I love stews, particularly French ones. Unfortunately however, I can’t get my kids to adore Boeuf Bourguignon the way I do. It’s not just the mushrooms they can’t stand, but the overall richness. In a recent trip to Provence however, I discovered the lighter, mushroom-free alternative. It’s only been around for hundreds of years, but for some reason, I feel the need to put my own little recipe up. It’s very simple – almost impossible to mess up, and yes, the kids love this one.
- 750g beef – iceblock sized pieces
- 1/2 cup flour
- 100g lardons (streaky bacon, diced)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- dash of good sherry vinegar (substitute with balsamic if you can’t find it)
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups water
- 3 large carrots
- 10-15 pearl onions (or eshallot) peeled but left in tact.
- 1 bouquet garnis (or 2-3 tsp mixed herbes de provence)
- 1/2 tsp celery seeds
- 3 cloves
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- salt and white pepper to taste
- Season flour well with salt and pepper, then coat meat. Put a casserole dish (daubière) on medium-high heat, and brown meat in a good slug of olive oil (or butter if you like to be naughty), stirring continuously.
- When meat is browned (about 5 minutes), add bacon and garlic, and fry for a minute or so – as long as you can before the bottom of the pan gets too crusty. Then add vinegar, scraping the bottom to remove caked flour, and as that dries, add the wine. Keep stirring until it starts to thicken nicely, then add the rest of the ingredients except for the carrots.
- Bring to the boil, then put in a 135ºC oven with the lid on.
- An hour or so later, add the carrots. Cook for about 2 more hours, or until meat is falling apart.
- I used blade steak for this particular daube, but many other cheap cuts would work, and I’m a big fan of brisket if you like it really gelatinous. The traditional recipe uses all three of chuck, shank and rib to ensure a perfect balance between flavour and texture. Trim the gristle but not every little bit of fat. Fat is flavour.
- I have made this wine-free for a non-drinking friend. Use a 1/2 cup of vinegar instead of just a dash, ensuring it is a good quality sherry vinegar or possibly a red wine vinegar (Balsamic would be too rich when using this much). You will probably need an extra spoon of sugar to balance, and a little more water.
- If you need to omit the bacon, make sure you use a fattier cut of beef, and use chicken stock rather than water.
- If the meat is not tender, you haven’t cooked it enough. That’s the wonderful thing about the oven – you can put things in and forget about them. It is very unlikely to burn at that temperature, but if it dries out too much, just add more water (and salt). It’s pretty much impossible to overcook the beef, but the onions and carrots will eventually get mushy.
- I like this recipe with a stack of white pepper – I add a whole teaspoon to the flour when I season it, and then add more when I serve. But I really love pepper. Oh, and salt – can’t get enough of that…
- I add celery seeds because I have a big kid (ahem, husband) with an aversion to celery, which is an important ingredient because it adds such a wonderful leafy flavour. The seeds could be substituted with a stalk of diced celery, added at the same time as the garlic.