Tuesday, June 22, 2021

It’s winter and we’re in lockdown, so it’s time to make hearty French food

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by Andrew Prior

It’s winter and this means French food is in! French food is often comforting, hearty and rich and perfect to cook at this time of year. It’s the sort of food that conjures up images of sitting in front of a fireplace with a good red wine, although frankly I can drink red wine most of the year. With some of the country locked down, it’s the perfect time to pull out a good French food recipe.

Beef bourguignon

French cuisine can be labour intensive sometimes and so when you’re stuck inside at home, what better way to pass the day than to prepare a meal that takes time and tastes all the better for it. If you’re home alone, you can make these delicious dishes and batch freeze them or, if you’ve got the whole family around and stuck inside, these are the perfect dishes to get the kids involved to help out.

Bœuf bourguignon, also called beef burgundy, is one my favourites dishes and traditional French country fare is one of things I love to cook. It is made with a good red Burgundy wine (but any rich deep red wine will suffice, a good Australian shiraz would be perfect), beef stock, carrots, onions, garlic and, of course, the beef. Then you garnish it with sautéed pearl onions, mushrooms and crispy bacon. Yum. Marinating the meat overnight and then slow cooking it all day, makes the perfect dish to occupy you through out a cold winters day.

A good quality chuck steak and good quality red wine makes a difference with this dish. The dish is also tastier the more time you put into marinating it. It you marinate the meat the day before, and with a few little twists in the preparation as below, this recipe will tantalise your tastebuds. The good things about this dish too is that, if you have any leftovers, you can freeze for later or add to a pastry base and top it with leftover mash for a great French inspired beef pie.

Bœuf Bourguignon Recipe

This recipe serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

  • 1 kg good quality chuck steak
  • Bottle of red wine
    An Australian shiraz would be good choice to both cook with and drink with it. A lot of people tend to buy cheap wine to cook with but this is a mistake. The wine is at the core of this recipe and the quality of wine really affects the flavour of the recipe. My motto is that if you won’t drink it, then don’t cook with it.
  • Bay leaf
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 brown onions
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of beef stock
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 large carrots
  • 125g of unsalted butter
  • 500g button mushrooms
  • 250g piece of streaky bacon
  • 2 tablespoons of plain flour

Method

1. Cut the steak into 5cm pieces and place in a large bowl that will fit in the fridge

2. Pour over the wine and add the bay leaf, two of the garlic cloves and one of each of the onions, celery and carrots all roughly chopped

3. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinate overnight if possible or at least two hours

4. The next day take the meat out of the marinate and strain the marinade liquid into another pan and bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer until reduced by half

5. Pre-heat the oven to 200’c

6. Finely chop the remain garlic, onion, celery and carrot

7. Brown the meat in batches in a heavy based oven proof casserole dish and set aside on a plate

8. Sautee the vegetables until translucent and then add the meat and all the juices

9. Pour over the wine, beef stock and then add the thyme

10. Place in the oven and reduce the temperature to 180’c and cook for two hours or until the beef is tender and falling apart

11. Half an hour before chop the large carrots into 3cm pieces and add to the beef

12. Season to taste

13. When the beef is done place half the butter in a frying pan and sauté the mushrooms then set aside

14. Cut the bacon into 1 cm thick pieces and fry in a pan until crispy then set aside on paper towels

15. In a small bowl combine the remaining butter and flour into a thick paste

16. Take the beef and vegetables out of the casserole dish and over a low heat gradually add the butter whilst whisking a little at a time until the sauce starts to thicken

17. Once it thickens then add the beef mixture back to the pan along with the mushrooms and bacon.

18. Serve with mash potato and steamed greens

To go with this dish, and to try and create a bit of authenticity about the meal, you might try and make a baguette. If you have an Instagram account, you’d know that it seems the whole world is making banana bread or sour dough during lockdown.

But baguettes really are not that difficult to make. In fact, it is easier to make than a sour dough or banana bread. It’s easy to find recipes to master to make your own baguette each day. The more you make these the better you will be as practice makes perfect.

Incidentally, in France the recipe to make a baguette is regulated by the government. The regulations stipulate the ingredients that should be used as well as the quantities and even the technique. You can’t just whip up any old skinny bit of bread and call it a baguette.

As an alternative dish, you might consider making Cassoulet. It looks like it’s a complicated dish to make from traditional recipes that ask you to confit the duck, and make the sausages etc. However, it’s really not that hard and, the slower you go making sure the beans soak up that deliciousness, is the only thing you need to worry about doing right yourself. Just get from your best butcher some delicious good quality pork sausages and from your local speciality food store the best confit duck legs you can find. If you do this, you’ll be on your way to making one of the most delicious French meals.

Another one of my favourite dishes is the terrine. With so many varieties of terrine that you can make, you could eat it every day. Of course, you’d end up looking like a terrine if you did that, so maybe once a month of good enough. Why not try mixing it up with a chicken and pork with pistachio recipe. You could also make a seafood one or go the vegetarian option. Terrines have a variety of uses for leftovers if there is any so it’s a pretty versatile meal. You can add pieces to salads, slice into steaks and fry a few minutes on each side and place it on a bed of mash potatoes. Or you can just nibble on it as a late-night snack fulfilling your Nigella Lawson fantasies.

Finally, if you want to spend some time in the kitchen perfecting the perfect pastry recipe then I’d suggest a Tarte Tatin. This famous dessert is made from roasted apples, caramel and buttery pastry and it’s enough to relieve all your lockdown worries. It’s hearty, comforting and healthy. I mean caramel covered apples topped with a buttery pastry is healthy, isn’t it?

Andrew Prior is a committed Australian foodie, cook, tour operator, author and YouTuber. After giving Masterchef Australia a go as a contestant in 2013, he decided to set up a food tourism business in Melbourne. He now runs food tours to and around France and runs cooking classes. He has a YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuUvkv1WIMrajz88l8ZdXtg

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