• Jen's beef bourguignonne

    Jen's beef bourguignonne

    Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious by this classic French braise.

    “I’m in heaven” said one diner, tucking into a second helping. “It was even better the next night” wrote cook Jen when detailing the recipe via email. She might have marvelled that there was any left at all, so delicious was her beef bourguignonne.
    Beouf bourguignonne is not rarefied haute cuisine; it is a hearty dish of provincial France – Burgundy as the name suggests, also the home of grape pinot noir. Wine made of pinot noir expresses itself divinely with melting cubes of beef which have also been marinated in pinot noir and cooked to flavoursome perfection with aromatics (onion, garlic & herbs), carrots, mushrooms and bacon. It made perfect sense that we were eating this dish in pinot territory and drinking with same.
    Two and a half kilos of beef makes enough to feed eight or more happily. The quantity is not difficult to handle; indeed it’s easier to get the oven temperature just right for very slow cooking. Evaporation of liquid is also less of an issue if the cooking vessel is at least two-thirds full. The work is hardly more – a bigger onion, few more cloves of garlic, more thyme, few more carrots. The only downside is that marination will take the whole bottle of wine, the cook missing out on that particular little perk.
    Chuck steak, from the top of the rib just under the shoulder blade, is best but blade (a different cut from the same fore-quarter area) is also good. Cooking time (for nice large cubes) will be about 3 hours at a slow simmer.

    The Recipe

    Jen’s beef bourguignonne
    2-2.5 kg chuck or blade steak cut into 4cm cubes
    1 large onion, sliced into half rings
    2 large carrots, chopped into large pieces
    4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    2-3 bay leaves, fresh or dried, left whole
    6 large sprigs fresh thyme
    1 bottle pinot noir or other soft, light red
    1 large knob butter
    1 tbsp olive oil
    2 large carrots, chopped coarsely
    12 shallots, peeled and cut in half if large
    1 small tub tomato paste
    3 tbsp (level) flour
    200ml veal or beef stock
    salt and pepper
    250g streaky bacon cut into very thick slices
    200g Honey Brown or Portobello mushrooms cut in half

    Place meat, onion, carrot, garlic and herbs in a large stainless steel bowl. Pour over the bottle of wine, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
    Preheat oven to 150C (see note above). Strain the marinade liquid from the beef and vegetables and reserve. On top of the stove heat the butter and oil in a large oven-proof casserole dish. Pick out the vegetables from the meat and sauté them along with two more chopped carrots and the shallots until the vegetables take on some colour. Add the marinated meat, bay leaves, thyme, tub of tomato paste, wine marinade, plenty of ground pepper and 1 tsp salt and stir gently. Whisk together the flour and veal stock and stir into the meat and vegetables. This will thicken the stew as it cooks. Bring to a bare simmer, cover tightly and place in a low oven for about 3 hours or until the meat is very tender.
    Just before the cooking time is up, cut the thick cut streaky bacon into fat strips. Saute in a non-stick frypan until lightly coloured. Remove. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté a minute or two, turning once. You may need to add a little extra oil.

    Just before serving add the bacon and mushrooms to the stew. Check for seasoning.

    Serve with potatoes (mashed, roasted or steamed) and a green vegetable on the side.