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slow cooking French
Country Stew with Fennel Recipe-8695

Photo by: Colin Erricson
Comments: 1


Full of character, this robust beef stew, which is rooted in French country cooking, is the perfect antidote to a bone-chilling night. Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of anchovies — they add depth to the sauce and their taste is negligible in the finished dish. I like to serve this over quinoa or whole wheat couscous, liberally garnished with parsley, but mashed potatoes work well, too.

Yield: Makes 6 servings.


  • 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.


Large (minimum 5 quart) slow cooker

Mindful Morsels

When cooking beef, trim as much of the visible fat as possible from the meat to reduce the calories and the amount of saturated fat you consume. About half the calories in untrimmed beef comes from the fat.

Large cans of tomatoes come in 28 oz (796 ml) and 35 oz (980 ml) sizes. For convenience, I’ve called for the 28 oz (796 ml) size in my recipes. If you’re using the 35 oz (980 ml) size, drain off 1 cup (250 ml) liquid before adding to the recipe.

© 2007 Judith Finlayson

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

412kcal (21%)
140mg (14%)
21mg (35%)
21mcg RAE (1%)
93mg (31%)
1136mg (47%)
10g (49%)
28g (43%)
5mg (28%)

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  • GG

    02.10.15 Flag comment

    Wonderful favors to satisfy anyone. It's an often requested meal. And, you'll never know the recipe calls for anchovies.


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