Fancy cooking something French and really special? Try this iconic French dish of beef, stewed with lovely vegetables and herbs in wine which are then strained off, reduced and thickened to create a densely flavoured, smooth and silky sauce. Yes, if you’re feeling lazy, you could technically skip the sauce straining steps, but then it would just end up being a lovely stew, not a true boeuf Bourguignon! I personally think the extra step makes all the difference!
Ingredients (4 people)
200g bacon, solid chunk cut into lardons
800g braising steak, cut into cubes
2 tbsp flour
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
12 shallots, peeled and sliced
3 cups red wine (ideally Bordeaux)
2-3 cups beef stock (enough to cover)
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, mashed
2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
200g mushroom, quartered
50g unsalted butter
salt & fresh ground pepper
Potatoes, roasted or mashed (to serve)
Crusty bread (to serve)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan, sauté the lardons for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned and set aside on a plate.
2. Coat the pieces of beef in flour, season with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides in the bacon fat and olive oil. Set aside with the bacon. Again, in the same oil/fat, sauté the shallots, garlic and the carrot until softened. Set aside with the meat.
3. Deglaze the frying pan with the wine, pour it into an oven-proof casserole along with the meat, lardons, shallots, garlic, carrots and add enough stock to almost cover the mix. Stir in the tomato paste and add the parsley, sage and half the thyme. Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove, cover and place in the oven. Reduce heat to 120 degrees and simmer slowly for 3 hours to 4 hours, or until a fork pierces the meat easily.
4. In the meantime, start preparing the mushrooms. Heat a spoonful of butter and a spoonful of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. As soon as the foam begins, add the mushrooms and a sprig of thyme, season with salt and pepper, toss and sauté for about five minutes until brown and set aside until ready to use. You may also want to start preparing the side of potato at this stage.
5. When the stew meat is tender, remove all solids from the sauce by draining through a sieve set over a saucepan. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole, discarding the bits of carrot, shallots and herbs which remain in the sieve.
6. Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for a minute or two. You should be left with about 2-3 cups of rich, dark sauce, thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If the sauce is too thin, stir in a spoonful of flour and boil it down to reduce to the right thickness. If it’s too thick, add a bit of stock.Taste for seasoning before serving.
7. Pour the sauce over the side and garnish with fresh parsley to serve.
If serving later, simply allow the casserole to cool before placing it in the refrigerator. Place over medium heat and simmer very slowly for ten minutes, occasionally stirring the meat with the sauce.
Ragù is a beautiful alternative to a bolognese sauce, especially during the cooler months of the year. I like to make it with lamb, but you could make it with beef instead. While it take a little while to cook, it’s actually really easy to make and it will taste delicious!
Ingredients (serve 4)
400g lamb, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 parsley bunch, finely chopped
2 sage leaves
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 courgette, diced
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Pre-heat 2 tsp. of olive oil on high heat in a heavy non-stick oven proof sauce pan and fry the garlic, chili and sage for 30 secs before adding the onion for 5 minutes or until nice and soft. Add the meat to brown and then the red pepper and courgette for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. In the meantime, start pre-heating the oven at 200 degrees.
2. Add tomatoes, parsley, wine and cook in the oven on low heat for 4 hours, checking the texture every hour or so to ensure it doesn’t dry out.
3. When the meat is tender and soft, shred any remaining chunks of meat. Taste and season if necessary with additional salt and pepper. To serve, mound the pasta in individual bowls and top with plenty of the ragu and a sprinkling of cheese and chopped parsley.
As an alternative to chunky pasta you can also serve it with mash or polenta. I managed myself to change my mind between the time the ingredients were shot and the dish was ready! You can also transfer the mix to a slow cook dish at step 2 if you’re not using an oven proof pan. The lamb ragù can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
This is a French classic and a perfect Sunday dinner, as it doesn’t take too long to prepare but just a bit of time to cook away slowly. Warning: it will fill the house with an amazing aroma, which will tease everyone and get them hungry, and make your next-door neighbours jealous and cranky!
Ingredients (4-5 serves)
1.5kg free-range organic chicken, disjointed
3 cloves of garlic, 2 slices and 1 crushed
3 Sprigs thyme, leaves picked
2 sprigs Rosemary, leaves picked
3 sage leaves
150g pancetta, diced
2 tbsp black olives, sliced
5 large shallots, peeled and halved
300g mixed mushrooms, cleaned and halved
1.5 cup of white wine
3tbsp Fresh cream
1 small bunch coriander
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1. Pre-heat 10ml of olive oil in a large non-stick heavy bottom pan. Add in the sliced garlic, sage leaves, chicken, rosemary and thyme and season with salt & pepper. Sizzle for 10 minutes or until the chicken is sealed and light golden brown and stir regularly.
2. In the meantime, pre-heat a separate frying pan with a small splash of olive oil and 10g butter and stir in the shallots, crushed garlic, pancetta and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. After 2 minutes, stir in the mushrooms and olives and cook until the mushrooms look brown and nice.
3. Combine the mushroom mixture and the meat in the bigger pan and top with the wine. Cook for 10 minutes or until the wine has reduced by half and the alcohol has evaporated. Close and place in the oven to cook for 40-60 minutes on low heat. If your pan isn’t oven proof, keep it covered on low heat and check regularly or transfer to a warm slow cook dish.
4. Check the liquid amount after 40 minutes. Take out any skin bits that have separated from the meat. If it looks a bit too dry, add a bit of water in. If it looks too liquid, cook uncovered for a few minutes. Once you’re happy with the texture, stir in the fresh cream, chopped coriander and season to taste.
Serve with salad and mash. You can also replace the fresh cream with a spoon of corn flour to thicken the sauce at the end or skip it altogether for a lighter version. You can also replace the mash with tagliatelle pasta for a change. If you don’t like the idea of disjointing a whole chicken yourself, you can also use pre-cut chicken legs and thighs, but make sure you buy good quality free-range chicken otherwise it could end up fatty and gristly.
I absolutely love when the house fills up with the the intense fragrance of a good tagine cooking away slowly. My mum was taught a few very tasty North African recipes when she lived in Tunisia as a teenager which became classics in the family over the years. It can be a little bit time consuming, but mainly for the meat to marinate and for the dish to cook really slowly so just get started early and do something else in the meantime!
(serves 4) 1 handful flakes almonds, toasted You can also come up with your own version of the tagine, as long as the spice mix remains the same. Just try pretty much any meat (Eg. beef, chicken) combined with any stew vegetable (Eg. pumpkin, zucchinis) and any fresh herbs (Eg. Coriander, rosemary).
Serve immediately with a dollop of yoghurt, sprinkling of almonds & as much fresh chili as you can handle! Plus couscous, salad leaves and maybe some nice rustic bread on the side.
1 handful flakes almonds, toasted
You can also come up with your own version of the tagine, as long as the spice mix remains the same. Just try pretty much any meat (Eg. beef, chicken) combined with any stew vegetable (Eg. pumpkin, zucchinis) and any fresh herbs (Eg. Coriander, rosemary).