Beef Stew with Red Beans and Tomato Sauce

On a cold day, sometimes all that is needed is a straight-forward simple comfort food, without too much elaboration. The following stew is exactly that.
The bone-in meat is braised slowly in a seasoned stock, along with red beans and tomatoes, creating a hearty all-in-one-pot dinner. Using canned tomatoes and beans makes preparing the dish quick and easy, with both contributing to creating thick and tasty sauce, perfect for dunking a crusty piece of bread in it.  Try it and enjoy.

Makes: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Braising time: 3 hours
Chilling time (optional): overnight

2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly cut
½ small fennel, roughly cut
1 small celery stalk, sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2-3 bay leaves
1 Tbs salt
½ tsp freshly ground four peppers mix
1.5 lbs (680 grams) beef shin, sliced with the bone
2 Tbs flour
3 cups beef stock
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp sweet paprika powder
¼ tsp hot paprika powder
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
½ tsp cocoa powder
1 can (15.5 oz/439 grams) red beans, drained
1 can (14.5 oz/411 grams) diced tomatoes

1. Preheat the oven to 200F (93 C).
2. In a wide pot, mix 1 Tbs of the oil with the onion, fennel, celery, carrots, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Sauté over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, mixing occasionally, until the onion softens.
3. Dust the meat with the flour. Move the sautéed vegetables to one side of the pot, and add the remaining 1 Tbs oil to the empty side. Add the meat to it, and fry for 2-3 minutes on both sides. Mix gently with the vegetables.

4. Mix the stock with the spices, vinegar, honey and cocoa powder, and add to the pot. Add the beans and tomatoes, mix gently and bring to the boil over high heat.
5. Cover the pot, lower the heat to medium-high, and cook on the verge of boiling for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

6. Transfer the covered pot to the oven and braise for 3 hours, until the meat is almost falling off the bone. The stew can be served at this point, but will taste even better after a night in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before warming gently over medium heat.

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