Daube à la Provençal
Since I’ve moved to France, I’ve made all kinds of slow cooked beef stews. The Provencal version of the more commonly known Boeuf Bourguignon is called Daube à la Provençal. I’ve heard men in cafés arguing over the inclusion of carrots or not, and which spices to use… Black or green olives? Everyone has their own recipe. As a rule, Southerners tend to add olives instead of mushrooms. Daube is served, like Italian ragu, with short pasta.
I have to admit that although French cooking is sophisticated and generally tasty, I prefer my food to be a true explosion of flavour. I often turn to middle eastern cooking for inspiration. Therefore, here is my succulent and tasty version of beef stew. Ottolenghi Style?
1,2 kg stewing beef (shoulder is great for this but any stewing beef with do, this will also work with veal and is the most delicious, if you ask your butcher in advance, with beef cheeks)
200 g bacon diced
8 prunes (I buy mine from the prune lady at the local market. You won’t believe how good French prunes are. Try to find prunes that are moist and without artificial preservatives. If you’re anxious about the taste of prunes don’t worry, they melt into the sauce)
1 Onion finely chopped
2 Leeks finely chopped
3 Garlic Cloves crushed
1 Cinnamon stick
tsp chilli flakes
a bunch of thyme
tbsp tomato paste
half bottle of red wine
a bunch of coriander chopped
half an orange peel
2 cups basmati rice
Take the meat out of the fridge so that it can come to room temperature while you’re chopping the veg. Finely chop the onion, leeks and crush the garlic. Add a knob of butter and a tbsp of vegetable oil to medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed pan. If you have a Le Creuset- now is the time to get it out! Brown the meat on all sides. You’ll have to do this in batches. When the meat is browned, remove from the pan and replace with the chopped bacon. Fry for a minute, deglaze the pan with a little water if necessary, then add the onion, leek, garlic, and spices. Cook these down on a medium-low heat for at least 6 minutes while stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Put the meat back in the pan. Cover with red wine, wait until you have a very low simmer, then cover. Leave on the stove for 4 hours. Check on it from time to time to make sure it isn’t boiling and that you have enough liquid. After 4 hours, put in the prunes. Cover again and wait 30 minutes. Uncover if you have too much liquid to thicken the stew while you prepare the rice.
Chop up half the removed orange peel and fry in 1 tbsp of vegetable oil on medium heat for 1 minute. Add your rice and fry for another 30 seconds. Add double the amount of water to rice and let simmer uncovered. Wait until most of the liquid has evaporated and you see holes appear on top of the rice. Now cover, take off the heat and wait for 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste to the stew and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve your rice and beefy deliciousness scattered with chopped coriander and devour!
Spice: This is meant to be a lightly spiced meal. Don’t leave the cinnamon out- it really adds a wonderful element to the stew. Feel free to add more chilli and garlic though.
My rice: If you’ve never seen this technique- try it. It works every time. I put the orange in the rice one day when I forgot to put it in the stew- I think it adds nice colour to the finished dish.
Flour: You may wonder why I don’t flour my meat before I brown it. Honestly, it never seems to work for me. The cooking time should create a thick sauce. If you’re worried about it, I find it easier to add a tbsp of flour to the finely chopped veg while their being fried in the pan.
Cooking time: I’ve tried, don’t skimp on the cooking time. If possible, make the stew the day before. It’s always better the next day. I have a hard time waiting, though!
Try out the recipe and give me your notes!