Kitchn Love Letters

Nigella Lawson’s Spiced Beef in Red Wine Is the Most Comforting Recipe I Know

updated Dec 8, 2020
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Credit: Kelli Foster

As I write this, there’s a pot of Nigella Lawson’s spiced beef simmering on my stovetop — and the scent of red wine married with smoky bacon, licorice-y star anise, and spicy cloves is wafting through my entire apartment. I can practically taste the rich flavor on my tongue, and the most calming warmth settles over my body. In fact, even though I haven’t dipped a spoon into the pot yet, I already feel more comforted than I have in months. This is one very powerful stew.

What first drew me to Nigella’s recipe is that it’s not the classic beef stew I’ve been making for years. It goes heavy on the red wine, kind of like beef bourgignon — and then there’s the star anise. I have a weak spot for any dish that includes star anise, especially when it feels unexpected. So years ago, on one cold, lazy winter Sunday, I gave it a try. It blew my mind, and continues to do so every single time I make it.

A Smart Shortcut That Also Makes for a Better Sauce

This stew has the warm, comforting effect I expect from any pot of beef stew, but what makes it so memorable is the sauce. From the first time I tasted it, it’s been seared into my memory. Thanks to a medley of bacon, vegetables, star anise, ground cloves, and of course red wine, it’s incredibly aromatic and perfectly balanced. But the texture is what really has me hooked.

Unlike most stews, which boast thick-cut vegetables and a smooth sauce, this recipe has you start by finely chopping a couple of onions, leeks, and carrots, and a handful of parsley. Don’t worry — you don’t have to do it by hand! Nigella instructs you to blitz it all in the food processor. Not only does this save time, but it also allows the aromatic vegetables to soften in the sauce, while also giving it a ton of added texture. In fact, I’ve since taken to using this approach when making Bolognese.

If you’re looking for the ultimate pot of comfort this winter, I think you know what to make.

Get the recipe: Spiced Beef in Red Wine

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.