Beef and Root Vegetable Stew; Do you write in cookbooks?

Those of you who have been meditating in a Tibetan monastery may have missed the fact that I recently had a recipe published in the Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook.

The book is lovely… glossy pages and all.

As usual, I shall attempt to keep it in pristine condition.

I’m not certain why I do it.

I’m like that with all my books.  Mon mari knows better than to bend a corner to mark his place. That’s what book marks are for.

I have been known, upon the return of a mishandled book loaned to a friend, to buy a replacement for it.  I have paperbacks that I’ve owned for twenty years and reread ten or twenty times that still would get a ‘good’ rating on Amazon Marketplace.

That should be different with cookbooks.  Cookbooks should be for using, making notes about what worked, what didn’t and what to change.

A favorite aunt, who loved to cook, died a few years ago.  I got her cookbooks.

I’m not sure which gives me more pleasure: paging through her old cookbooks, some of them dating from the ’40’s, or reading all the notes and bits she left behind.

She had a habit that I could never emulate.

She put things in her books; not just the cookbooks, but all of her books.

  • Other recipes, of course,
  • Obituaries of friends, announcements of weddings and births
  • Letters from friends and family, including from my mother to her
  • Scraps of articles she found interesting, from the newspaper or a favorite magazine
  • Copies of old utility bills, cancelled checks, etc. (why in a cookbook?)
  • And my favorite – something one rarely sees today: pressed flowers.

I have to turn the pages of these books carefully, lest a perfect violet, pressed 50 years ago, drop out and be damaged.

As careful as she was with the flowers, she was ruthless with the recipes.

Lines are drawn through ingredients she didn’t like or didn’t think worked.  Notes were written in the margins with a better way (or her preferred way) of doing something.

It’s like being a child again, sitting in her kitchen and listening to her as she bustled about, baking bread, making pies and jams… always something bubbling on the stove and perfuming the house.

She was an old-fashioned farmwife and no meal was complete without freshly baked bread and a pie still warm from the oven.

She would have liked this stew: simple, winter vegetables, slowly simmered with chunks of beef.

And, yes, she was known to have a little nip of sherry now and then…..

stew vegetables

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew

24oz (750gr) beef stew meat
4 tbs flour
1 1/2 tbs paprika
6 shallots
3 medium carrots
1 small rutabaga (swede)
3 potatoes
3 ribs celery
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tbs tomato paste
3 bay leaves (laurel)
2 cups (16oz, 500ml) beef stock/broth
1/2 cup sherry or red wine
1 tbs cornstarch (maizena) dissolved in 2 tbs beef stock (if needed)

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew

The beef: Cut beef into 1 1/2″ (4cm) pieces. Put flour and paprika into a plastic food bag and mix well. Add beef, close bag and toss well to coat thoroughly. Heat oil in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef and brown on all sides. Mince garlic, add and sauté 1 minute. Add broth, sherry, tomato paste, herbs, and stir well to scrape up any browned bits. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, or simmer very slowly for several hours. Start the vegetables an hour before dinner.
The vegetables: Peel shallots and leave whole. Peel rutabaga and cut into large chunks, about, 3/4″ (2cm) cubes. Peel or scrape carrots, cut into 2 inch (5cm) lengths, then quarter the long way. Cut celery in half the long way, then into 2″ (5cm) lengths. Quarter the potatoes the long way then cut in half or thirds depending on size. Put potatoes into a bowl of water to prevent discoloring. Add shallots, rutabaga, carrots, celery to beef. Stir well, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and add to stew. Simmer 30 minutes longer, until vegetables are tender.
To finish: If desired, for a thicker gravy, dissolve cornstarch in beef stock. Uncover, increase heat and remove bay leaves. Add cornstarch and stir until sauce is thickened. Serve directly from pot or ladle into serving bowl.

How do you treat your books?

Do you treat your cookbooks differently?

Are they works of art or tools of a working art?

I will now admit to the copious use of post-it notes.  I often put a large one inside the front cover to write on.

I still can’t bring myself to actually write on a page, though…. Not even in pencil.

14 thoughts on “Beef and Root Vegetable Stew; Do you write in cookbooks?”

  1. I am bad when it comes to my cookbooks! I write in them. A lot. I make notes as to when I 1st made the recipe. Who was over for dinner.Changes I made. Whatever. My oldest daughter doesn’t want anything from me when I die. Except my cookbook collection.

  2. Since the invention of sticky notes, I don’t write in my books but before that, oh, yes. I also turn down corners in paperbacks, altho’ I don’t do it with hard cover books.

  3. Rutabagas! 😀 I have an odd fondness for that vegetable. Glad to see it being included in a lovely beef stew.
    I don’t write a whole lot of notes in my cookbooks, but then again, a lot of what I use these days got printed off the ‘net, and I have NO issues writing on print outs if I think it merits it. One of these days I’ll pop those recipes into page protectors and use a binder, but right now they are in a stack in the cook book cupboard. it’s a little awkward.
    Work of art or tools of a working art depends entirely on the cook book, I think. Any Betty Crocker cook book? Fair game for sticky notes, notes, diagrams, whatever. Some of the beautifully photographed hard back mostly coffee table cookbooks? Work of art. I don’t have any of those. I just drool over them at the library sometimes. 🙂

  4. I like my reading books pristine, and get terribly offended when they are returned in bad shape. But cookbooks, oh no, mine are a mess. They are dripped on, splattered on, written on, with pages falling out.

  5. It’s easy to tell which recipes I use all the time because those pages in my cookbooks look a little worn and discolored, particularly in “Home Baked Bread and Cakes” for some reason. I do write on my cookbooks- it’s too easy to lose those post-its.

  6. Hi Katie – me again. I got invited to join a blog tag. Never been in one before, and wanted to pass along the invitation. Will do the post tomorrow, if you are interested, great, no pressure, only if you want to pass along this culinary fun. Thanks, Ina

  7. I write in cookbooks, like when the recommended cooking temperature is wrong for my oven, etc…sometimes I date when I tried the recipe, too.

  8. Cindy, and your collection will be wonderful for her – she’ll cherish the notes. Maybe I should try to loosen up LOL
    Ina, she was… and her cookbooks are, too!
    Zoomie, sticky notes are great! I’m totally the opposite with magazines – rip and tear and fold….
    Laurie, I love rutabagas…. hard to find here, though. A much misunderstood veg! My old Betty Crocker is pretty worn…..
    Manningroad, the hubs had a Joy of Cooking before I met him – can hardly read the pages he cooked from – covered in splatters!
    Emiglia, it is wonderful!
    Pam, I treasure my books – which is why I’ll never have a Kindle…. no point
    Kerry, I actually have a notebook for my notes – identified by cookbook. How anal is that?!?
    Ina, I’ll look ;-))
    Meredith, I always think I’ll remember that stuff – foolish woman!

  9. Interesting post! All of my books are in great condition except for some cookbooks. I have written notes all over them, including the date I made the recipe. Many grease marks and splatters on lots of them and you can definitely see which ones are used the most. Your stew looks very appetizing!

  10. Am enjoying reading novels on the iPad didn’t think I would. But cookbooks need to look like they are used you can always tell the favourites.

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