A work colleague has just had a baby girl. So I decided to do some cooking for them. Since they are both of an Australian-Irish background, I thought I would cook something that they could relate to. Not all new mothers are into zuo yuezi (Chinese postpartum confinement) staples such as sesame chicken and pigs trotters, let alone liver and kidneys!
The basic principle of the zuo yuezi diet involves consuming warming foods. That’s warming in a Traditional Chinese Medicine sense, but this translates well to winter comfort foods such as casseroles. And the Chinese are not the only culture to have an understanding about the special foods to consume after giving childbirth. While most Anglo-Saxon based cultures have forgotten the traditions, they remain strong in other cultures. A midwife that I connected with online told me that in the Irish tradition, beef and Guiness stew is traditionally served to new mothers.
This dish makes sense as a meal for nursing mothers. Guiness is made with malt, which is beneficial in helping lactation (i.e. it is a known galactogogue). I remember after the birth of my first son that an English lady advised me to drink black beer such as stout to help promote breastmilk, which used to be served in hospitals to new mothers in northern England. But now the current guidance is that women reduce drinking alcohol while breastfeeding, as the alcohol can transfer to the baby via breastmilk. You don’t want a drunken baby! However, so long as the casserole reaches boiling point to distil the alcohol, this dish should be safe.
The root vegetables in this recipe also have lactogenic properties. And so does onion. Plus this meal is easy to prepare — especially if you are using a slow cooker — freezes well and makes a perfect gift for new parents (or to cook at home for yourself).
I could not find Guiness in my local supermarket, so substituted another black beer. But the trick is to go for as dark a brew as possible, as these ones are made with malt. You can also use non-alcoholic ‘Malz’ beer substitutes if you would prefer — the principle is the same.
1 kg chunk steak, cut into 3cm pieces
1 brown onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 potatos, chopped
1 cup of dried mushrooms (e.g. shiitake), reconstituted in warm water and chopped
375g black beer, such as Guiness
2 tablespoons Italian style tomato sauce
Pinch of pepper
- Put the chunk steak, onion, carrots and mushroom into the slowcooker.
- Pour over the beer and tomato sauce. Switch the slowcooker to ‘auto’.
- After a few hours, turn down the temperature to low, then stir and then add the potatoes, cut into thick wedges. (The idea is to boil the casserole for a little while to distill the alcohol, but then to cook slowly until tender.)
- Cook for around 6 to 8 hours or until tender. The potatoes should help to thicken the sauce, but if necessary half an hour before serving, remove a small amount of liquid and blend with one tablespoon of plain or corn flour. Return the flour to the casserole and stir to combine.
- This recipe does not add salt, as salt is generally avoided during zuo yuezi. But add some salt to taste if you wish.