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Beef Casserole with Prunes and Cinnamon Recipe

A delicious recipe, which actually delivers an unusual flavour combination. Like many casseroled dishes, it improves further when re-heated.
Don't be tempted to omit the prunes as even if some of your guests leave them, they impart a great depth of flavour to the whole dish.

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1 kilo/2.2 lbs Stewing Beef, cut into 3-4 cm cubes – try to order shin of beef from your butcher, as it has an embedded layer of gristle with just melts away leaving a beautiful sauce.
75cl/ 1 bottle of Red Wine
2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely-chopped
2-3 Cinnamon Sticks (depending on their size)
4 Bay Leaves – fresh or dried
120gr/4 oz Cubed Pancetta
120gr/4 oz Butter
12 Small Shallots or Button Onions, peeled but left whole
12 large Prunes, with their stones in (try to find natural, rather than ready to eat prunes)
2 tablespoons Flour, mixed with ½ teaspoon Salt and a few generous grinds of Back Pepper.
75cl/1¼ pints Beef Stock or the same quantity made from a half a good stock cube

Equipment needed: an ovenproof casserole with a close-fitting lid, large enough to comfortably hold all the ingredients. This should be non-reactive, so not aluminium.


1. Marinate the meat overnight in the fridge with the red wine, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, garlic and prunes. This can either be done in your chosen casserole or a glass bowl or plastic container.
2. Heat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas 2 and plan on using the middle shelf.
3. Remove the meat from the marinade and drain it in a colander or something similar, but keeping the marinade.
4. Heat about a third of the butter in a deep frying pan over a medium heat, add the pancetta cubes and turn them until they take on some colour. Add them to the marinade mixture, leaving as much butter/fat behind as possible.
5. Repeat this process with the beef cubes, turning moving them constantly, so they don’t stick.
6. Finally give some colour to the shallots/button onions. Again, add these to the marinade.
7. Melt the remaining butter in the same frying pan, scraping the bottom to remove any caramelisation – which will help give the finished dish a good colour. Remove the frying pan from the heat, and add the seasoned flour, blending it to a smooth paste with the back of a wooden spoon.
8. Put all the ingredients, including the stock, in the casserole, and mix it well together.
9. Bring the mixture to the boil slowly, stirring occasionally, it should thicken smoothly.
10. Cover the casserole and cook it in the oven, undisturbed, for 2 hours.

Remove from the oven and serve. Mashed potato (q.v.) goes very well, perhaps accompanied by a plain green vegetable. Remember to warm your guests about the inedible cinnamon sticks and bay leaves.

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