This stew is a favorite camping meal that we cook in our cast iron dutch oven using briquets as the heat source. It can, of course, be prepared in an oven-proof dutch oven in your home kitchen. Either way, it is a thick, hearty meal to enjoy with a crunchy lettuce salad and some crusty bread to sop up the delicious gravy.
Preheat your regular oven to 325 degrees. Also, preheat a 12 inch dutch oven on the stove top over medium-high heat. As the pot is heating, put the flour, salt and pepper into a large plastic bag. Add the stew beef and shake to coat the meat with the flour mixture. Put the vegetable oil into the hot pot and brown the beef in the vegetable oil. You'll probably need to do this in two or three batches so the meat browns nicely. When the meat is browned on all sides, remove it to a bowl.
In the same heated dutch oven, add the beef stock and deglaze the pot. Then add the rest of the ingredients, including the browned beef. Stir well to distribute the ingredients evenly throughout the mixture. Add enough water to just about cover the stew. HINT: I often add more onions, carrots and potatoes than the recipe calls for, since these are my favorite flavors in a stew . Feel free to play with the ingredients to suit your family's taste buds!
Cover your dutch oven and put it in the regular oven for at least 2 hours. Stir a few times during this baking process. You may need to add a little water to keep the meat and veggies almost covered in liquid. After 2 hours, check to see if the veggies are done and if the beef is tender. If not, let it continue to cook until everything is done to your liking.
If you want to try something special, when your stew is almost done you can put your favorite biscuit or cornbread batter on top of the stew and bake it according to the bread recipe. I would do this with the lid off. This creates a wonderful one-pot meal!
NOTE: This entire recipe can be cooked outdoors in a camping-style dutch oven with briquets as the heat source. In a 12 inch oven, place about 15-20 coals under the oven to brown the meat and add the other ingredients (as per the above recipe). Then use about 6 coals under the oven and about 18 coals on top to bake the stew. You'll need to add more coals about every 45 minutes to keep the pot at the correct temperature. If you want to add biscuits or cornbread to the top of the stew before serving, you may need to add a few more coals to bake them (with the lid on), but it's well worth the effort.