IF you are planning a bonfire party next week, you need to make things easy for yourself. You also need to supply your guests with a warming dish which will help keep out the cold.

A beer and beef casserole prepared and cooked the day before so that the flavours have time to fuse and mellow is the answer, as it leaves you free on the night of the party to attend to the bonfire, having placed the casserole in a hot oven to reheat.

Served with potatoes cooked in the bonfire and chunks of warm crusty bread, it makes a hearty meal which children can enjoy too, as all the alcohol vanishes once the beer reaches boiling point.

To serve about eight people you will need: 3lb (1.4 kg) of quality braising steak, trimmed and diced 2 onions - chopped roughly 2 large carrots - cut into matchstick-sized strips 2 sticks celery - cut into matchstick-sized strips 4oz (125g) mushrooms - chopped 2 bay leaves Bunch mixed fresh herbs - chopped - to include marjoram and thyme 2 cloves garlic - chopped fine 2 tspns tomato paste Flour to dust the diced braising steak Half a bottle Manns brown ale 200ml brown beef stock Oil to fry beef and vegetables Salt and freshly-ground black peppercorns to season Method: Turn the oven to 170C/325F or gas mark 3 Toss the beef cubes in a little seasoned flour Heat enough oil in a large frying pan to cover the bottom. When it has reached full heat, toss in the beef and fry, stirring as you go until it begins to brown Spoon beef into large casserole dish, add a touch more oil to the pan if needed and fry off the carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic, adding the herbs at the last moment. When they begin to soften, add to the casserole Add the tomato paste to the frying pan, then the brown beef stock, and then gently add the beer, taking care that it doesn't spill out over the sides of the pan Bring to a fast boil, stirring in all the tasty bits and caramelised juices that may have stuck to the bottom, then pour the sauce into the casserole, together with the bay leaves Place in the centre of the oven with a lid, pour out the rest of the beer into a glass and enjoy while the casserole cooks. It should take about an hour-and-a-half to two hours. Or you can cook it for longer on a far lower heat if you have an Aga When the beef is tender, taste, adjust seasoning, allow to cool and then refrigerate overnight. Take care when you reheat the following day that you bring the casserole to full heat Serve with hot jacket potatoes, crusty bread and perhaps a few unusual mushrooms as a special treat.