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Country Stew with Fennel Seeds


½ tsp (2 ml) fennel seeds

1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil

1½ lbs (750 g) trimmed stewing beef, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes

2 onions, finely chopped

4 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced on the vertical

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 anchovy fillets, minced

1 tsp (5 ml) dried thyme leaves

¼ tsp (1 ml) salt

½ tsp (2 ml) cracked black peppercorns

1 tbsp (15 ml) all-purpose flour

1 can (28 oz/796 ml) diced tomatoes, including juice (see Tip)

2 bay leaves

½ cup (125 ml) chopped pitted black olives


1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast fennel seeds, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to a mortar or a spice grinder and grind. (Or place the seeds on a cutting board and crush, using the bottom of a bottle or cup.) Set aside.


2. In same skillet, heat half the oil over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add beef, in batches, and cook, stirring, adding remaining oil as necessary, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware.


3. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions, celery and bulb fennel to pan and cook, stirring, until celery is softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, anchovies, thyme, salt, peppercorns and reserved fennel seeds and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, just until mixture begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Add bay leaves and stir well.


4. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours, until beef is tender. Discard bay leaves. Stir in olives and serve.


Make Ahead


This dish can be partially prepared before it is cooked. Complete Step 1. Complete Step 3, heating 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil in pan before softening onions. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When you’re ready to cook, either brown the beef as outlined in Step 2 or add it to the stoneware without browning. Stir well and continue with Step 4.