In a 4-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook meat, half at a time, in hot oil until brown. Return all meat to Dutch oven. Add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle flour over meat mixture. Cook and stir until flour is lightly brown. Stir in broth, tomato puree, and bay leaf. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Remove and discard bay leaf.
In a large saucepan, cook carrot, celery, sweet pepper, and the 1 cup pearl onions, covered, in a small amount of boiling salted water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain.
Stir drained vegetables, frozen peas, hot pepper sauce, thyme and black pepper into meat mixture; heat through. Season to taste.
If you like, serve stew in a bread bowl (hollow out before filling), or serve in shallow bowls. Makes 6 (1-cup) main-dish servings.