This comforting stew teams beef with spinach, an efficient pairing because the iron in the beef enhances your body's ability to absorb the iron in the spinach. Serve it over plain Chinese noodles or all by itself with some crusty French bread--it's delicious either way. If you don't want to use the sherry, replace it with 3 tablespoons of additional beef broth or water.
4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add half of beef, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Repeat the procedure with remaining oil and beef. Add onions, ginger, aniseed, and garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return beef to pan. Add 2 3/4 cups water and next 5 ingredients (2 3/4 cups water through cinnamon sticks), and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour.
Add the turnips and carrots; simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. Combine 1 tablespoon water and cornstarch; add to beef mixture. Bring to a boil; cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add spinach; cover and cook for 3 minutes or until wilted. Discard the cinnamon sticks.
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Wonderful complexity to the broth, spicy from the chile paste, sweet from the sugar and cinnamon, salty from the soy sauce. The vegetables are tender to perfection, and the spinach added a needed fresh night to keep the stew from being too heavy. Serve with French bread rolls.
My husband and I love this stew, served with whole wheat linguine or Chinese soba noodles, whichever is on hand. I make it several times in the winter, and my husband always asks for it when he has a cold! I like to use the crockpot, time permitting - or if I am doing it on the stove top, I always allow an extra half-hour or so to get the stew meat tender. Freezes well, too!