In this country, stew is generally regarded as something you feed the family but not your honoured guests. Not so in France, where this recipe for the most famous of all beef stews, Boeuf Bourguignon, might be served for a special Sunday lunch or dinner with friends. After all it is not cheap to make: you need best-quality well-hung stewing beef and almost a bottle of red wine. As the name suggests it used to be made with Burgundy, but with current Burgundy prices I think I might settle for a good Beaujolais or a full-bodied Côtes du Rhône!
Remove the rind from the bacon and cut into 1cm cubes. Blanch and refresh if salty. Dry well on kitchen paper. Heat
The casserole may be prepared ahead to this point. Allow it to get cold, cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least for a few hours. The wine will have a tenderizing effect on the meat, and the other ingredients will add extra flavour as the meat marinades.
Bring the casserole to the boil, add enough stock to cover the meat, add in the tomato paste, dried orange peel, bay leaf, thyme and the whole cloves of garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer very gently either on top of the stove or in a low oven, 160°C/325°F/Gas 3 for 2–3 hours, depending on the cut of meat used. The meat should not fall apart, but it should be tender enough to eat without too much chewing.
Meanwhile cook the small onions and mushrooms. Peel the onions. This task is made easier if you drop them in boiling water for 1 minute and then run them under the cold tap. ‘Top and tail’ them and then slip off the skins. Simmer gently in a covered casserole with about 1cm of water or beef stock – they will take about 30–35 minutes depending on size. A knife should pierce them easily.
Toss the quartered mushrooms a few at a time in a little olive oil in a hot pan. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a strainer placed over a saucepan. Discard the herbs, sliced carrot and onion and orange peel. Return the meat to the casserole with the onions and mushrooms. Remove the fat from the liquid. There should be about
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.
Boeuf Bourguignon may be made a few days ahead and, within reason, the flavour even improves with keeping.
© 2001 Darina Allen. All rights reserved.