Maybe it’s the indifferent May weather but I’ve had a real taste for a dark, comforting rich beef casserole and saw just the recipe in Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course book, which by the way is probably one of the best all encompassing cookery books out there, if you don’t have it, then you need this book.
I wanted a cooking project, a dish I could really put my heart and soul into and a classic Boeuf Bourguignon is indeed that, it’s a labour of love, but if what you’re after is a deep flavour that will impress anyone who eats it, then this is the recipe. This is a Sunday dinner dish as it requires some time and love, and lots of good ingredients, don’t be put off by the long list, this dish is well worth all the effort. I tweaked Darina’s recipe a little as I thought a piece of shin beef would be a tasty addition to the pot, as shin has lots of sinews and fat running through the meat and of course a thick bone right in the middle, with a nice chunk of marrow which would all melt into the wine sauce, during the slow cooking, really ramping up the taste and depth of flavour.
The addition of the shin gives the whole dish a concentrated essence of beef, which takes the ‘beefiness’ to another level. I’ve also made a few shortcuts to the recipe method, which save on time and washing up. One word of warning, when adding the brandy and lighting, stand back, I think I might have singed my eyebrows!
1kg stewing beef, good quality, cut into bite size cubes
400g piece of shin beef, meat taken from the bone, cut into bite size pieces
175g streaky bacon
2tbsp olive oil
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 pint of ballsy red wine, I used a Burgundy
300ml beef stock or you could use one of those new Knorr stock pots which are quite good
1tbsp tomato paste
zest of 1 orange
sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
3 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
20 small onions
450g chestnut mushrooms
2tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
To begin with get the olive oil and bacon into the casserole pot and fry until brown and crispy, so that all of the fat from the bacon is rendered into the pot, then turn the heat up. Dry off the cubes of beef with some kitchen paper and brown off the meat in the casserole pot, a few pieces at a time. Use a slotted spoon to remove the batches of browned meat to a plate. When all of the meat is nicely browned, fry off the carrot and onion in the casserole pot for a couple of minutes, then remove with your slotted spoon to the plate with the browned beef pieces.
In the casserole pot add the brandy and please be careful when you light it, this will burn off the alcohol. Then add the red wine to deglaze the bottom of the casserole pot so you get all those sticky, caramelised juices from the beef, and scrape with a wooden spoon so you get every last bit of flavour. This stuff is gold and is where a lot of the richness of the dish comes from. Bring this to the boil and then place the beef pieces, carrot, onion and shin bone back into the pot with the red wine liquor. At this point take the casserole pot off the heat and allow to cool. Leave the beef to marinade for at least a couple of hours, or overnight in the fridge would be better. This allows the wine to work its magic on the beef, tenderising the meat and allowing the flavour to deepen.
After marinating, bring the pot to the boil, add the beef stock, tomato paste, orange zest, thyme, bay, and whole garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper, give everything a stir, cover and place in a low oven. I like to cook mine at about 150 degrees C for about two and half hours.
To cook the small onions, first drop them whole into boiling water for one minute, run them under cold water, top and tail, them just push the skins off. Simmer the onions gently in a pot with about half an inch of water, which should take about 30 minutes. Quarter the mushrooms and fry in butter, salt and lots of black pepper, until they become golden brown. Place the onions and mushrooms to one side.
When the meat is ready, pour everything into a strainer and collect the cooking liquor in a pot. Remove the herbs and place the meat, carrot and onions, along with the small onions and fried mushrooms back into the casserole. Taste the cooking liquor, check for seasoning and reduce the red wine sauce for a couple of minutes, until deep and rich. Pour this back into the casserole, simmer everything until heated through. I like to eat this with some buttery mashed potato, and sprinkle over the chopped flat leaf parsley for that touch of freshness.
Call your family to the table, pour the wine and get amongst it.