Stew just the thing for chilled bird watchers

I'm so over winter. I've splashed out on extra warm gear and wear my new fingerless gloves under my old fingered gloves and still get frozen.
It doesn't help that sometimes I sit for hours in the bone-chilling bush, keeping an eye on some rare feathered friends at Maungatautari.

Back when it was warm, volunteers were asked to monitor stitchbirds, a lovely little bird once common throughout the North Island.  I saw my first stitchbird many years ago (when the weather was warmer) in what was then their last refuge on Little Barrier Island.

It was great to hear they would be returning to the Waikato, and released on the mountain which has a predator-proof fence around it.

After they were released, the focus was on spoiling them, with meals available on demand in six feeding stations.  This is where the volunteers come in.  We each have two stations to monitor for an hour at a time.  We need to note what time the birds arrive at the station, how long they stay there, their sex, and the colour of their bands.

It's no easy task, sitting in the middle of the bush in the middle of Waikato's second coldest winter on record.  There I sit, motionless in the damp bush, peering at tiny birds through binoculars.

One time it rained.  That was not a good day.  However, it's magical when one gets to see one of New Zealand's rarest and cutest birds up close.  And while I sit I can dream up sustaining dishes to revive the cockles of my heart and possibly thaw out my toes.

Not much beats a good old-fashioned stew.  A friend made this for us one evening recently and I begged the recipe from her and make it on a regular basis at our place.  It's great for when people are coming for dinner, you do all the work beforehand and can relax when they arrive.

Serve with a mashed spud, put in extra butter and a good dollop of spinach.  Very tasty indeed.  And it's fodder sure to keep the chill out of the bones of the most keenest stitchbirder.

Kay's hearty stew

  • 1 kg stewing beef
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • fresh oregano, parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • ½ tub tomato paste
  • 1 grated carrot
  • salt, black pepper

Trim off much of the fat from the beef and cut it into cubes.  Heat oil in a skillet and brown small amounts of the meat, removing it to a larger pan.
Fry the garlic quickly in the skillet then add the onion and cook for a few minutes until softened.  Add to the meat and stir in the flour.

Add the remaining ingredients, and mix together well.  Season to taste and bring to a boil then reduce heat.  Cover, and cook until tender, about two and a half hours.  Enjoy.