“Pickled walnuts – what are those?”- I’m frequently asked (over here).
Answer: they’re a whole young walnut that’s been pickled in malt vinegar – soft green shell and all – resulting in a mysteriously dark and tender treat that’s a wonderful accompaniment to ham, cold roast beef, strong Cheddar or Stilton cheeses…and they make an unexpectedly good addition to a beef (or venison) stew.
Pickled walnuts have been enjoyed in the UK since the early 19thC but are generally unknown in the US so I resisted posting this recipe; that is until I recently discovered they’re available from Amazon.com…. and to think I’d been maxing out my weight limit by loading my suitcase up with jars of these devilishly dark delicacies each time I flew over the pond!
This recipe is popular in the UK for several reasons; it’s easy to make and pickled walnuts are available everywhere; it can be made ahead of time and has a marvelous richness that makes it impressive enough for a dinner party. It also freezes well; perfect for those evenings where you want a hearty comforting supper and can’t be bothered to cook.
True, you’ll have to visit Amazon online and pay for shipping but it’s totally worth it. This dish uses about 2/3 of a jar so you’ll have a few left over to enjoy with your cold cuts and cheese – and just imagine the fun you’ll have tormenting your guests with a guessing game about the delicious dark morsels lurking next to the tender chunks of meat.
If you have a slow cooker, this would be the perfect opportunity to use it rather than the oven method in the recipe below and like many dishes of this type, it will taste even better if gently reheated the next day. I like to serve it with Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and mashed potatoes with celery root (celeriac) – that recipe is below this one:
BEEF (or VENISON) STEW with GUINNESS, PORT & PICKLED WALNUTS
(A Delia Smith recipe – serves 4 -6)
1.5 lbs (682g) of stewing beef, venison or elk, cut into 2 inch (50mm) cubes
10 fl oz (275ml) of Guinness
2 ½ fl oz (65ml) of port
9 oz (350g) of pickled walnuts, drained and halved
1 bay leaf
2 large sprigs of fresh thyme
½ oz (10g) of butter
1 tablespoon of extra-v olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 fat clove of garlic, minced
¾ tablespoon of all purpose (plain) flour
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Starting 24 hrs ahead – combine the meat, bay leaf, thyme, Guinness and port in a bowl. Put a weighted plate on top of the meat to keep it pressed down into the liquid. Cover and refrigerate.
Preheat the oven to 275F (140C)
Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels, reserving the liquid and herbs.
In an ovenproof pan/casserole/Dutch oven with a lid, heat half of the butter and olive oil. Brown the meat in small batches (overcrowding will cause it to steam rather than brown). Transfer the browned meat to a plate as you go.
Heat the remaining butter and oil in the pan and sauté the sliced onion until soft and golden then add the garlic; cook for a couple of minutes more.
Return the browned meat and any collected juices to the pan along with the onions and garlic. Add the flour and stir until it’s completely absorbed, then carefully pour in the marinade, including the bay and thyme.
Add the pickled walnuts and stir gently…season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Bring everything to a simmer, put the lid on and stick it in the oven for 3-3 ½ hours; if the meat isn’t wonderfully tender and the sauce isn’t yet dark and rich looking, turn the heat down to 250F (120C) and give it another hour or so. If you’re using a slow cooker you might want to cook it overnight on the lowest setting. Make sure there is enough liquid to cover the meat and if not, just add more Guinness and/or port, at your discretion.
MASHED POTATOES with CELERIAC (Celery Root)
Celeriac/celery root, weighing approx 1 lb (450g), peeled and cut into ½ inch (12mm) dice
12 oz (340g) of red-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks about 1 ½ inches (38mm)
1/4 cup (60ml) of thin cream and 1 oz (28g) of butter, heated together gently until the butter melts
Cook the celeriac in large saucepan of boiling salted water for 15 minutes.
Add the diced potato and continue to boil until both are very tender, approx 15 minutes longer – drain.
Return the potato and celeriac to same saucepan and shake over a medium heat until any excess liquid has evaporated.
Add the warmed cream and butter and mash everything until mixture is almost smooth, leaving some texture. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.