Sunny south of France slow-cooked beef stew

“The best dinner party I ever went to was a black-tie affair to celebrate a book, catered by the author’s sister. When we sat down in our long dresses and tuxedos, my heart failed. What sort of fancy something or other were we going to get? …..

When the food appeared at this party I could hardly contain my delight. It was home food! The most delicious kind: a savoury beef stew with olives and buttered noodles, a plain green salad with a wonderful dressing, and some runny cheese and chocolate mousse for dessert. Heaven!”

Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking

So yes, this works well for a dinner…but I also find it works well as a comforting, warm stew to come home to after a hard day out at a business meeting somewhere far flung. It works just as well with venison and muntjac (the image is, in fact, of muntjac) fillet.

Serve, as Colwin suggests in the evocative quote above, with a green salad, fabulously dressed; and some buttered noodles. Follow with chocolate mousse and runny cheese: try Baron Bigod, a St James, an Oxford Isis, or maybe a Winslade.

Recipe for sunny south of France slow-cooked beef stew

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 kg/2 lbs cubed (cut into 1”/3 cm cubes, NOT larger, gristle and fat removed) beef fillet
  • Butter and olive oil for searing
  • 60 ml/¼ cup/4 tbps brandy
  • 4 x beef stock cubes
  • 360 ml/1½ cup red vermouth
  • 2 tbsps plain flour
  • 1 tsp vinegar (any kind, but ideally red wine)
  • Small bunch of thyme
  • ideally, a pinch of Urfa pepper flakes, or generous grinds of black pepper
  • 4-5 strips of orange peel (cut off the surface of the orange, no white pith)
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
  • 160g/6 oz Crespo pitted black olives

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
  2. Sear the meat on the hob in a large hob and oven-proof casserole with a well-fitting lid – a dutch oven effectively. Go here to find out why you sear. Go here to find out why I think the Staub is the best, and no, they don’t pay me.
  3. Add the brandy and heat to evaporate a little. Add the vermouth.
  4. Add the Urfa pepper flakes (or the black pepper), the orange peel, the garlic and the thyme leaves. Sieve the flour in, and stir. Add the beef stock cubes and the vinegar. Mix all together well.
  5. Cover the casserole with a couple of layers of greaseproof paper, and then put on the the lid firmly and put in the oven to simmer for four hours.
  6. Increase the oven heat to 180°C. If the level of liquid is well below the meat, then add either some beef stock, or a bit more vermouth. Return to the oven to reduce the liquid to make it thicker, and to get the stew warm enough.
  7. About ten minutes before serving add the black olives. Serve with the green salad and the buttered noodles.
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