For the beef:
2 cups cloudy apple cider
A pouch of store-bought mulling spice or make your own in cheese cloth: 1 cinnamon stick, a curl of orange peel, plus star anise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
6 slices good-quality bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
1 piece beef sirloin or round (2 1/2 pounds), trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper or steak seasoning
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice (half a palmful)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (half a palmful)
2 medium onions, root ends attached, sliced into thin wedges
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on an angle
2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced on an angle
3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 large fresh bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
A handful of fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup thick Worcestershire sauce, such as Lea & Perrins brand (regular Worcestershire or steak sauce may be substituted)
About 3 cups beef stock
For the mash:
4-6 starchy potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 turnip, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Whole milk, for mashing
1 1/2 cups super sharp white cheddar cheese (a 6-7-ounce brick), shredded
Pre-heat the oven to 325°F.
Mull the cider over medium heat until it comes to low boil, then reduce heat to low to keep warm.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the EVOO and bacon, crisp the bacon then remove to a plate. Pat the meat dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper or steak seasoning. Coat in the flour, seasoned with allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cumin. Shake off the excess flour and add the meat in batches to the hot pan and brown very well; remove to a plate.
Add the onions, carrots, parsnips, garlic and herbs to the Dutch oven and season with salt and pepper. Sweat the vegetables for a few minutes, then remove the mulling spices and deglaze the pot with the cider, scraping up all of the drippings. Let reduce for a couple of minutes, then stir in the Worcestershire and stock, bring to boil, add the meat and bacon back to the pot, cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Bake for 2 hours. Turn off the heat and let stand for 30 minutes in the oven while you make the potatoes.
Cover the potatoes and turnips with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water and cook until just tender; drain and return them to the hot pot. Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg, then mash the potatoes and turnips with milk until almost smooth. Stir in the cheese and adjust the seasoning.
Remove the lid off the stew, stir and remove the bay leaves. Turn on the stove and thicken the sauce for a couple of minutes if the stew is not at the desired thickness – the sauce will thicken rapidly to your preference.
Serve the meat in shallow bowls with large spoonfuls of potatoes alongside. This is one of many "Yum-o!" recipes – it's good and good for you. To find out more about Yum-o!, Rachael's nonprofit organization, go to www.yum-o.org.