The Best Beef Casserole of All Time

15th July 2002

I invented this casserole more or less by accident last night when there wasn't much food in the house (we were waiting for Tesco to deliver our big monthly order). We had some horrible cheap beef in the freezer and some horrible cheap wine in the fridge, so I thought I ought to use them both up, and the only way to make the meat palatable was in a slow-cooking casserole. I tarted it up with what I had to hand, and it turned out to be absolutely wonderful. I mean really fantastic. I shouldn't even be telling you this recipe. I ought to copyright it and go into business with it.

The interesting thing about this is how much it leaves out. My casseroles recently have used a lot of garlic, chillis, capers, balsamic vinegar and suchlike, but these ingredients - marvellous though they are - do not appear in this recipe. It's a classic case of ``less is more''.

See my chicken dhansak recipe for my thoughts on accuracy of quantities.

As far as quantities are concerned, this recipe makes about enough for four, though in the event I ate two portions. (This is part of the reason that I am currently about two stone overweight. That's 28 pounds for you Americans, and going on for 13 Kg for you Europeans. See what good cooking can do to you? Never mind. I plan to cash in by losing lots of weight, then writing a best-selling book on the patent Mike Taylor diet, which (here comes a handy dieting tip) involves eating less food.)

Anyway. Allow two or three hours to make this - the beef needs it to tenderise. You won't need to babysit it for most of that time, though.



  1. Chop the meat into biggish bite-sized chunks
  2. Heat the oil in a big, solid non-stick pot.
  3. When it's really hot, brown the meat aggressively in small batches. By ``aggressively'', I mean that you have to courageously resist the urge to stir it, leaving it to cook one side at a time, thoroughly, so that it develops a slightly burned crust.
  4. Once you've removed the last batch of beef from the pot (keep it on a plate), put the chopped onion in the beef juices, and fry it fairly dry until is just starts to burn. Then add some more oil, and keep frying the onion in it until it softens.
  5. Return the meat to the pan.
  6. Add the herbs, the white wine and the stock. Top up with a bit of water if you don't think you have enough liquid. Better yet, use a bit more wine.
  7. If you truly trust me, you will now crumble a beef stock cube into the mixture. If you're a food snob or a BSE paranoic, you'd probably rather not, and I quite understand; but don't come running to me when the casserole is merely very, very good.
  8. Pour in the golden syrup. Go on, do it. It makes all the difference. Don't worry, the casserole won't end up sickly sweet: the syrup just brings out the natural sweetness of the other ingredients.
  9. Now you're rolling. Give it a good stir, reduce the pot to a very low simmer, cover it with a tight lid, and walk away for two hours. At this point, if - like me - you have no potatoes in the house, you'll want to nip out and find one of those 24-hour greengrocers :-)
  10. Just make sure the liquid doesn't all boil away, otherwise the food will burn.
  11. Two hours later, your beef should be tender, and the juices should be mulching down nicely. Chop the potatoes into big, hearty lumps and throw 'em in.
  12. Now the tomatoes. You want them either chopped finely or mashed through a collender. Don't forget to add all the tomato juice from the tin. Also a bit more wine.
  13. Nearly done. Add your salt and pepper, give it a stir, and wait for the potatoes to cook through - probably about 20-30 minutes, but do test one.
  14. Serve. Just like that: no bread, no rice, no nothing. The whole meal is in one pot.

It's a taste sensation.

Implementation Experience

About four months after I posted this recipe, I got a very entertaining email from Jenny McNally, who has decided to use it:

Date: Sun, 17 Nov 2002 16:30:34 +0000
From: "Jenny McNally"
Subject: The best beef casserole of all time ...

Dear Mike

I hope you don't mind me being so informal but it did occur to me when getting to point 7 of your recipe, that I was trusting a man I never even knew existed until a few hours ago ...

I had decided on game casserole for supper this evening and bought various ingredients (stock, loads of big mushrooms, red cabbage etc) when I remembered (before I bought the game!) that I had a pack of cubed beef in the fridge left over from a ``buy one, get one free'' promotion. Having had beef casserole (packet mix) two Sundays running, I didn't think my family would wear it for a third time so knew I had to find something different (but it still had to be beef casserole!)

So I typed "beef casserole" into Google and lo and behold - the best beef casserole of all time. I knew I had some white wine (box opened in July so must be fairly undrinkable by now), and the beef was past its sell-by date - all I needed was the golden syrup. I duly went out shopping again for the golden syrup.

I set to, armed with a large glass of Dutch courage to help me resist the temptation to stir the meat at the frying stage (it's easy to ignore frying meat when you're hunting for ice, lemon, tonic etc.), when my 15-year-old son wandered into the kitchen. Spotting the golden syrup, he asked ``What have you bought this for?'' ``It's for the casserole'', I cheerily replied. He gave me the sort of look that only teenagers can convey, so I explained that you had concocted this recipe and it had turned out to be ``the best casserole of all time''. ``Trust me'', I said, ``I'm a secretary.'' With a wisdom beyond his years, he pointed out that you may have been so hungry by the time you ate it that anything would have tasted delicious.

So, Mike Taylor, I'm trusting you ... It's at the two-hour simmering stage at the moment. The tomatoes are ready (I always break up tinned tomatoes before using them - may I recommend a Braun hand blender for the purpose? Only thing I use mine for!) I am going to vary it because I have to use up those mushrooms, but I'm sure you would have put some in if you had had some.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Jenny McNally

... and the next day ...

Well, we had the casserole yesterday evening (and will probably be eating it for the rest of the week!). We all enjoyed it, but thought it was a bit too tomatoey for our taste, so will adapt it next time - I'll definitely be using it again.

Thanks for the recipe

Jenny McNally

P.S. The mushrooms were good in it.

"Too tomatoey"? I ask you ...

Thanks, Jenny!

Another Satisfied Customer

Date: Fri, 1 Jul 2005 12:17:24 +0100
From: William Johnston

Hello mike, just thought i'd drop a line to let you know that i've borrowed your recipe. I used the recipe a few months ago at home and it was a success(i also added the mushrooms and... a few cloves of garlic). I'm a firefighter and look after the meals on station for a 'watch' of 11 - 14 so i tried the recipe at work on a dozen unsuspecting hungry souls. I can safely say that there was not a morsel of food left on any of the plates, so a further success can be added to your collection. Thanks again for the help,

Northern Ireland

And here is documentary proof of the casserole helping to keep Northern Ireland safe from fire:

(This photo was taken at Whitla Street Fire Station, Belfast, on Friday 1st July, 9.30pm, just after supper-time. Most members of the watch have finished their dinner and cleaned their dishes. The guys (waiting for the galley to be cleaned) in the picture are (from left to right) - Sub/O Mckee, F/F McAteer and and F/F Michael Kane. The plate in the forefront of the picture is not a prop, the only reason it isn't cleared is because L F/F McNerlin (duty oficer) was called to the phone.)

And Another Satisfied Customer

Date: Wed, 07 Feb 2007 10:30:10 +0000
From: Tracy Winder

I just wanted to say thanks for your casserole recipe. I have been using it for a couple of years now, varying it with whatever is in the cupboards of course as this seems to be your philosophy! I am vegetarian so have never tasted it but it always gets huge thumbs up from my partner Mark or whoever is round for supper.

I just love this one! The idea of a repeat customer who is vegetarian and can't even eat it is ... kinda weird. Humbling, though. In a good way.

Feedback to <> is welcome!