Wednesday 27 August 2014

Boeuf Bourgoignon a la Mode

It has been a while since my last venture into cooking for fun. The recent adventure of sailing a boat from the Seychelles to Gordon's Bay left me with hardly any energy to experiment. Besides, I had to do most of the cooking on board.

But now it is time for having some fun in the kitchen.

It is still winter here in Cape Town and surrounds, so the choice fell on a stew of some description. I searched at length on the internet for some ideas. Perhaps wading through a quagmire of recipes would be a better description. After some random reading, I decided that some experimentation would be in order.

Some recipes require the meat to marinate in wine and herbs for a long time. Especially the French versions. Italian versions cook the meat in copious amounts of tomatoes and tomato paste. All of the recipes, including the Thai and other eastern versions, have lots of garlic. I came across a recipe that requires twenty, yes numerals two zero, knobs of garlic. The mind boggles.

Having learnt a thing or two about getting flavour into a dish, it was clear that the process dominates the flavour. You certainly don't want to make a concoction of herbs and chemicals to obtain flavour.

I am also not partial about cooking with wine, preferring soy sauce. It is either wine or soy sauce, the two flavours clash. And then, in true Banting fashion, I started cooking extensively with real butter. Butter imparts a wonderful flavour and I like to think that the butter adds some fat to the dish, making it nice and rich. In addition, butter makes the meat and onions go brown.

So the choice fell on a French style beef stew, rich in gravy. And I called it Boeuf Bourgoignon a la Mode because it is made in a fashion of cooking that I like and, perhaps, to appease the French culinary purists.


750 g beef shin or chuck
250g fatty bacon
4 knobs garlic coarsely chopped
1 medium to large onion, coarsely chopped
4 fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½ sweet bell pepper
1 small carrot diced
3 medium carrots in coarse wheels
3 shallots, coarsely chopped. Use the green leafy parts as garnish
1 cup mushrooms, button size or coarsely chopped
1 small can tomato paste
50 ml soy sauce (a largish dash, I suppose)
½ cup of flour
Pepper to taste
small sprig fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried parsley or a sprig of fresh parsley
1 teaspoon thyme or a sprig
1 dried Thai chilli, chopped
150g butter
some cooking oil


The process here provides the stock part of the dish, so no additional stock is required. Start by getting the butter nicely melted and up to a decent hot temperature. While this is happening, cut the meat into cubes, keeping bones if any. Dry the meat diligently, then dust lightly with the flour. This will make the meat go brown. If there is any water in there, the meat will stay a dull grey colour.

First fry the bacon until crisp, then remove it from the pan. Try to keep as much of the juices as possible in the pan. Do the frying in batches if necessary. After the bacon, the meat gets fried until a nice dark brown.

There will be an accumulation of caramelised meat and flour on the bottom of the pan. Leave it there, that will become the stock for the dish. Again, do it batches if necessary. Remove the meat from the pan when done.

Next comes the onions, sweet pepper and the diced carrot. There should be a decent amount of fat in the pan. If it looks a bit dry, add some more butter. Fry the onions, pepper and carrot until they are a light brown, then add the chilli and garlic. Fry these for fifteen seconds, then add all the meat and the fresh herbs. Add the tomatoes now.

Also add the soy sauce at this stage, then add enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring the dish to the boil, then set the gas to the lowest setting, put the lid on, sit back and relax. Drink some wine.

The dish now has to simmer for at least one hour. Stir often with an egg lifter to help the crust come off the bottom of the pan and into the dish. You will notice that the sauce thickens on its own. This is good. Top up the water as the dish goes dry, you don't want it to burn. After an hour the meat should start to go tender.

When the meat is almost done, add the mushrooms,the shallots and the tomato paste. Simmer for another fifteen minutes or so, then remove the pot from the heat. Then start with the mash and veggies to accompany the dish. This will allow the dish to repose. That is a fancy word for letting the dish rest and develop flavour.

I use copious amounts of butter in the mashed potatoes, along with milk, salt, freshly ground pepper and some chopped parsley. Don't go overboard, though. This is supposed to accompany the main dish, not overpower it.

This dish is not really spicy, therefore it will go with a nice full-bodied red wine. This time around you get to drink the wine, not eating it as part of the dish!

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2014-08-26