Right then. Haven't bored you all senseless with nosh-talk for a while so here's one to get you drooling and and all fired up to hit that stove. And it's easy too, just takes a little time and forethought and sure we've all got loads of that going on. I learned this one when recovering from illness several years ago. For some reason I was drawn to the cooker as never before. Maybe not surprising having endured the horrors of Irish hospital fare for over a month. As we say on these emerald shores, 'If the sickness doesn't get you the food will.'
And so, there I was stranded in a farmhouse in West(ish) Cork with time on my hands, little access to fine ingredients, permanently hungry, and a large saucepan. What could I do? Thereupon I stumbled, literally as the balance was all shot to hell, across an old cook book containing a recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon, or truth be told, it was Boeuf en Daube. Much the same thing although a Daube is usually made with one thick slab of beef. Sadly I had no access to Ox Cheeks (the preferred cut for a Daube) so had to make do with Round Steak. I suppose I could have sneaked out with a shotgun under cover of darkness & tackled the neighbours bull but I wasn't really feeling up to it at the time. Anyway, here's an amusing story. I went to my local butcher in Timoleague - a blink & you'll miss it sort of place - and enquired as to whether he stocked Ox cheek to which he replied, 'Ahhhh Jeeesssus Boy! Why de feck would ye want to be eatin' dat shite. Sure 'tis full o' glands and crap. I wouldn't feed it to me dog.' Wasn't quite the response I'd been hoping for.
So, for a handy Bourguignon here's what you'll need to feed 4 hungry souls. My advice, if you're going to go to all this trouble, is to crank up the amounts accordingly & make enough to last a couple of days. That way you get a whole day off cooking to drink yourself senseless - which is nice. I always rustle up a king-sized Potato Gratin to go with it. Mine's probably not done the French way as I learned how to cook it in Sweden but I've tried variations and always come back to the old favourite as it tastes the best as far as I'm concerned. One thing's for sure - the Swedes make absolutely delicious deceptively simple fare. If you don't believe me - just visit !!! OK, enough of that, let's head back down south again to France...
Bourguignon Ingredients: enough for 4 people
- 1.5kg/3lb5oz round steak cut into big chunky pieces
- 3 or 4 good glugs of olive oil
- 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 large onion peeled and cut into thin slices
- 2 sticks celery roughly chopped
- 1 bottle French red plonk - it's for cooking with, not drinking !
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 or 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 4 bay leaves
- 50g/2oz butter
- 225g/8oz whole piece of smoked bacon or pancetta
- 450g/1lb shallots - peeled
- 2 tbsp flour
- 375g/12oz button mushrooms
- 300ml/½ pint fresh top-quality beef stock
- freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Slice your onions, chop one of your carrots and celery ever so finely, smash the living daylights out of your garlic & tear your bay leaves. Stick the whole lot in a bowl as pictured along with your chunks of beef. Chuck in your sprigs of thyme. Pour the entire bottle of French plonk over the lot. Give it a wee mix. Sniff ! It smells lovely already. Cover the bowl & bung it in the fridge for a few hours - at least 4 - but as said preferably overnight. Sometimes I add a sliver of lemon peel which believe me does add to the flavour.
Next day or much, much later.
Sieve the contents of your bowl making sure to keep all the lovely wine mixture. Carefully remove the beef & dry it with paper towels. Keep the remaining veg & herbs to one side. Grab your flour & season it with generous amounts of salt & pepper. Dust the beef in the flour. Grab a hefty saucepan, the biggest you've got & melt the butter. Once done turn the heat down as low as possible and start adding your dusted beef to brown nicely. Give it about 10 minutes, stirring as & when necessary. The kitchen is now filled with succulent aromas that instantly transport you to the brilliant weekend you had together in Paris before the kids came along. You start to feel emotional and wonder where it all went wrong. Arrêtez s'il vous plaît! You've got cooking to do.
Grab another pan. Yes, you'll need two! Melt another knob of butter in the pan and bung in your veg. & aromatics. Let them simmer for a few minutes but not burn. Then add the beef stock that you've already prepared - haven't you? If not do it now. GIve the mix a good old stir then add it to your simmering floury beef. Eureka !!! The sauce thickens. It's a miracle. Quickly add the wine marinade you saved. You didn't chuck it down the plughole surely? Bring it all to the boil. By now your senses are being accosted by a myriad French fragrances. You're in Bordeaux. Better still you're in St. Emilion. You're living La Vie en Rose. Eat your heart out Raymond Blanc.
If the sauce is too thick simply add more water or stock - easy peasy. Turn the heat down to the barest simmer & let the whole lot gently bubble for 4 hours. Nope, I'm not kidding, 4 hours (again). Make sure you keep a weather eye on proceedings though & stir the pot every now & then. Here's a tip - if you find the sauce is starting to stick at the bottom of the pan take it off the heat, add a little cold water - DO NOT STIR & SCRAPE - wait about 10 minutes then stir & all will be well.
Now then, 4 hours is up and you've drunk 2 bottles of wine. Never mind. Sober up - there's work still to do!
Grab your pot of loveliness and strain the lot through a colander again being sure to keep the fantastic wine sauce. Remove the chunks of beef which, if all has gone according to plan, is as tender as something that's incredibly tender. Strain the sauce one more time through a sieve to remove any teeny unwanted bits. DO NOT WASH YOUR GIGANTIC SAUCEPAN !!!! No, it's time to sizzle your bacon pieces, mushrooms & shallots. Add a decent glug of olive oil, bung in your bacon, let it all fry up nicely, then add the mushrooms and shallots. Sizzle away until all is golden. If the waft of this lot doesn't send you scatty basically you're dead or have lost your sense of smell. Add your velvety sauce. Add your beef. Add your chunky and satisfying carrots. Stir. Taste. Season if necessary. Pour yourself another glass of red. Let it all bubble for about 20 mins until the carrots are tender but still still al dente. You've done it you genius you. Rejoice !!!!
As said earlier, my accompaniment of choice is Potato Gratin but a healthy dollop of buttery mash does the job almost as well. I'll share my Gratin recipe another day 'cos I'm tired now. When serving your magnificent Bourguignon sprinkle a little chopped parsley over each plateful. Looks suitably Gallic and after all you've come this far so why stop now ???
Suggested wine: Montagne St. Emilion. It's January, we're all skint (aren't we?), but it would be a shame to knock back total gut rot after all you've achieved. This is very reasonable, around €9.00 in Lidl. Incidentally, if you can stretch to it, they do a couple of great St. Emilion Grand Cru's around the €13.00 & €18.00 mark. Take a look in store.
Bon Appétit et à bientôt !!!