not great at following or writing traditional recipes. So please take what follows as a general guideline.

The original ingredients in the bowl were:

  • about 1/4 cup of rice
  • a carrot cut into small pieces
  • celery cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 medium onion cut into small pieces
  • spinach cut into medium-small pieces

I put this into a 2 1/2 quart sauce pan and added:

  • low-fat stew beef (about 2/3 pound cut small)
  • 1/2 tsp. apricot preserves
  • curry powder (about 1/2 tsp)
  • cumin (about 1/8 tsp)
  • garlic powder
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • black pepper
  • cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp salt (I use very little salt; you may like more)
  • Enough water to cover 2/3 of the ingredients

Caution: PLEASE don’t go by my portions. I made it work with the amount of stew meat I had. My guess is you can roughly double the recipe to make it work for more than one person. Also, since you’ll be making a stew to begin with, the “small pieces” can of course stand to be bolder in size. Just use your own judgement, since you are probably a far better cook than I am.

About the rice: The bowl had rice in it because I was making a meat loaf with rice, or so I thought. It worked in my one-pan dish, for my needs. But you might prefer cooking the rice separately and serving the stew over it.

About the curry and cumin: Curry powder is a generic name for a mix of spices, and one blend is not like the other. I use regular Frontier organic curry powder (ingredients list here), which already has some cumin in it. I just added a bit more.

Cooking time: I let the stew simmer for about 35-40 minutes so the beef would be tender and the rice would be cooked, but the first 20 minutes I had the pan only half covered, letting the liquid cook down by about 1/2. Then I put the lid on tightly and let it finish cooking on very low heat. Once you turn off the heat, let it sit another 20 minutes or so, so the ingredients get comfortable together.

Well, that’s it. My accidental, and yet healthy, spicy surprise beef and spinach stew. As a cook, I am fairly fearless when it comes to trying things that may flop big time, and luckily, every now and then it works. Looking forward to the leftovers tomorrow!

Would love to know how it turns out if you try it. Oh…and also let me know if you come up with any interesting surprises of your own!