Rich Brown Stew


This dish is absolutely typical of the Val d’Aosta, even though very similar recipes appear in Belgian cuisine and in Galician tradition. However, without going too far afield, you will find in Borgomanero what is considered by local cooks to be the ancestor of the dish, though here in a more rustic version, known as Tapulone and using either donkey or mule. It is believed to have been Tapulone which inspired the invention of Carbonata. The dish has many variations, even within the confines of tiny Val d’Aosta. In Saint Vincent the meat is cut into strips, whereas in Cervinia it is sliced thinly; some cooks add sugar, others add beer or vinegar. In Val d’Aosta this perfect cold-weather dish was originally made with meat preserved in salt and today would be served with piping-hot polenta. If you prefer, you can serve it with jacket potatoes.


  • lb (800 g) good-quality chuck steak, cubed or cut into strips
  • 3 tablespoons plain white flour
  • 2 oz (50 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, peeled and thickly sliced
  • about 1 bottle very heavy, strong red wine
  • salt and pepper


Toss the meat in the flour, then fry it in the butter in a deep flameproof casserole for about 6 minutes. Remove the meat from the casserole and put it on a plate. Fry the onion in the butter until soft, then return the meat to the casserole. Stir together and add about a quarter of the wine, simmer until the wine has been absorbed, then add more. Continue in this way for about 2 hours or until the meat is completely tender, adding as much wine as you need. Season generously with salt and pepper, in memory of the original dish which used salted beef. Serve very hot.