Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Boeuf Bourguignon & one of the best desserts ever

It has been a while since my last post, in which time I have replaced my lost camera (and upgraded the lens), enjoyed my first English Christmas in Northern Yorkshire, partied through my New Years, and been back at work a full two weeks so that it seems like my trip to Bruges last month is a distant dream.

On Sunday we decided to spend the day cooking, and invited some good friends for dinner. When I say we decided to spend the day cooking, I do actually mean a large proportion of the day - by the time you buy, organise and prepare all the ingredients and then cook Boeuf Bourguignon, you will find yourself 4-5 hours down the line. To some of you, spending this amount of time shopping and cooking might sound like a nightmare; to others, including me, it sounds like a perfect Sunday.

I have made Boeuf Bourguignon a number of times before, and believe me it is well worth all the hard work. It does take organisation and patience, but it is not particularly difficult. And while it is cooking, it smells absolutely unbelievable. Make sure you have the right dish for making it - you need a solid cast iron casserole dish.

We found a jar of delicious-looking peaches at our local Italian shop on Saturday and so I decided to make up a dessert with them for after the Boeuf Bourguignon. It turned out to be one of the best desserts I have ever made; baked peach halves, with sweet and buttery crumble topping, served with zabaglione. I really recommend making this - it is super easy, as long as you can master how to make the zabaglione.

Boeuf Bourguignon
This dish is originally from Burgundy, France, but was popularised by Julia Child, and re-popularised by the 2009 movie Julie and Julia.

Allow 1 hour preparation time, and 3 hours cooking time.
Serves 4-6

600g stewing steak, cut into chunks
150g unsmoked streaky bacon, diced
1 onion, sliced and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
Approx. 10 shallots, ends chopped off and peeled
3 cloves garlic
About 8 whole pieces of dried porcini mushroom
3 bay leaves
Sprig thyme (not chopped)
2 sprigs parsley (not chopped)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2-3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil
Knob butter
1 quality beef stock cube dissolved in a cup of hot water, or 1 cup of real beef stock
1/2 bottle red wine (I used pinot noir)

Prepare all the ingredients. Soak the porcini in about a cup of boiling water and set aside. Turn the oven on to 160c.

Use a Dutch oven - either a Le Creuset or other cast iron casserole pot that can go in the oven. On the stove top, melt the butter and fry the bacon, then remove with a slotted spoon leaving the fat and butter in the pot. Set the bacon aside.

Add the onion, carrots, whole shallots and garlic to the pot and cook on a medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent it from burning.
While the vegetables are cooking, put the flour onto a plate and roll the beef in it, brushing off any excess. Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in in a separate wide based fry pan on a medium-high heat, and fry the floured beef in batches. Make sure you don't try and cook the beef all at once or it will start to stew - if you leave plenty of space in the pan you will be able to brown and caramelise the meat nicely. You don't need to cook the beef through - just brown the meat on the outside. Set the cooked beef aside.

Remove the porcini from the water, set aside the water to add to the stew later, and chop the mushroom into pieces.

Add the bacon, beef, porcini, tomato paste, salt, parsley, bay leaf and thyme (make sure you leave the herbs whole with the stalks on as you will remove them later) to the vegetables. Top up with the porcini-soaking water, beef stock and 1/2 bottle of wine and give everything a good stir, making sure to loosen any bits sticking on the bottom.

Place the lid on the pot and bring to the boil. Once boiling, carefully lift the dish, lid on, into the oven.

Cook for 2.5 - 3 hours, stirring about every hour.

In the last half hour, put on some potatoes to mash. Once the stew is cooked, remove the herbs from the sauce.

Serve warm with mash. Also excellent re-heated the next day.

Baked peaches with crumble centres and Zabaglione

Serves 4

1 jar of the best quality peach halves you can find
For the crumble
About 4 tablespoons ground almonds
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped almonds
About 1.5 tablespoons butter at room temperature
For the zabaglione
4 egg yolks
4 tablespoons caster sugar
4 tablespoons Marsala wine

Preheat the oven to 180c

Make the crumble by mixing all the dry ingredients together. Chop the butter into small cubes, add to the dry ingredients, and mash together with your fingers until it is mixed together and forms a dough-like consistency.

Separate the peaches from the syrup - set aside the syrup for later. Take each peach half and place a ball of crumble mix into the hole in the centre where the stone was. Lay the peaches out, crumble side up, in a glass dish. Pour the syrup into the base of the dish to keep the peaches moist during cooking.

Bake the peaches for 20-30 mins, until the crumble is caramelised and nicely browned on top.

I've had trouble making good zabaglione in the past, and then I found a recipe in Maxine Clark's Italian Kitchen, which worked perfectly. The ratio is 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon Marsala wine per person. The trick is to whisk the mix well, and to whisk continuously while it is on the heat, and also to not let the bowl touch the water else it will cook too quickly. And timing - keep a close eye on it while cooking, and whip the bowl off the double boiler as soon as it starts to thicken. 

Make the zabaglione just before serving. In a stainless steel bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks and Marsala wine. Whisk until the sugar seems to be dissolved and the mixture begins to go fluffy.

On the stove, heat a little water in a pot - you want to make sure the bowl is not going to touch the water - so figure out the right pot and the right level of water before you start. Once the water has come to the boil, turn the heat down so that it is on a slight simmer and place the bowl over the pot. Whisk continuously until it thickens to a thin-custard like consistency. This will take about 5 minutes, but it will thicken all of a sudden in a matter of 10 seconds, so be prepared to whip it away from the heat as soon as it does thicken.

Place two peaches on a plate, drizzle over a little of the peach syrup from the dish, pour over the Zabaglione, and serve.


  1. ooh yum must try the crumble... M put me on to your site. fantastic idea. do you think watties would cut it?

  2. Hello! Thanks for your comment =) Hmmm not sure if Watties will cut it - you can probably get fresh peaches in NZ at the moment though, I reckon they would be even better, you just might need to cook them a little longer.
    I'm in Paris this weekend, hopefully will get some ideas for my next post.


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