Alex Rushmer’s boeuf bourguignon
I was inspired to write this month’s column about food on screen by watching Julie & Julia, a lovely movie with food at its heart. A subplot featuring an overcooked boeuf bourguignon made me yearn for its nourishing embrace, especially at this time of year when the chill winds rattle the windows. I’ve tried to stick closely to Julia Child’s original recipe, but there is some artistic licence herein and most importantly, don’t rush this. Take time to properly brown the meat and vegetables before allowing them several hours to get to know each other: you will be rewarded with a depth of flavour that transcends the nature of the original ingredients
• Six slices unsmoked streaky bacon, sliced
• Three tablespoons olive oil, or vegetable oil
• 1.5kg stewing beef (I used shin) cut into
• Two large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped into seven or eight evenly sized pieces
• Two onions, peeled and diced
• Two tablespoons plain flour
• One tablespoon tomato paste
• Six cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
• 500ml red wine
• 500ml beef stock
• Ten sprigs of fresh thyme
• 50g unsalted butter
• 18-24 pearl onions, peeled and left whole
• 450g button mushrooms halved or quartered depending on their size
• Half a bunch of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
• You will also need an ovenproof casserole dish – complete with lid, large enough to hold all the ingredients
• Preheat the oven to 140°.
• Begin by rendering the fat from the bacon. Cook the lardons slowly in a little oil over a medium heat for 10 minutes until the fat has rendered and the bacon pieces have begun to brown. Remove them from the pan and place in a small bowl.
• Season the meat with salt and increase the heat under the casserole to high. Brown the beef on all sides making sure to caramelise it well to a dark, burnished colour. Take care not to overcrowd the pan: do it in small batches and once browned remove each one from the pan onto a clean plate.
• Finally, brown the carrot and onions – the moisture in the vegetables will help to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Cook the carrot and onion, stirring often, for around 10 minutes until they have begun to take on a little colour, then return the beef and bacon to the pan.
• Sprinkle over the flour and stir so that it coats the meat then cook to toast the flour for three to four minutes. Add the tomato paste, garlic and thyme then the red wine and beef stock. Bring to a gentle boil, cover with the lid and place in the oven for at least three hours.
• The onions and mushrooms are first cooked separately and then added to the beef bourguignon for the final hour of cooking: heat a frying pan over a high heat with a tablespoon of oil and 20g unsalted butter, and once the pan is hot add the onions. Season with salt and cook for ten minutes until the outside of the onions are blistered and browned in places, then transfer them to the stew.
• Repeat with the mushrooms in the same pan, but cook until all the water in them has cooked out and the mushrooms have begun to caramelise and brown on the outside – they will have shrunk to about half their original size. Add these to the slowly cooking beef and take the opportunity to check the seasoning. Add a pinch more salt if necessary, replace the lid and return to the oven for a further hour.
• Once cooked, sprinkle over the chopped parsley and serve right away with pasta, polenta, a hefty chunk of sourdough bread or mounds of buttery mashed potato, all perfect vehicles for mopping up a rich gravy.