Friday, October 31, 2014

Fusilli Bolognese with Beef, Pork, Veal & Sausage

A beloved part of Italian cooking, every family has their own favourite bolognese recipe, known as Ragù alla Bolognese, a meat-based sauce originating from Bologna. 
Typically served with tagliatelle, spaghetti or pappardelle, bolognese pairs well with any pasta that's designed for capturing and holding onto sauce, such as one of the south's favourite sons — Fusilli — the crazy corkscrew-shaped pasta that originated in the regions of Molise and Basilicata in Southern Italy. Originally developed by rolling fresh spaghetti around a thin rod and letting it dry, fusilli gets its name by the 'fuso', meaning 'little spindles' in Italy, the knitting tool used to roll up the wool. Its spiral shape and thick coils are ideal at capturing every type of sauce, making it the perfect yet unexpected partner for this robust and 'delizioso' bolognese — the perfect marriage of north and south. Magnifique!

Fusilli Bolognese with Beef, Pork, Veal & Sausage
Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground veal
3 spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 28 oz cans whole Italian San Marzano plum tomatoes
8 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved or chipped
1 lb fusilli, cooked al dente
1 bunch fresh basil or pea sprouts for garnish

In a large pot, cook the ground beef, pork, veal and and crumbled sausage with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until browned, stirring frequently to ensure even cooking, about 20-30 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid and discard.

While meat is cooking, combine the finely chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a small bowl. Once the meat is done, add in the vegetables, bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the tomato paste and wine and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, including the juice from the can, and crush the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. 

About 30 minutes before the sauce is done, put a large pot of water on to boil over high heat. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add 2 heaping tablespoons of salt and add the dried pasta. Stir gently and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta in a large colander. To serve, divide the pasta between 6 warmed dinner bowls and top with generous spoonfuls of sauce. Using a cheese knife, break off small chips of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and sprinkle over each bowl, then garnish with fresh basil or pea shoots — serve immediately.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Saag Gosht: Indian Lamb & Spinach Curry with Yogurt

Saag Gosht is a tender and delicious Lamb and Spinach Curry that originates from the northwest region of India. A well-loved dish from the greater Punjab area of India and Pakistan, Punjabi cuisine is known for its diversity, and varies regionally by the agriculture and farming lifestyle that's been prevalent throughout the area for centuries, where the men are mainly farmers and obtain their ingredients fresh from the fields. 'Saag' typically refers to mustard greens, and 'Gosht' tends to mean goat meat, however many recipes also feature leafy green spinach, or 'Palak', and boneless leg or shoulder of lamb cut up into large bite-size pieces. Browned with onions, an aromatic mixture of whole and ground spices, chopped ginger, garlic and dollops of plain yogurt, the lamb is slowly simmered for up to 2 hours then combined with chopped blanched leaves of fresh spinach and finished with a spoonful of ghee. A lovely, earthy dish with a mild and subtle flavour, it's not surprising that this luscious Lamb and Spinach Curry is considered one of the great curries of India.

2 pounds of stewing lamb cut into generous 1-inch cubes

The pieces of lamb are cooked in oil over low heat until browned on all sides

One large onion peeled and finely chopped

The onions are sautéed with cloves, cinnamon, cardamom pods...

...homegrown bay leaves until the onions are lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes

After 25 minutes, the onions are soft and lightly browned

Coriander seeds toasting in a pan until aromatic, about 5-6 minutes

Cumin seeds are then toasted

The toasted coriander and cumin seeds are ground in a mortar and pestle

The roasted spices along with garam masala, turmeric and paprika are added to the browned onions

The spices are mixed in and stirred well to combine

The ginger and garlic are pulsed in a food processor until finely chopped 

The ginger-garlic paste and plain yogurt are mixed in with the onions

The browned lamb is added and tossed with the sauce

Water is added to the pot and brought a boil, then covered, turned to low and simmered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours

After 2 hours, the sauce has become darker, richer and slightly thicker

1-pound of chopped, cooked and drained spinach is added to the curry

I added a bit more yogurt, uncovered the pot and continued to cook the curry over slightly higher heat for another 30 minutes to reduce the liquid

Saag Gosht: Indian Lamb & Spinach Curry
Serves 6

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
2 lb boneless leg or shoulder of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large or 3 small onions, finely chopped
10 cloves
10 cardamom pods
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
10 black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
3 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 3-inch piece of ginger, finely grated
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup thick plain yogurt

2 tbsp ghee
1 lb spinach, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped

Place a small frying pan over low heat and dry roast the coriander seeds until aromatic, then remove and dry roast the cumin seeds. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, 
grind the roasted seeds into a fine powder and set aside.  

Pat the pieces of lamb thoroughly with paper towel and trim off any excess fat or tissue. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium-low heat and fry a few pieces of lamb at a time until browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pot and fry the onions, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, peppercorn and bay leaves, until the onion is lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. Add the roasted cumin and coriander, garam masala, turmeric and paprika and fry for 30 seconds. Add the ginger, garlic and yogurt and stir until well combined, then add the lamb with 1 2/3 cups of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. At this stage, most of the water should have evaporated. If it hasn't, remove the lid, increase the heat and cook until the moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and ghee, to taste.

Cook the spinach briefly in a little simmering water until it has just wilted, then refresh with cold water. Drain thoroughly, squeezing out any excess water, then finely chop and add to the lamb. Cook for another 10-15 minutes uncovered, or until the lamb and spinach are well mixed and any extra liquid has evaporated.

To serve, place the curry in a warm dish with some basmati rice and warm chapatis if you like.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Blowfish on Bay: Innovative Pan-Asian Cuisine


Opened in Spring 2003, Blowfish Restaurant + Sake Bar with its hot pink lights, elaborate chandeliers and cool grey banquettes, erupted onto the city's hip new dining-lounge scene offering a modern twist on traditional Japanese cuisine in Toronto’s stylish King Street West club district. Blowfish’s award wining interior design, mixed with a blend of sushi, French and Pan Asian cuisine, was the ultimate recipe for success, so in 2011 owners Joseph Siahou and Zark Fatah opened a second location — Blowfish on Bay — catering to a predominantly after-work crowd at the corner of Bay and Temperance in the financial district's Bay Adelaide Centre. Designed by Toronto architect Johnson Chou, the sleek and stylish interior has a glamorous and refined look that exemplifies Blowfish’s east-meets-west vibe, with several eye-catching elements such as the impressive ribbed wood installation that divides the space, private cacoon-like gilded booth, chandeliers crafted from crystal-filled Pyrex tubes, and plush banquettes in chocolate tones with elegant custom-made walnut tables.

Blowfish menu

Mirroring this fusion of old with new, classic with modern, Chef Pan's inspired menu features a colourful combination of innovative gourmet sushi, as well as hot and cold plates for sharing, such as the renowned Ebi Shooter, Spicy Tuna Roll with Tempura Rock Shrimp, Wagyu Gyoza, and Red Hot Curry Salmon Sushi, as well as entrées such as Pan Seared Wild Sea Scallops, Roasted Miso-Marinated Black Cod and Hot Stone-Seared Wagyu Striploin, served along award-winning mixologist Nishan Nepulangoda's creative cocktails such as his 'Just Chill' with Aperol, Prosecco, Grapefruit Juice and Orange Bitters, and bright green 'Hagar' with rum, lime juice and mango purée. To food is delicious, the service courteous, and the space striking, however my only word of caution would be avoiding the boisterous after-work crowd that over take the bar in the early evening and if they decide to linger for an 'intimate' dinner for twenty, run for the hills!

Blowfish executive chef Chef G.Q Pan

Award-winning mixologist and head bartender extraordinaire Nishan Nepulangoda

Blowfish on Bay dinner menu

A bottle San Pellegrino to start the evening

'The Hagar' with Rum, lime juice and mango purée

'The Just Chill' with Aperol, Prosecco, Grapefruit Juice and Orange Bitters

A bowl of complimentary warm Edamame sprinkled with salt

The Blowfish Giant Ebi Shooter: tiger prawn, mango, avocado, cucumber, lettuce, daikon sprout, tempura bits, spicy kewpie and tobiko, all wrapped with soy paper

Spicy Tuna with Rock Shrimp: spicy tuna paste, black sesame seed, hot garlic kewpie tossed rock shrimp tempura

Crispy Black Cod Wontons

One-Bite Wagyu Gyoza: pan seared dumpling stuffed with wagyu, black fungus, ginger and preserved spicy vegetable, served with balsamic basil dip

Lotus-Steamed Lobster + Shrimp Dumpling with spicy tobanjan sauce

Ikura Salmon Roe Nigiri Sushi

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Saint Agur & Mahimahi

The irresistibly rich flavour and creamy texture of this luscious Lemon Pasta with Saint Agur Cheese and Grilled Mahimahi is even more remarkable, given that, I'm embarrassed to say, was created from a bounty of leftover goodies I'd saved in the fridge from entertaining this past weekend. A few slices of bacon, a couple of mushrooms, a lump of creamy Saint Agur cheese, a soupçon of sour cream, the zest and juice of two lemons plus an orphaned filet of fresh Mahimahi became the impromptu ingredients to a simple and delicious pasta. Finished with some fresh chives from the garden and a flurry of fresh ground pepper, this mouthwatering mid-week wonder was a rich and creamy celebration of culinary spontaneity. As Erma Bombeck said, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" — likewise, when your fridge gives you leftovers, make pasta!"

Lemon Pasta with Saint Agur & Grilled Mahimahi
Serves 2

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 slices bacon, thinly sliced
4 large crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 celery leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 lemons, zested
1 lemon, juiced
8 oz Saint Agur or Cambozola cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 lb Mahimahi
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp chopped chives, plus extra for garnish
300g dried spaghetti

In a large cooking pot over medium heat, melt butter and oil. Add bacon pieces and cook, stirring often until bacon starts to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside in a small bowl. Add the sliced mushrooms and celery leaves to the pot and sauté until soft and golden brown, then set aside with the bacon. Add the garlic and sauté until golden, then set aside with the bacon and mushrooms. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Once cooked, drain and return to the pot set over low heat. Add the Saint Agur cheese and stir until melted. Add the sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cooked bacon-mushroom mixture and blend until well combined, and gently warm through over low heat. Add more sour cream or pasta water if the sauce becomes too thick.

While the pasta is rewarming, bring the frying pan back to medium heat and sauté the mahimahi until cooked through, then slice into large bite size pieces.

To serve, portion the pasta into 2 dinner-size serving bowls and top with mahimahi. Garnish with chopped chives, sliced lemon and a grind of white pepper. Serve immediately.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Madhur Jaffrey's Onion Bhajias

Bhajias are a spicy Indian snack similar to pakora or potato fritters, and a popular snack food that can be found for sale in street-side stalls, especially in dhabas on highways. The basic recipes consist of chopped onions incorporated into a dough made from gram flour, a variety of spices and sometimes fresh herbs, then fried until crispy and golden brown. This recipe from Madhur Jaffrey is simple, delicious and makes a satisfying appetizer for any Indian-inspired meal.

Madhur Jaffrey's Onion Bhajias
Serves 4

1 cup gram flour, also known as chickpea flour
4 tbsp natural yogurt
1 1/2 tsp garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp ginger, finely grated
3/4 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
3/4 tsp hot chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
12 fresh kari leaves, shredded
4 tbsp cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 large onion, halved and finely sliced
Vegetable oil, to deep fry

Tamarind Dipping Sauce:
1/4 package of tamarind pulp
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp of chili powder
1/3 cup of water

Soak the tamarind pulp with hot water until soft and squishy. Squeeze as much of the pulp out and discard the seeds sacs. Mix everything together and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Place the gram flour in a large bowl and add 4 tablespoons of water. Add the yogurt and beat together to create a thick paste. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric, curry leaves and chopped coriander. Mix well and add salt to taste. Fold the onion slices into the batter, making sure they are well coated. 

Set a wok or deep pan over a medium heat and pour in about 1-inch of oil for deep frying. Test that the oil hot enough by dropping in a small piece of batter — if it sizzles immediately, it's ready. Have a small bowl of water on hand. 

Once you get the onion bhaji mixture into a nice workable paste, they should hold their shape if you scoop them up with a spoon. Working quickly, take ping-pong ball clusters of onions and making sure they are well coated in the batter, drop three or four into the hot oil. Some will form spidery clusters, others may separate into individual slices. Cook the bhajias for 20-30 seconds before turning with a slotted spoon. Continue cooking for about another minute, turning occasionally, until they are crisp and golden. Remove and drain the excess oil to keep the bhaji crispy for longer periods of time. Wet your fingers, then pick up another pinch of battered onions and repeat the process until the batter is finished. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with the Tamarind Dipping Sauce. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Festive Diwali Dish: Indian Butter Chicken

Diwali, also known as Deepawali or the 'Festival of Lights', is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year, and signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. The festival typically extends over a five day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu lunar month Kartika, which in the Gregorian calendar falls between mid-October and mid-November. While the reason for celebrating the 'Festival of Lights' is deeply embedded in Hindu mythology, people of all religions celebrate — it’s a time for family, good food, lighting lamps and candles, enjoying fireworks and revelling in the spirit of togetherness, and what could be more important?

Oil lamps are traditionally used during Diwali – the festival of lights — to lighten up the house and welcome the Gods into the household, asking for prosperity, wealth, happiness and good luck 

One of my favourite festive Indian dishes is Murgh Makhani, also known as Butter Chicken. There are many ways of making this recipe but the basic principles remain the same: marinating the chicken overnight in a yogurt and a spice mixture, usually garam masala, ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, coriander, cumin, turmeric and chili. The chicken, although traditionally cooked in a tandoor, can also be grilled, roasted or pan fried. The sauce is then prepared by heating ghee, tomato purée, and various spices, very often including cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, pepper, and fenugreek. Cashew paste can also be added, which I like to do, which makes the sauce thicker, richer and more luscious. Of all the spices added to the dish it's dried fenugreek leaves, or kasuri methi, that makes the greatest contribution to the characteristic flavour of Murgh Makhani. Once the sauce is prepared, the chicken is added to the sauce and warmed through and then garnished with ghee, fresh cream, cilantro or kasuri methi, for a classic Indian dish perfect for celebrating Diwali.

Murgh Makhani: Indian Butter Chicken
Serves 4

Chicken & Marinade:
1 lb chicken thighs, boned and skinless
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 tbsp gram flour (chickpea flour)
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp melted ghee or butter

Makhani Masala Sauce:
2 yellow onions, finely chopped 
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp fresh garlic, finely minced 
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
15 cashew nuts, coarsely chopped
1 tsp chili powder 
1 cup tomato purée 
2 tbsp ghee or butter, or to taste
3 tbsp heavy cream, or to taste
salt to taste 
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and chopped for garnish

Cut the boneless chicken thighs into large bite-size pieces and pat dry. In a large bowl, combine the yoghurt, ginger, garlic, cardamom, fenugreek leaves, chili powder, garam masala, oil, gram flour, lemon juice and salt, and mix well to form a thick consistency. Add the chicken pieces to the mixture and let marinate, covered and refrigerated overnight, or for at least 4-5 hours.

Meanwhile, soak the coarsely chopped cashews in some warm water to cover, for about 45 minutes. Then drain and process in a blender, adding 1 tablespoon of water at a time as needed, to make a smooth paste; cover and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Place the chicken pieces on a foil lined baking tray and cook 10 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and baste with melted ghee, cooking an additional 10 minutes until chicken is nicely browned. 

In a large skillet, add the chopped onions and fry 30 - 40 minutes, until they're golden brown and well caramelized. Add the fenugreek seeds, and when they start to sizzle, add the ginger-garlic paste and fry, sprinkling a little water now and then as necessary, until the oil separates. Add the cashew paste, chili powder, tomato purée and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste. I often purée the mixture at this point, to make an extra silky and smooth sauce, but it's not absolutely necessary.

To finish, add the butter, cream and chicken. Mix well and cook over low heat until warmed through. The Butter Chicken can now sit covered over low heat for a while, or taken off the heat and gently re-warmed when ready to serve. Spoon the Butter Chicken into a large bowl, preferably a 'Kadhai', a traditional Indian copper-plated bowl, and garnish with a splash of cream and fresh cilantro or Kasari Methi. Serve over basmati rice with lovely warm Naan bread or crispy pappadam on the side.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Sweet Citrus Glaze

Whether served with afternoon tea or with coffee to start the morning, this moist and delicious Lemon Buttermilk Cake will bring sunshine to your day with the bright flavour of two juiced and zested lemons. An excellent way to use up leftover buttermilk, this easy recipe also uses no butter — just half a cup of oil — which is the secret to moist and tender cakes with lots of character. While it may sound a bit odd, baking with oil has been a feature of Mediterranean cooking for centuries, as it dramatically cuts back on the cholesterol and saturated fat content, and produces lighter tasting baked goods that allow the flavour of other key ingredients to shine. Crowned with a drizzle of sweet and sugary citrus glaze, this Lemon Buttermilk Cake makes a delicious start to any day.

Eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, vegetable oil and buttermilk are whisked until smooth

Flour, baking soda and a dash of salt are blended in to make a fragrant batter

Poured into a lightly greased loaf pan, the lemon cake is baked at 350°F for 60-70 minutes

I had double the recipe and made lemon cupcakes also

Delicious on their own, the cupcakes and lemon cake can also be drizzled with an icing sugar, buttermilk and lemon juice glaze

Lemon Buttermilk Cake
Serves 8-10

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
2 large eggs
1 tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 8"x4" loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using a stand mixer, add the sugar, oil, buttermilk, eggs, zest, juice and vanilla in the bowl and blend to combine. Then add the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. To prepare the glaze, whisk the powdered sugar, lemon juice and buttermilk together in a small bowl, then drizzle over the cooled cake and serve.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Braised Beef & Mushroom Stew with Cipollini Onions

This hearty and delicious recipe for Braised Beef & Mushroom Stew was inspired by my friend Angela who had been visiting from Germany a few years ago, and made this dish with flavourful dried forest mushrooms she had brought from home. I seem to recall that she served this stew with German dumplings, but egg noodles or spätzle would be just as traditional. Not having access to Angela's fabulous forest fungi, I now make her Beef Stew with crimini mushrooms, cipollini onions and small roasted new potatoes. Braised with good quality stewing beef, red wine, chopped vegetables, fresh herbs and chicken stock for 2-3 hours, this thick and soul satisfying stew is the perfect antidote for any chilly evening, whether you're in Düsseldorf or downtown Toronto.

A tablespoon of butter and olive oil are warmed over medium heat

Two pieces of chopped bacon are added

The bacon is cooked until crispy

Chopped onion, celery, carrot and garlic are added with worcestershire sauce, fresh thyme and bay leaves

2 pounds of stewing beef

The beef is cut up into smaller 2-3-inch pieces 

Patted dry with paper towel, the beef is then dredged in white flour before being browned in batches with the vegetables

Half a cup of red wine is added to the browned beef, and stirred well to remove and dissolve the fond, or browned food residue, from the bottom of the pan to help make the sauce

Chicken stock is added and brought to a boil, then partially covered and allowed to simmer for 1 hour

Meanwhile, the cipollini onions are blanched briefly in boiling water then trimmed and peeled

After and hour of cooking, the onions are added to the stew which has become thicker and darker. The pot is partially covered again and allied to simmer for another hour

Crimini mushrooms are sautéed in a little butter until soft and aromatic

Once the mushrooms are cooked, they are set aside until being added to the stew

Now after 2 hours of cooking, the stew has become rich, dark and flavourful, at which point the mushrooms are now added and allowed to cook for another 30 minutes

The stew can be served over noodles or with sautéed new potatoes

Golden brown and crispy, the new potatoes are ready to be added to the stew

The potatoes are combined with the stew and garnished with chopped fresh parsley

Braised Beef & Mushroom Stew with Cipollini Onions & Roast Potatoes
Serves 6

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 slices bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into thick coins
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
5 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 lb stewing beef
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups beef or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups cipollini onions, blanched and peeled
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, cleaned and halved or left whole
1 lb baby new potatoes, washed and halved but not peeled
2 tbsp olive oil + 3 tbsp butter
1 cup sour cream, not low fat
2 tbsp fresh flat leaf italian parsley, chopped for garnish

In a large cooking pot over medium heat, melt butter and oil. Add bacon pieces and cook, stirring often until bacon starts to brown. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery, worcestershire sauce, herbs and spices, and cook, stirring often, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

Pat beef cubes dry with a paper towel, then dredge in flour until cubes are evenly coated. Increase the heat under the cooking pot to medium-high and cook beef, adding a few pieces at a time, letting pieces brown before adding new ones. When all the beef cubes have browned, add wine to pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring and scraping up any brown bits on bottom of pan. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, partially cover pot, and let simmer for 1 hour. Stir in the cipollini onions, and continue to cook on low heat, partially covered for another hour. Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in 3 tablespoons of butter until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. After the hour, remove the pot lid and add the mushrooms; simmer for 30 minutes. Beef should be very tender. 

Put the halved new potatoes on to steam for 13-15 minutes, then remove from the heat but leave covered in the steamer. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan over medium-high and sauté the steamed potatoes for 3 minutes each side until golden brown, then add to the stew.

Just before serving, remove the stew from the heat, take out the bay leaves and woody remains of the fresh thyme, stir in the sour cream and parsley, then return the pot to the heat and gently rewarm, not allowing it to boil. To serve, ladle the stew into a large bowl and extra parsley.