bœuf bourgignon (2)

Although this delicious beef stew originates in Burgundy, many other regions of France make it, and there are numerous variations on the recipe, all of them well worth the time involved. It is the slow cooking in a low oven temperature that makes the cheaper cuts of meat so tender.

Reserve this for winter, when its heartiness will be even more appreciated, but it’s a great dinner dish to have at any time of year.


Top tip: Take your time getting everything prepped, and then be methodical and unhurried.



INGREDIENTS

·         1 kg (2lbs) steak – skirt, chuck, brisket, or similar

·         1-2 tbsps olive oil or rice bran oil

·         12 small shallots, peeled and trimmed*

·         1 oz unsalted butter

·         3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

·         2 tsps plain flour

·         300 ml good red wine, ideally a Burgundy

·         300 ml brown stock

·         1 bouquet garni

·         2-3 bay leaves

·         salt and freshly ground pepper

·         small packet of lardons

·         4 oz button mushrooms

·         3 large carrots, cut into large chunks

·         1 tbsp cornflour or arrowroot

* You can peel the shallots more easily by first boiling them in water for 30-60 seconds; trim off the root, but not necessarily the stalk (unless it is too long)

To garnish

·         Chopped fresh parsley



METHOD

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2

1. Cut the beef into cubes, about 3cm/1½ inches, removing any fat or gristle. Pat them dry on kitchen towel (if they are not dry, they won't brown)

2. Heat half the oil in a large casserole and brown the beef cubes very well, a few at a time

[The beef cubes must be brown on all sides; put them into a large bowl as they are done]

[If the bottom of the casserole becomes dark or dry, pour in a little warm water and deglaze the pan by scraping up any sediment stuck to the bottom; pour the liquid over the browned meat]

3. Continue to brown all the meat, and finish with a final deglaze of the casserole, putting that liquid also with the meat

4. Wipe out and reheat the casserole and sauté the prepared shallots in half the butter and a splash of oil until they are well browned

5. Add the garlic and stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.

6. Add the wine and stock, and stir until the mixture boils, always scraping the bottom of the casserole pan

7. Put the meat back into the casserole and stir it into the wine and stock mix

8. Add the chopped carrots, a bouquet garni and bay leaves, and season quite generously with salt and pepper, but don't overdo the salt – the lardons will be quite salty

9. Cook in the preheated oven for 2-3 hours, or until the meat is tender

10. Prepare the lardons by blanching them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes; remove and pat dry

11. Wipe the mushrooms, but do not peel them; cut the larger mushrooms into smaller sizes

12. Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan and, when the butter starts to foam, add the lardons and the mushrooms and cook fairly briskly until delicately browned

13. When the stew has been cooking for 2 hours, add the lardons and mushrooms (not before), and cook for a further 30-60 minutes

14. Remove the casserole from the oven and test the meat to ensure that it is tender, and taste the sauce; season as necessary, a little at a time to avoid over-seasoning

15. Mix the cornflour with a little water, and pour into the casserole over a medium heat on top of the oven, stirring gently for a few minutes while the cornflour cooks out

Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately either direct to plates, with creamy mashed potatoes, or transfer to a warmed serving dish so that everyone can help themselves.

A couple of nice chunks of fresh baguette give you something to mop up the sauce with.

If the unusual happens and there is stew left over, reserve it to make the filling of a tasty shortcrust pastry pie. If necessary, cook some more carrots and add those to make up the bulk.