Digging through the depths of the freezer, I spied a large 500g punnet of blackberries. They were grown by my mother-in-law and I froze them at the time she gave them to us. There they sat just waiting, being ignored in favour of commercially packaged bags of frozen raspberries, cherries and mixed berries. Not for any particular reason other than I didn’t have ANY experience with blackberries. Well, not quite true. I do have fond memories of my husband teaching our black labrador, Wag, to pluck wild blackberries from the canes along the riverbed. He was so gentle, using only his lips to pull the fruit from the prickly canes. I miss him; he was a beautiful boy.
What does one do when faced with an ingredient they have not used before? Master Google to the rescue. So I searched…for flavour pairings, uses, recipes, suggestions… I came across a lot of great stuff, but I knew I really wanted to create something myself. That’s exactly what I did. I created two new recipes, actually, and I still have some berries left to play with.
So here is the first of my two recipes, a savoury warming casserole. It smelled delicious while cooking, a more robust and flavoursome aroma than many casseroles I’ve cooked in my lifetime. I believe this is down to the berries which imbue a depth of flavour I had not experienced previously. The casserole was super tender and I believe the berries provide a tenderising effect.
I didn’t know you could pair a berry with beef, and the idea intrigued me. I’m so glad I gave it a go and I hope you try it too.
Firstly I will share the step that I took which I recommend you do not take. I have made many casserole recipes where the meat is coated in flour, which helps thicken the sauce as it cooks. I was keen to see if I could use a low carb alternative to perform the same task. I have successfully made gravy using coconut flour, so thought, why not.
Then I stirred it up to coat, and it looked like this:
Yeah, it looks like I rolled it around in a sandpit. Once it was cooked it gave the gravy a slight grainy appearance and mouth feel. All in all I found it didn’t do what I wanted and it would have had nil to negligible influence on the end flavour. So I have written the recipe up without the coconut flour. Feel free to give it a try yourself if you are curious – I used 2 tablespoons.
One other aspect to mention is the texture of the blackberries. By the end of the cooking they have completely disappeared. However the seeds are a very distinctive texture between your teeth and they don’t seem to crack or break down when biting down on them. My husband had no issue with that, but personally I was not overly fussed. If you think it may bother you, then I recommend mashing and straining the berries first, adding the seedless puree instead of the whole berries.
So that’s it. Shall we take a look at the recipe now? It’s simple – no pre-browning or messing around (unless you choose to de-seed the blackberries). Just throw it all into your cooking vessel, turn it on and let it do its thing.
Here is my recipe.
Slow Cooked Blackberry Beef
Makes 4-6 servings
♥ Ingredients ♥
1 kg stewing steak, trimmed and cubed
1/2 each of salt and pepper
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced into 2cm pieces
1/3 leek, cut in half lengthways and then sliced
1 C beef stock
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t dried rosemary
1 T Worcester Sauce
2 T Balsamic vinegar
2 T Sherry
3 T blackberries (whole or mashed and strained to remove seeds)
1/2 t xanthan gum
♥ Method ♥
- Toss beef cubes in salt and pepper to season.
- Place in a slow cooker (I use a pressure cooker type pot from DineRite).
- Throw chopped vegetables on top, sprinkle over the herbs and toss all to combine.
- Pour over the beef stock, worcester sauce, vinegar and sherry. Add blackberries and stir again.
- Cook for 8 hours on low (my pot cooked it in 2 1/2 hours on a low element).
- Half an hour prior to serving, sprinkle the xanthan gum over the casserole and stir it in. Stir for a couple of minutes, then replace lid and finish cooking on high (or medium heat for a DineRite pot).
I have not tested this in an oven, but I am sure it would cook up fine in a covered casserole dish on a low temperature for however long a slow-cook casserole takes in an oven. (I’ve never actually done that! 😮 ) It may require more liquid, though, so should be checked and stirred a couple of times.
Serve with your choice of cooked vegetables on the side for a complete meal.
Notice the grainy look. That is only caused by the coconut flour, so by omitting it, the gravy will be smooth and glossy.
This was an unusual dish for me, but when you step outside the familiar, wonderful things can happen. Still not convinced? The casserole does not taste of blackberries…at all. They merely lend a richness to the overall flavour. So, are you willing to give it a go? I’d love to hear about it.
Happy, healthy eating,