Serves 4-6

Bovril was originally called "Johnston's fluid beef", by its creator, John Lawson Johnston. An early advert for his product showed an ox staring at a bottle of Bovril with the caption "alas, my poor brother".

After defeat in the Franco-Prussian war in 1871, the French authorities decided the food it fed its troops was totally inadequate. Johnston, an Edinburgh butcher, tendered for a contract to supply a million cans of beef over three years. f When he found that cows were in too short supply to fulfil the order, he came up with the idea of the liquid cow. But for the past few years, Bovril, which is now owned by Unilever, hasn't contained any beef at all. Some people claim they can't taste the difference.

Bovril makes a simple alternative to the lengthy process of homemade, dark beef stock and, once cooked with the stewing beef and vegetables, you really wouldn't know the secret.

150g stewing beef, cut into rough 1cm chunks
A few drops of vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
1/2 tbsp flour
1tsp tomato purée
1tbsp Bovril dissolved in 2 litres of hot water
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into rough 1cm chunks
3 sticks of celery, cut into rough 1cm chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into rough 1cm chunks
A few leaves of Savoy cabbage, cut into 1cm chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a few drops of vegetable oil in a thick- bottomed saucepan. Season and fry the pieces of meat for a few minutes until nicely coloured. Turn the heat down and add the onions and thyme and gently cook on a low heat for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the flour and tomato purée and mix well, then gradually stir in the stock. Bring to the boil, season and simmer for about an hour then add the carrots, celery and parsnip and continue cooking for another 20 minutes, or until the beef is tender. Add the cabbage and simmer for another 10 minutes.

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