As I sit here on my balcony looking out at the beautiful sunny, Southern-French weather, it occurred to me that I have been here for almost a month. How time flies!
Marseille is a lot different to Paris, although in some ways, also very similar. Like Paris, the food is also amazing and the sightseeing is great. People here also ignore the traffic lights and pedestrian crossing and don’t seem to really mind when people walk out in front of their cars. But what I have found to be so different is the complete lack of anything English. I don’t think I have seen a sign in English since I got here apart from at a very cafés that are aimed at tourists… which means they are terribly overpriced.
So, basically since I have arrived in Marseille I have filled my time with sightseeing; mainly a lot of old churches and palatial buildings, which I have enjoyed a lot. I have yet to get over the amazement I feel every time I see how old some of these buildings are. There is a fort here and parts of it are 1000 years old. Crazy times. Marseille is also the European Culture Capital for 2013 so there are lots of cool and quirky events scattered throughout the year; there was a fire festival the other week which was really exciting, but unfortunately it didn’t photograph well.
As a sort of initiation into French life, I dared myself to try a traditional French dish; and what better inspiration than Meryl Streep and Amy Adam’s Movie Julie and Julia? So I set out to make Bœuf Bourguignon (it’s the one that Amy Adams makes for the food writer who never turns up, the one that she ruins in her first attempt).
Luckily for me, my attempt went nothing like the character’s first attempt. it went off without a hitch and it was delicious! Now, I must confess, I did not use Julia Child’s recipe, as I am on a budget, I used Rachel Khoo’s recipe (@rkhooks on Twitter or rachelkhoo.com) but I assure you that most of the recipes are rather similar.
Anyway, what you will need is:
900grams of stewing beef, cut into about 6 or 8 chunks and coated in plain flour
150grams of lardons (smoked bacon or prosciutto will also work)
a couple of crushed garlic cloves
a bay leaf (if you have them)
the stalks of a bunch of fresh parsley
a sprig of thyme and/or rosemary (I used thyme)
3 cloves (once again, if you have them)
10 crushed peppercorns
500mls of red wine (about 3/4 of a bottle)
a teaspoon of salt and another of sugar
10 button mushrooms
chopped parsley for presentation
STEP ONE (well my step one anyway): Go out and buy a nice bottle of olive oil, a cute bottle of bay leaves and a bottle of French wine. Firstly, wine in France is so, so cheap! Secondly, when buying wine to cook with, don’t think that you have to go for an expensive bottle, I always use cheap wine in cooking because it is all about the flavours the wine has in it; the quality doesn’t matter when it gets cooked. To avoid any unneeded stress in the middle of cooking, I suggest that you open the wine before you start. Back home, wine bottle have screw-tops, I didn’t even think that French bottles aren’t the same and my lack of knowledge on uncorking a bottle caused me to have a little bit of a breakdown and I may have contemplated smashing to top of the bottle, I didn’t, but I was tempted.
STEP TWO (or actual step one): Turn the oven to 150°C and heat a bit of olive oil in a casserole dish or a pot that can go in the oven. Brown the meat on each side and set aside but keep the oil. Add the lardons, the shallots and the garlic and cook until the lardons are brown and slightly crispy.
STEP THREE: Add the herbs (the thyme, rosemary, parsley stems, peppercorns and cloves) and return the meat to the pot. Add the salt and sugar, 300mls of water and the wine. I also added a couple to diced carrots because I had a craving for carrots, it wasn’t in the original recipe but it did no harm. Scrape any bits that are stuck to the bottom off the pan to add extra flavour.
STEP FOUR: Cover the pot and put it in the oven. Leave it to cook for about 3 hours, the meat should be falling apart a little bit and really tender. Add the mushrooms about 30minutes before you take it out of the oven.
STEP FIVE: Serving suggestions. I served mine with mash potatoes because I thought that would be the best for absorbing up all of the delicious juices. You could also use plain boiled potatoes, dumplings or just a nice loaf of crusty bread (which I did as well). Serve with a nice bottle of red wine, or just drink the leftovers from the bottle you cooked with.
Voilà! A delicious, tradational French feast in only five steps, Julia would be proud!