Cheap Eats with Fanny and Brenda – Beef Pot Roast

fanny and brendas economical eating part 1- beef pot roast

Economical eating does not mean eating poorer quality food. On the contrary, it can often mean eating better quality food if you have the interest in making your food go further. The results are surprising to many as you can often eat for the same price as those ‘value’ ready meals of stodge and have something far more enjoyable and of much clearer provenance too.

So today we start with Beef Pot Roast. This recipe is a gem and the whole house is filled with this marvellous aroma of beef stewing over a long period. It is one of the reasons why I love winter food as I have a love affair with unctuous stews and casseroles and meat dishes of this type. You will be able to feed a family of four with this dish and then in our next installment we will show you what to do with the gorgeous leftovers.


1kg beef topside or silverside
2 large onions – fairly roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic – fairly roughly chopped
3 carrots – cut into about 3-4 pieces
3 parsnips – cut into about 3-4 pieces
6 medium sized floury potatoes, each cut in halves or thirds
250ml red wine
600ml beef stock
olive oil and butter
sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper


1) Begin by adding a good lug of olive oil to your casserole dish and getting it nice and hot on the stove. Also heat the oven to 160°C. Having patted dry and seasoned your piece of meat, slap it down in the oil and just leave it for 3 minutes or so to get a really good crust. Turn, and do another side the same way until all sides of the joint are browned, which will take about 12 mins. People talk about “sealing the meat” which it hardly does at all – moisture can be lost or gained by the meat similarly whether raw or fried off first! What you are really getting by treating the meat this way, is FLAVOUR – the dark areas of caramelization both on the joint and stuck to the pan are the essential origins of a lot of your dish’s rich meaty savoury taste at the end.

2) Remove the browned meat to a plate and then stir in the chopped onions and garlic into the same vessel as you cooked the meat (obviously without washing it up first!), stirring quite a bit to make sure all those lovely crusty bits I mentioned above get incorporated into the liquid the onions release and they’re transluscent and quite probably also starting to brown a bit too – again, all super flavour!

3) Add the meat and any accumulated juices back into the casserole with the onions/garlic and now you can add your wine and stock. Once these have gone in, scatter some sprigs of fresh thyme and your bay leaves, plus any extra salt and pepper you feel the sauce might need. Place in the oven with the lid on and cook for an hour and a half to two hours.

4) When you take it out of the oven at this stage, you can tumble in your potato, carrot and parsnip (I don’t think parsnips are especially traditional for pot roasts, but there seems to be a great variety of suggestions as to what root veg accompanies the beef and frankly I used parsnips because a) we like them and b) we had some which needed using up).  I recommend about another hour back in the oven at this stage. Although the lid should have prevented most of the evaporation of the sauce, clearly it will be a little more concentrated than it was initially but this is good as again, it means richer flavour – in any case the veg do release some water during the last hour of cooking  – your meat may need longer, it all depends on the exact cut/quality – but what you’re looking for is a state of tenderness where you can just shred it apart with 2 spoons – which indeed  is a great way of serving it, perhaps in the middle of a platter, with the veg arranged round the edges along with some of the sauce spooned over the shredded beef – don’t forget also to take out the remaining twigs from the thyme sprigs and the bay leaves. As a final touch, I also added a knob of butter to the gravy once the meat and veg had been taken out the pot.

This is amazing one pot cooking – though we did add some buttered green beans to ours!

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