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Braised Beef with Chestnuts and Celery

An unusual casserole, which dates from the eighteenth century. Make it in the late autumn and winter when both celery and fresh chestnuts are available. It's well worth spending the extra time needed to shell the chestnuts, as they do add a very special flavour to the finished dish.

ingredients

serves 6
18 fresh chestnuts, skins split
15 g (1/2 oz) butter
15 ml (1 tbsp) vegetable oil
2 bacon rashers, rinded and chopped
900 g (2 lb) stewing steak, cubed
1 medium onion, skinned and chopped
15 ml (1 tbsp) plain flour
300 ml (1/2 pint) brown ale
300 ml (1/2 pint) beef stock
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
finely grated rind and juice of 1 orange
salt and pepper
3 celery sticks, chopped
chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

method

1. Cook the chestnuts in simmering water for about 7 minutes. Peel off the thick outer skin and thin inner skin while still warm, removing from the water one at a time.

2. Heat the butter and oil in a flameproof casserole, add the bacon and beef in batches and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon.

3. Add the onion to the casserole and fry, stirring, until softened. Drain off most of the fat. Return the meat to the casserole, sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 - 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the brown ale, stock, nutmeg, orange juice and half the rind. Season to taste. Bring to the boil, stir well to loosen the sediment, then add the chestnuts. Cover tightly with foil and a lid and bake at 170°C (325°F) mark 3 for about 45 minutes.
5. After 45 minutes baking time, add the celery to the casserole and continue baking for about 1 hour until the meat is tender. Serve with the remaining orange rind and the parsley sprinkled over the top.

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