Braised Beef with Kidney Beans and…A Memorable Birthday

A couple of years ago my birthday fell on a Saturday.  A few days before, Carl asked if I would like to go out for dinner with a bunch of friends.  I told him I would prefer to have a dinner party and Carl found that astounding, wondering why I would want to go to ‘all that trouble’ on my birthday.  But I explained that Arabella was going on a sleep-over so she wouldn’t be home and Archie would be home from boarding school but I was sure he was going out, and then we would have to find a babysitter for Alfie and isn’t it always the case that it’s far easier to cook a three-course meal for eight than find a babysitter.

Braised Beef with Kidney Beans

So on my birthday I cleaned, shopped, cooked, set the table, lit candles, arranged flowers and organised the i-pod and by the time the guests were due to arrive everything was just looking lovely.  Then Archie came through the door and announced he wasn’t going out after all (so we could have gone to a restaurant), but I didn’t say anything and just said how nice it would be to have him at home to celebrate my birthday with me.

The guests arrived a few minutes later and they all brought champagne to celebrate my aging so we had a few glasses of champagne (unlike the French who restrain themselves to one pre-dinner drink), with our canapes and then it was time to sit up at the table.  We were all enjoying our entree when Archie walked into the room saying he’d changed his mind and was going out because a few mates from his primary school days had phoned and suggested getting together for dinner.

So the dinner party conversation paused while Carl, Archie and I had a discussion.

I said, ‘Archie, that doesn’t sound like a good idea.  Those boys are now 18 and you’re only 17 so they can get into licensed premises and you can’t and I bet they want to go and have a few drinks and then what are you going to do?’

And Archie said, ‘No mum, it’s not like that, we’re just going to grab some burgers and sit on the beach and then come home.  I’ll be home early.’

Carl asked, ‘Are you sure they don’t want to go to the pub?’

‘Yeah dad, they just want to catch up with me.  We’re just getting some burgers.’

I said, ‘Well I hope they have no intention of going to that pub because they’re very strict there and you can get yourself into a lot of trouble if you go there underage so it wouldn’t be fair of them to ask you to go to the pub.’

‘Mum, they said we’re just getting some burgers.’

And all the guests were sitting in silence looking at one another while we went 13 rounds with Archie.

So in the end Carl said, ‘Okay, if you’re just getting some burgers, that will be fine.’

And Archie said, ‘Thanks mum, thanks dad.  See you soon.’  And he headed to the door.

But just before he walked out I said, ‘Archie!  It’s my birthday and I’m having a dinner party so I don’t want any trouble, okay?’

And Archie said, ‘Don’t worry mum, there won’t be any trouble.

Not half an hour later we were at the table enjoying confit duck with du puy lentils and the phone rang.  And I did think it was unusual that the phone would ring at that hour on a Saturday night.

On the other end of the phone was a security guard from the pub.  He had Archie with him – in chains.  Archie had been found in the beer garden with ID attesting to the fact that he was underage.  Apparently he’d got in to the pub by nimbly scaling the fence.  The security guard said if one of his parents came down to get him immediately he wouldn’t inform the police.

Unbelievable.  Or perhaps not.

Middle Eastern Cuisine

Carl went down to pick him up and while we waited for him to return I prepared the dessert.  A few minutes later Carl walked in with a very sheepish looking Archie whose excuse was that his friends changed their minds and decided they would like a night at the pub after all and assured Archie no one ever checks your ID.  My friends all felt sorry for him having his sins so publicly exposed so they asked him to join us at the table and said things like, ‘Don’t worry Archie, these things happen.  Hope you had a good time.  It’s all part of growing up.  No harm done.  Come and sit down.  You must be hungry.  Would you like some dessert?’

So Archie. with a tonne of sympathy and grabbing all the attention sat up at the table and celebrated my birthday with me.

Do your dinner parties go to plan?

It’s been such a hot day in Sydney so definitely the wrong kind of weather for this sort of meal but I had some chuck steak, the red kidney beans and all the spices so this recipe didn’t require much expense.  And Archie is going out to night – not to the pub but to a rehearsal for a play he’s in and he needs to take his dinner with him.  This is a meal that is easy to pack into a container for transporting and then re-heating.

Braised Beef with Kidney Beans

A Yummy and Tasty Dinner

Serves:  6

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This is a very inexpensive family meal as chuck steak is a cheap cut of meat and most of the other ingredients are common in any household.

  • 1 kg chuck steak cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbspns olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 tspns gnd oregano
  • 2 tspns gnd cumin
  • 1 tspn gnd tumeric
  • 425g can tinned crushed tomatoes
  • 500ml (2 cups) beef stock
  • 60mls (1/4 cup) tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 baby new potatoes, halved
  • 2 small leeks, thinly sliced
  • 300gm can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbspns chopped fresh coriander leaves

Heat oil in a large oven proof dish.  Add beef in batches and sear until well browned.  Remove beef and set aside.

Add onions to the same pan and cook until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and ground spices and stir until fragrant.

Stir in undrained tinned tomatoes, beef stock and tomato paste.  Bring to the boil.  Return beef to the dish, add bay leaves and cinnamon stick.  Bake covered at 200C (400F) for 1 hour.

Remove lid from dish.  Bake for a further 30 mins.

Stir in potatoes and leeks.  Bake, uncovered, for 20 mins or until beef and potatoes are tender.

Discard cinnamon and bay leaves.  Stir in beans and herbs.

This recipe has been adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Middle Eastern Cookbook.

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  1. What a way to celebrate your birthday! No my dinner parties rarely go to plan but by the time the guests arrive and we have a couple of drinks and everyone starts to relax the course of events changing doesn’t seem as bad so usually I do my best to go with it and enjoy it.

    This dish sounds like a perfect delicious dinner…just the sort of thing that goes down well at my place no matter the weather.

  2. Magnolia Verandah says:

    Kids eh!

  3. Happy Birthday dear Charlie, why children like that… we always know what will be… But I am so glad it didn’t happen any trouble more than this. And also I am glad your son was with you in your Birthday party. The recipe seems so beautiful and delicious… I loved it. Thank you dear Charlie, have a nice day, with my love, nia

  4. Yum, this looks so good and perfect for chilly days!

  5. We do not allow alcohol at my birthday celebrations any more. It’s not that I’m a prude – I’ll share a drink on any other day. But three times I have had a bottle of Muscato wine with my birthday dinner, and three times I have had a daughter roughly 40 week later.

    The braised beef looks beautiful.

  6. You just knew that was going to happen when you heard how much Archie was denying it. =D Great birthday memory!

  7. Looks good!


  8. Charlie, my dinner parties never go as planned… but apart from failures in the kitchen, nothing very dramatic happens. The beef looks terrific!

  9. Oh poor you Charlie! You went into all that trouble to celebrate at home so you don’t need to find a baby sitter and then you Archie steals the spot light lol but I guess most teenagers are trouble 😛 I remember having some friends over one night, while my parents were at a wedding. Everything was fine until the boys decided to show up with a CASE of beer. I have no idea how they bought it since we were all underage… anyhow…all was well we had a few drinks then all of a sudden one of the boys parents decided to come pick them up at 9pm…and they found their son rather drunk.

    They forced me to call my parents immediately and they were forced to leave the wedding 🙁 They’re still talking about it until today lol but technically I don’t think it’s my fault hahaha

    Great recipe ~ The weather does seem a little warm for this recipe 😛 but it’s freezing here in HK so perfect for me hehe ~

  10. What a delicious looking dish, Charlie. I love that you cut the leeks so thickly, such a beautiful presentation. And the beef…oh my, it looks like it would totally melt in your mouth. Poor Archie; I can remember a number of times going to a fancy restaurant with JT BEFORE I was of age, ordering wine but never being asked for ID (I guess they figured I just looked too young to be going out with an ‘older’ guy). Those days are gone…I’ve even been asked for ID down in Chicago at the Taste…I was so flabbergasted, I slapped that off duty policy officer on his muscular chest and laughed…”aren’t you sweet” and walked on. He cleared his throat and suggested it would be a good idea to show ID. I was 35. I was so flattered I was beaming. Then my friend Paul was asked and he DEFINITELY didn’t look under age…that’s when I realized they asked EVERYONE. Way to burst my bubble.

  11. I love hosting a dinner party and sometimes it goes awry, but seems to get back on track eventually. I just try to roll with it and my other half is by my side helping me out – thank goodness:) thanks for sharing!

  12. A mother’s instint is always right! Ahh, I’m so not looking forward to the teen years with my three boys! Glad it all turned out for the best at the end and that you had a wonderful birthday after all!

  13. Poor kid… In Spain everybody starts going to pubs quite early and if they find your underaged they don’t call your parents, they just kick you out hahaha

  14. I think hosting a dinner party is a lovely way to celebrate your birthday! As for Archie…sounds like a rite of passage to me. My son grew up in Mexico where there is no enforced drinking age…yep, a rite of passage!

    Love the look of the stew. Looks so comforting.

  15. lol, I can remember all the times I tried to get into bars under 18. Some of them weren’t strict at all – I feel bad now though. Since working at a bar I know that both the bar owner and the person serving them can get into serious trouble for serving minors – so it’s not so much a case of getting into trouble for going there, but more a case of me being threatened with imprisonment and a huge fine if I sold it 🙁

  16. The stew looks very tasty though I’d have to do a lot of editing of the ingredients to accommodate my finicky self. 🙂

  17. Happy birthday! I like hosting dinner parties, that beef stew looks amazing, I can even imagine how good it tasted!

  18. Well, on the bright side, at least they turned Archie over to his Dad and not the police, sparing him an arrest and court date. And it looks like your birthday wasn’t ruined. Chuck steak may be a cheaper cut of beef but it sure does well when braised. I bet this recipe is even better on Day 2!

  19. I just know that with kids there is no end…and I am glad that at the end everything turned out okay…
    The braised beef with the beans look great, very comfy dish…like how it sounds and looks.
    Hope you are having a wonderful week and thank you so much for stopping by 🙂

  20. It’s probably a good thing he got caught! At least your Birthday was still a success.

    I think this recipe would work beautifully in the slow cooker too. Shall stash it away in my winter recipe pinterest board. Yum!

  21. I seem to be reading a rash of birthday info of late. 😉

    We have an outstanding dinner group, which I enjoy helping to prepare. Here are two for you to give you an idea.

  22. I had one dinner party ( of course I can’t wait to do more), and it was a disaster LOL. I had these great cocktails waiting for my girlfriends (of course I had cranberry juice lol), and before we could eat dinner.. they were all drunk. It was quite funny but a good time :). By the way, this braised beef looks delish!

  23. oh no, what a way to celebrate your birthday … but that’s what family is all about right? through good times and bad times… you’re still a family unit… and yeah when kids get to their teenage years, that’s when we know what UNCONDITIONAL LOVE is ..:)
    this braised beef is a reminder of that love…

  24. Dear Charlie Louie,

    I love this kind of stew in winter, such a hearty meal! I would love it with some crusty bread too 🙂

  25. Ahhh, how easily they tell a fib, these teenaged boys (I should know, I have one)! I like to go along with him (once I’ve figured out the truth) and a few days later, I let slip a little hint so he knows that I know!! And he does the whole sheepish grin and starts “back pedaling” then (last time anyway) he told me that it must have been fate that led me to read his text messages and he’d learned his lesson.. Such fun times! I love outsmarting him!!
    xo Smidge
    ps this is just the kind of recipe I’d love and so would my family!

  26. I love your stories and whilst i feel for your son at being so publicly humiliated (we´ve all done this, we just manily didn´t get found out!), I feel for you and Carl having to deal with this in the middle of your birthday dinner 🙁 A stunning recipe – exactly the right kind of dish for a chilly but not too cold Andalucían Winter/Spring!

  27. First of all A Very Happy Birthday my friend!!!!
    Kids I know, i totally believe that mother instinct are never wrong but then again kids are kids they don’t listen…
    I am glad everything ended up fine….
    The recipe looks delicious!!!!

  28. Ah, the adventures of kids taking the spotlight 😉 Memories. Well, at least it ended well.

    That braise is so comforting. Perfect for a slight chilly weather here in Florida 🙂

  29. happy belated birthdae to you! but since it’s your birthdae, you should make them cook for you 🙂

    Latest: Sinful Indulgence

  30. awww, & that too on ur bday! but look at the good side, if u were out celebrating at some fancy restaurant ud have to leave midway & wouldnt that be worse? also its one bday ul never forget 🙂 i love mid-eastern cusine its so flavourful

  31. I think Archie should make you dinner for your birthday to make up for that one! Love all the spices and flavors in this braised beef dish!

  32. My wife and I don’t have children yet, but oh my I might have blown a gasket if my son did that. The ups and downs of raising children. I hope dessert was good.

  33. haha scaled the fence no less! 😛 That’s hilarious. Dinner parties rarely go to plan here! 😛

    • hotlyspiced says:

      It’s so nice to hear you say that Lorraine because I imagined your dinner parties being picture perfect!

  34. I think you should be used to it by now. You sound so calm , dont you ever yell?
    Great idea to send him off with this…..

  35. I am so not looking forward to my kids getting older and facing those sorts of issues. Will they always make the right recision? No. bother.

  36. How did he get off so easily? I would have made him suffer for his indiscretion AND hogging my birthday attention. Oh well, revenge is best served cold… But I’d like a big plate of this hot dinner!

  37. I could sit here and read your stories non stop Charlie – you always have me in stitches. I can remember being taken home to my parents in the middle of a dinner party. My lift was with Manly Police after I was caught sneaking a bottle of Southern Comfort into a kangaroo Rock Underage Party. Unfortunately there was no sympathy and dessert for me when I got home, just evil glares as a sign of what was to come when all their guests left.
    Oh I fear Karma 🙂 xx

  38. I have this in the slow cooker right now and it smells amazing!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I’m so glad you’re cooking this! I do hope you like it. Yes, it does have a great aroma xx

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