Windsor & Eton “Treetops” Diamond Jubilee Stew

[tl;dr: skip the windbag intro and shoot straight to the recipe!]


The 2012 Hitchin Beer Festival is now firmly in the past. At the end of the festival there was some beer left and us volunteers got to take what we can home with us. Cask ale doesn’t keep too well, so there isn’t a lot of point taking more home than you’re likely to drink in the next 24 hours. However, beer can be for cooking as well as for drinking. When the festival shut its doors there was still quite a lot of the Windsor & EtonTreetops” stout left at the end – despite it being our “beer of the festival” winner. Windsor & Eton suffer, but perhaps profit in this case, from being at the end of the alphabet and thus at the back of the hall. Treetops was brewed to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and is named after the African estate she was at when she inherited the throne. It is described by the brewery as “a rich, intense Africa Export Stout brewed from a blend of British and African ingredients, including coffee and vanilla” – my mouth waters as I copy-&-paste those words! All in all it was a very worthy festival winner, though my personal vote was cast for the same brewery’s “Conqueror” which has a little more “hop” in its step.

A good rich stout generally makes for a good stew and with this in mind I trundled home after closing up at the festival with 6 pints of Treetops in my bag (plus 2 pints of “Conqueror” and 2 of “Windsor Knot” – my own mini @webrew festival!).

I’ve used beef shin as my stewing meat. In my opinion it cannot be beaten for this sort of long-slow cooking. It doesn’t need any fancy trimming, just take the shin as it comes from the butcher and quarter of halve each round – purely for convenience in handling. Once it is cooked it should be fall-apart tender. If you can’t get shin then any cut sold as stewing steak will do.

Browning Shin

The practice of flour-coating meat is a little controversial. Older books refer to it along the lines of “sealing” the meat to keep the “juices in”, which doesn’t make a lot of sense as a bit of flour isn’t going to achieve this. Let alone the fact that we want the juices to flow freely between the meat and the stew stock. That said, I do think it may have a role to play in both caramelising the meat and in thickening the stock – of course you can add it any old way for the latter. If for no other reason, then I’ll do it because it is kind of fun and feels “right”. Skip the flour if you prefer! On with the show…

Ready for stewing…


The meat:

  • 2kg – beef shin (roughly quartered)
  • 1 cup – plain flour
  • 1.5tsp – ground ginger
  • 1.5tsp – ground coriander seed

The stewing liquor:

  • 90g – tomato purée,
  • 2 – medium brown onions (diced) – about 425g
  • 1 – whole garlic (sliced) – at least 40g
  • 20g – fresh ginger (peeled & matchsticked)
  • 3 pints – Windsor & Eton Treetops Stout (or any rich stout)

To extend with vegetables add:

  • 3 or 4 – parsnips (peeled & cubed) – about 590g
  • 3 or 4 – beetroot (peeled & cubed) – about 450g
  • 1 pint – same stout as above


Shin – browned!

Thoroughly mix the spices into the plain flour. Use a fine sieve to sprinkle this over the beef pieces until they’re entirely coated. (Use of a sieve here means excess seasoned flour can be kept for another time.) Heat 2tbsp of vegetable oil in large casserole, I use a 28cm Chasseur – a sound investment I made 8 years ago. Heat the oil until it begins to smoke and then place meat in to brown. Do this in 3 or 4 batches, the chunks of meat should sit in the bottom of the casserole without touching each other. This ensures moisture can escape and you caramelize the meat rather than simmer it in its own juices. Coat the base of the pan with another tbsp of oil between each batch – don’t be afraid of smoke. (The smoke detector in my kitchen never has a battery in it!)

Now is probably a good time to pre-heat your oven to 150°C (300°F).


With the browned beef shin placed to one side add another tablespoon of oil to the pot and toss in the chopped onion. Sweat and brown the onion over high heat, using a wooden spoon or, better yet, a flat-edged wooden spatula to scrape the browned goodness from the base of the pan with the sweating onions. Do this for about 5 minutes and then add a cup of the stout and make sure the last flavoursome crusty bits are worked off the bottom of the pan. Now add the tomato paste, garlic, ginger, and stout. Bring the stew to simmering point, place a cartouche of baking paper over the stew, then the lid on the casserole. Into the oven! (The “cartouche” is simply a piece of baking paper cut to exactly fit the casserole – to make this I put the casserole lid on a square of baking paper and run a knife around it. This paper is placed directly on the stew, enticing out most air bubbles. The theory is that this means the liquid evaporates more slowly and any meat near the surface stays moist. However, IANAC!)


Check the stew after 4 hours. The meat should be tender but not disintegrating, the liquor should be thick, deep brown, glistening, velvety, sumptuously rich… do taste some with a spoon, carefully. At this stage you have an excellent stew and could stop right here! Barring any desired salt or sugar adjustments, it should need some salt really. However, if you want to extend the stew with the addition of the vegetables continue…

Stew + Vegetables

I’ve chosen beetroot and parsnip, which release a lot of sweetness. However, about 1 kg of any typical stewing vegetables will do. Carefully, so as to not break up the meat too much, stir the raw vegetable cubes through the stew and add the extra pint of stout. Bring to simmering point on the stove again and then pop back into the oven for an hour at most, lest you over-cook the vegetables. Adding the vegetables at this late stage ensures that don’t turn to mush and retain a bit of “bite”.

There you have it. A great stew that will be even better after a day sitting in the fridge.

Enjoy with a glass of stout and a refreshing green salad with a sharp vinaigrette dressing. I didn’t have a Windsor & Eton Treetops handy alas, but the BrewDog Imperial Russian suited. Dig in!

Treetops Stew

For more helpful guiding photos for this recipe click here for the full Treetops Stew gallery.

Poacher’s Pheasant Stew

We had a steady supply of pheasant over the last season, thanks to a beater/shooter friend down at our local pub. Two gay-braces we received were earmarked for a pheasant coq au vin. But I changed my mind. Cooking with beer is all the rage right now, so I shunned the grape. The question was: what beer? Everything in the “cellar” was either too bitter or were quite special “collection” beers.[1] So I wandered up to Waitrose[2] and pondered over the selection of bottled ales available. Our local Waitrose has a decent range of bottled British beer, however I’m not really familiar with this territory since I prefer my bitter in cask form. Unfortunately the bottled versions of good cask ales are rarely up to scratch. So I scanned the beer names and read some label blurbs… one ale seemed quite apt: Poacher’s Choice by Badger Brewery.

Poacher's ChoiceI had never tried Poacher’s Choice before. Liquorish and damsons? Unusual, but – thought I – with a certain appeal in the context of a game stew. I took a punt on it and bought 6 bottles. What’s the beer like? As I suspected: a bit odd. Which is to say you may be a little surprised on the first sip of a pint of it down the pub – this is no bad thing! But I do suspect it’d strongly divide opinion. The Badger website describes this beer as “subtly fruity”, but compared to a similar strength/colour/hop-level beer I’d call it “boldly fruity”. The beer has a bubblegummy, plum-conserve character. I rather enjoyed a glass of Poacher’s Choice: I wasn’t keen initially but it grew on me, and blossomed. I’d say you need to be in a fruity frame of mind to enjoy this beer. I wasn’t at all apprehensive about stewing with it, it seemed a most excellent candidate.

So, a recipe was afoot – and like all good stews it is a simple one. Well, not so simple if you’re starting with pheasants still in all their feathery finery. You’ll be forgiven for picking them up oven ready, or even jointed. In fact this stew would work well with rabbit, probably pork, and definitely the coq you’d use in a coq au vin.


  • 4 pheasants – jointed into breasts, legs, and wings
  • 150g unsmoked bacon lardons
  • 4 tbsp light olive oil (or any frying oil)
  • 450g brown onion – finely chopped
  • 2 pints of Poacher’s Choice (or a beer of your choice)
  • 150g celery – sliced into 1″ lengths
  • 250g carrots – peeled, top-n-tailed, and sliced into 1″ chunks
  • 175g button mushrooms – just clean off any obvious dirt
  • 4 garlic cloves – crushed, peeled, and sliced
  • 10 juniper berries – crushed with the flat of a knife
  • 1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3 bay leaves – dry is fine, fresh is better
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves – clean and slice into thin ribbons
  • 500g shallots – whole and peeled
  • “Enough” game stock – chicken stock will do

This is just approximately what I put into my stew. As with any stew the ingredients are very flexible. If you don’t like mushrooms, leave them out! Or you could throw in some potato or parsnip. Get the idea?

Somewhat more optional ingredients are:

  • 2 tsp golden caster sugar – added to counter some bitterness from the beer
  • 25g each of plain flour and butter to make a roux to thicken the gravy


When it comes to stewing my weapon of choice is of the heavy enamelled-iron variety. The stew made with the ingredients above fills a 28cm Chasseur, which is about 6 litres.

Fry the lardons in the stewpot until golden, then remove them to a bowl leaving the fat in the stewpot.

Brown the pheasant pieces in batches, this is to ensure the meat isn’t crowded in the pan. After the first batch is browned add a tablespoon of oil to the stewpot between batches. For the amount of pheasant in this recipe I browned the meat in 4 batches. After each batch is browned remove the meat to the bowl with the lardons.

Browned Meat – Browning Onion

Place the fine-diced onion into the stewpot and fry over lowish heat until it browns, begins to break down, then goes quite mushy. While the onion is frying use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the toasty goodness from the pheasant-browning off the bottom of the stewpot.

Before the onion begins to stick pour in the beer, then add the meat, the chopped vegetables, bay leaves and juniper berries. Ensure everything is tightly packed then top the stewpot up with the game stock until everything is covered.

Gently simmer – there should be the barest movement visible and few, if any, bubbles – until “done” (i.e. the meat is tender, but not disintegrating!) My stew was simmering for about 3 hours, which is probably longer than necessary. About 30 minutes before you think the stew is ready brown the peeled shallots in a frypan with a tablespoon of oil and pop them into the stew. (If you put these in at the start they’ll simply turn to mush.) Pop the sliced garlic in now as well.

Browning Shallots

Browning Shallots

Do you want to thicken the gravy? The onion will have lent it some body already, any further body will depend on your stock. I like a stew to have a fairly sticky gravy so I thickened this one up a little. To do this strain the stew through a large sieve or chinois, collecting the gravy in a bowl. Put the gravy back into the stewpot and bring it to simmering point. In small pan over low heat melt 25g of butter then stir in 25g of plain white flour. Stir with a small whisk to combine the flour and butter well – and, stirring all the time, gently cook for a minute. Now, a ladle at a time, whisk the gravy into this roux. Initially it’ll thicken drastically, but don’t worry it’ll thin out as you add gravy. To avoid lumps be careful to whisk in each ladle of stock thoroughly and evenly. Continue until your have about a pint or two of thickened gravy, or the consistency of double cream. Finally whisk the thickened gravy into the gravy remaining in the stewpot. (Pass the thickened gravy through a sieve if you think you might have ended up with lumps.) Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, gently whisking all the while. When complete add the stewed meat and vegetables back into the thickened gravy.

We’re done! Serve with some boiled potatoes, crusty bread, rice, anything really! Served immediately this stew had a light bitterness to it, which prompted me to add a little sugar (in the optional ingredients above.) However, this bitterness all but disappeared after 24 hours in the fridge and I’d say the stew was at its best 2 days after cooking. Served in the photo below with some steamed little red potatoes, and a sneaky addition of pan fried bunny liver and kidneys (I’d been sorting out a few bunnies that evening.)


Of course: enjoy with a glass of Badger Ale’s Poacher’s Choice. The flavour of the beer came through distinctly in the stew.

[1] There were a few bottles of BrewDog 5AM Saint, which can make a rather good stew, but I’d like to get off the BrewDog theme for a bit.

[2] Hitchin, the town in which we live, lacks what I’d consider a decent independent bottle-shop. I’m tempted to try opening one myself, but the local market for craft beer is probably too small to run the sort of place I’d like to have. Plus, I haven’t a clue how to start such a venture!

Trashy Blonde Bunny Stew

Bunnies! (Not fluffy... anymore...)

Bunnies! (Not fluffy… anymore…)

It was to be rabbit stew for dinner this evening, having picked 3 bunnies up from the butcher in the Hitchin markets. We’re having to try out new butchers at the moment – alas there aren’t many around and I’m not so keen on what I can find. Sadly the best butcher in Hitchin, Mr Foskett, shut up shop for semi-retirement. I’m thinking of buying a car just so I can get to a decent butcher again … desperate times. Anyway, I digress.

Flicking through my Clarissa Dickson-Wright Game Cookbook I felt inspired to bring bunnies and beer together by a recipe for Rabbit Saltimbocca braised in Heather Ale. I wasn’t interested in saltimbocca though, so have instead loosely based this recipe on Clarissa’s Rabbit Stew recipe on the previous page.

Having recently received an order from BrewDog I had a few beers to choose from and settled on the Trashy Blonde (ABV 4.1%; OG: 1.0417; IBU: 40; Hops: Amarillo, Simcoe, Motueka) as it wasn’t too bitter for stewing with (I’ve had some beer based stews come out way too bitter in the past.) The recipe uses salt-preserved lemons as I thought the wonderful lemony hint they add to the flavour would compliment the beer-based gravy, I believe it worked quite well.


  • 3 Bunnies – jointed to saddles and legs (everything else I put aside for stock)
  • 3 Trashy Blondes (330ml bottles) – or other tasty beer, I wish I had 5AM Saint for this actually
  • 380g Pork Belly – roughly cubed
  • 4 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 15 Shallots – topped, tailed, and peeled (285g once done)
  • 6 cloves of Garlic – crushed, peeled, roughly chopped
  • Fresh herbs
    • 4 sprigs of Oregano
    • 2 sprigs of Rosemary
    • 4 sprigs of Thyme
    • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2 Salt-Preserved Lemons (i.e. Moroccan style) – roughly diced
  • 3 teaspoons of Capers – I prefer salt-pickled over vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of heavilly-reduced Chicken Stock – or a stock cube, or use light stock instead of water
  • 3 Anchovies – I used salted anchovies in oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Black Peppercorns – coarsely crushed


I suggest cooking this sort of thing in a big heavy enamelled pot. I’m using my 24cm Chasseur. Whatever you use should be oven-proof, although you could also simmer the stew on the stove if this is not possible. At some point you also want to pre-heat your oven to 150C (I do this near the end as my oven gets to 150C in less than 5 minutes.)

The pork belly is optional (well, everything in any recipe is optional – in this case I just think the pork is extra-optional.) If using the pork belly then the first thing to to is put a tablespoon of olive oil into your stew pot and heat it, then thoroughly brown the pork. Remove the pork and put it in a bowl to the side.

Browned bits

Browned bits

Now add another tablespoon of oil and brown the bunny bits in batches. Just put in enough at a time to fit on the bottom of the pot without them touching. Once browned on both sides remove the bits to the bowl with the pork and repeat until all the bunny is browned. All of this “browning” should be done on quite high heat – there will be smoke and black build-up in your pot. Do not be scared, this is all good.

Next toss the shallots into the pot and give them a good browning as well. Put them aside also. Turn the flame under your pot down low and add the rest of the oil to the pot and then the garlic. Sizzle this very briefly (don’t let it brown, sizzle for mere seconds! Only because I like the smell.) Now pour in the Trashy Blonde! Whooosh! Steamy fun. Using a wooden spoon or scraper give the base of the pot a good scraping to pick up all the tasty residue.

Scrunch up the fresh herbs a bit and throw them in. Then throw the rest of the ingredients in: preserved lemons, capers, stock (if using), anchovies, and black pepper. Set this simmer for a minute then add the meat and shallots back into the pot. Top this up with hot water or light stock until the meat is just barely covered. Bring to simmering point and then pop it in the oven for 1 hour.

How you serve it is up to you, but here’s what I did:

  • 15 Baby Potatoes – in 1cm thick slices
  • 3 Parsnips
  • 2 Carrots
  • Bread

Roast Parsnips & Carrots: Bring the oven up to 250C. Peel the parsnips and carrots and chop them into 2 or 3 large chunks. Lightly coat with oil and put them in a baking tray. Sprinkle with sea-salt and black pepper then pop into the oven. Cook until – well, cooked.

Potatoes: Do this after putting the other veggies into the oven. Using a slotted spoon, or similar, remove all the meat and other bits from the stew to a bowl. Cover and set aside. Bring the stew gravy to simmering point and then add the sliced potato. Simmer until the potato is cooked to your liking. When the potatoes are cooked add the meat back to the pot and let simmer a little more to warm before serving if necessary.

Bread: The thin and tasty gravy you get with this recipe makes this a perfect stew to have a bit of bread with. I get a good sourdough from our local baker. Whatever bread you use please let it be something robust, not the modern fluff you get in the supermarkets. A good traditional bread with a firm texture will take up the stew juices beautifully, the modern junk will just turn to slime.

Serve with a bottle of Trashy Blonde, of course!

Trashy Blonde Bunny Stew

Trashy Blonde Bunny Stew