Extra Easy, all food free
Lean back bacon, all fat trimmed and removed
Lean beef stewing steak, all fat trimmed and removed
1 large onion
3 sticks of celery
2-3 carrots (depending on size, I used two huge ones)
2-3 parnsips (same principle)
1 bulb of fennel
Black peppercorns (about 4-5)
3 small cloves garlic
Splash of Lea and Perrins, or - even better - Henderson's Relish
VERY heaped spoonful of Marmite
Splash of boiling water
Salt/black pepper to taste
Because the meat is so lean, you have to really watch it to make sure it doesn't burn and stick too much. So, I find it is easier, if you're not the fastest blade in the west, to prepare all your vegetables first. Slice the carrot/parsnip/fennel, and if you're doing it in the slow cooker (as I am), put them in the bottom. If you're doing the slow cooker version, sprinkle the thyme and rosemary, bay leaves and black peppercorns in with the vegetables and toss. (If you're not doing it in the slow cooker just pop them in a bowl until you need them.) Then, slice the onion and celery and crush the garlic, and put them to one side.
Now, the meat. Start with the bacon, in a large pan, sprayed with low-cal cooking spray. Once the bacon has started to cook and is releasing all its juiciness, add the beef and let it start to cook through. Hopefully lots of juices will come out of the meat; I poured them off into the slow cooker with the vegetables as I went along. When the meat is looking nice and brown, add the celery/onion/garlic to the meat pan, stir gently and put the lid on. This will encourage them to sweat down into the meat. Do keep an eye on them at this point.
When the celery/onion/garlic is looking softened and golden and the meat is browned, splash in some Henderson's or Lea and Perrin's (to taste, but even if you love it don't go overboard, because the Marmite's next). Put the lid back on and boil the kettle. When the kettle's boiled, add a big, gollopy spoonful of Marmite (and I do mean a BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG one), pouring a splash of boiling water in to get it off the spoon and to help it dissolve so you can coat the meat and vegetables with it. I think I possibly added about a cupful in all but don't worry too much - just don't drown things.
When the Marmite is dissolved and everything is coated, decant the whole lot into your slow cooker, stick the lid on and stick it to high for an hour. There shouldn't be any need to add much liquid.
If you're not doing it in the slow cooker, at this point you should add all your prepared vegetables to the pan, along with another cup or two of water (slow cookers retain all the moisture so you always need less liquid). Don't sweat it if you put too much water in. That's what lentils are for. :)
That's it, really - leave it to cook long and slow, and enjoy with a baked potato, or some steamed broccoli/cauliflower...whatever you like!