It was a friend’s birthday last weekend and I missed it as I was away so this blog/lunch was in honour of her birthday and gave me a good excuse to try the new recipe book (Mastering the art of French cooking 🙂 ). In the end there were 7 of us eating so I was under a bit of pressure to not let it go wrong! We did not have enough seats or proper cutlery so at least the food should be good!
Having scanned through a lot of the book and being a little scared of some of the techniques/cuts of meat/equipment required, I opted for Beef stew with potatoes (full ingredient list at the end of the post)! Sounds much better in French! Maybe I am simplifying it a bit as 3-4 hours of work is not too bad.
This is at the beginning of the cooking where I was a bit fresher…
I started with browning the lardons in oil for a few minutes and then removing with a slotted spoon. In the meantime, I dried the beef stew meat with kitchen towel and then browned in batches for a couple of minutes on each side before also removing and adding some salt and pepper.
I chopped 3 onions and browned them in the fat of the meat, for 8-10 minutes.
The recipe book states that you should make a herb bouquet tied in washed cheesecloth. Very good if you are able to do this but I mixed two cloves of garlic with some thyme, parsley and bay leaves and added directly into the stew. I removed the bay leaves at the end and it worked fine I think!
For the beef stock or bouillon, I used two Oxo cubes which are my favourite stock cubes which I buy in bulk from the UK!
Once I had prepared the stock and the herbs, I added these to the browned onions along with the beef, the lardons, 2 cups of red wine and also a peeled, de-seeded and chopped tomato.
I then left this simmering for approximately 2 hours (stirring occasionally) and moved on to the pommes duchesse.
I boiled 8 baking potatoes with the skin on for 25 minutes and then started the fun task of peeling hot potatoes. At this point, these techniques get a little lost on me. I’m sure there is a valid reason for peeling the potatoes after cooking but I would question whether any advantages gained outweigh the pain of peeling a hot potato (of course I’m not so stupid that I intended to only use my fingers but using any kind of implement with this is a bit tricky, so your hands get involved eventually!).
Once they were all peeled I purified them in a blender. This should be an easy step but as half of my blender broke when I had to ship my things to Spain I always end up doing everything in minature and using tools that are half the size of what they should be!
Once it was a smooth paste I heated the mixture in a saucepan for a couple of minutes to remove the moisture, then added 6 egg yolks, 6 tablespoons of soft butter, 4 tablespoons of creme fraiche, mixing each time a new ingredient was added. Once off the heat, I added a pinch of nutmeg and some salt and pepper.
The recipe requires that you pipe the mixture into a decorative design ready for cooking and serving…
I don’t have a piping bag or a serving dish that would be big enough to contain all the potato and the stew so my version was to pour it into a buttered baking tray with the intention of cutting it into portions when cooked. I let it rest while preparing the remainder of the lunch covered loosely in cling film. To finish off the potatoes put them in the oven for 25 mintues at 200 degrees after pouring on 3 tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkling 3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese on top.
Back to the beef; I separated the liquid from the rest of the stew using a colander, then mixed 4 tablespoons of flour with 3 tablespoons of butter to make a smooth paste. I found my hands were better for this task than a rubber spatula. I added this mixture a little at a time to the stew sauce mixture, mixing with a whisk (“who” appears later in this post in a group photo…) until the consistency was thick enough to coat the meat. Then I added the ingredients back together again and simmered a little more while the potatoes were finishing in the oven.
I served the stew with circles of the potato and also with carrots.
So the verdict; the food was great! Really good, strong flavours and the stew and potatoes work really well together. I was worried that serving mashed potato with a stew would mean a big watery mess on the plate but due to the step of thickening the sauce, this did not happen.
For my style of cooking, this was relatively time consuming but definitely worth the effort from time to time. It was really nice to learn new things even if I did not follow all the techniques word for word!
And the main thing; I think the birthday girl enjoyed it! She contributed by making her own birthday cake 😛 even if we did provide the candles 🙂
Big thanks to my special guests!
- 200g of lardons
- Approx. 1kg stewing beef
- 3 onions
- 2 cups of beef stock (approx. 350ml)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon of parsley
- 1 tomato
- 2 cups of red wine
- 4 tablespoons of flour
- 3 tablespoons of soft butter
- 8 baking potatoes
- 6 egg yolks
- 9 tablespoons soft butter
- 4 tablespoons of creme fraiche
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese