If there is something ever so comforting it is a good Home Made Stew or a Casserole or a Ragu. It is a slow building up of flavours blending over time. But the result is ever so pleasing mouthful after mouthful. I remember in my childhood my Mum doing A 'Ragout de Boeuf' (Beef Stew). It was indulgent and the Meat was ever so tender that it almost melted in the mouth.
Oxtails for the Stew: in the forefront are the Supermaket ones, in the background the Butcher's ones. The Butcher's Oxtails had a better quality.
Now ingredients of Stews and Casseroles differs from one Stew to another, partly because of the main ingredient you are basing it upon. But also the Style you do want to achieve. It can be the Style of a particular area within a Country, it can be the generic Style of a Country, it also can be to the Style of a Recipe, a Chef or your own Self. The frontiers are there for you to define out of your own taste.
Building up a Minced Beef Ragu.
The main Ingredient, can be Meat, Fish or Veg but there is something important that links everything together it is a liquid element of some kind. May it be Stock or Juicy Tomatoes... But it does bind the dish in a wholesome way. A Stew can look like a Soup for a while because of its liquid content. However it is always reduced for thickness and flavour.
A Home Made Duck Stock. I will say don't throw the Bones away. Life are still within them for your palate to deliver flavour. Aka the Bone Marrow.
From a wholesome Stock you can make a very decent Stew, Ragout or Casserole. But it is a matching affair: Beef Stock goes with Beef... and so on. A Shellfish Stock for example can be perfect to help along your Fish Stew. It will give it body as per say.
Langoustine Stock. Reduce it for a few hours and you will have your Stock for a very flavoursome Fish Stew.
Now another important element of a Stew and Ragout/Ragu or a Casserole are the 'hollly' Trinity of Veg you use. They can change upon what you are making but as a rule of thumbs it takes Three to Tango... My favourite one is Carrot, Celery and Leek. However you must adapt your trio to the dish you want to create. Those three Veg will bring structure as well as flavour to the overall Stew.
A Trinity of Veg. It is a good base for a Stew or Casserole.
We also mustn't forget the Aromatic, the Herbs which give a lovely and fragrant taste to a good Stew. At least one Bay Leaf is a must, Black Peppercorn most certainly, a Bouquet Garni is a lovely Touch when necessary to elevate the dish to a refine level, or Spices to make it stand out.
Herbs for Stews: Bay Leaves, Thyme, Parsley... Rosemary, Leaves of Celery Stalks...
To speak about Spices, a good Goulash needs Paprika, either Smoked or Unsmoked but also a nice plumpy Chilli is almost a must. It is about the taste, the warmth and the little kick in the back of the throat.