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Welcome to Eat Well Every Day!

I've spent years researching nutritional information, food ideas and recipes, because cooking and eating - especially with family & friends - are some of life's great pleasures. And guess what- healthy food doesn't have to be boring! It can be exciting and delicious!


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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hearty Winter Casseroles - Boeuf Bourgignon

August has just begun and at last we’re on the downhill run to Spring. But it is still winter, and August is the month when the old saying “as the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger” holds true. So, despite sunny days in Sydney that can reach 21C at midday, there are still chilly nights and gloomy grey days, (especially in Melbourne and Tasmania), and that means warming winter stews.

Stews and casseroles are interchangeable terms. Technically, a casserole is cooked in a casserole dish in the oven, while a stew simmers gently on the top of the stove. But really, they are interchangeable, the main point to remember is to cook slowly and gently. You can use a crockpot or slow cooker, a casserole or a stewpot, but DO NOT use a pressure cooker! Pressure cooking a stew results in tough meat and bland flavours and is a waste of good ingredients.

In an earlier post I wrote in praise of meat as a treat, not as something to be had every day. In that post, I talked about lamb – my favourite meat, and one of the world’s 100 healthiest foods.

So this time I’m focusing on beef – actually stewing steak and gravy beef, (sorry, I don’t know the equivalent US term). Australia is fortunate to have high quality meat that is relatively inexpensive, and stewing steak and the slightly fattier gravy beef are budget pleasing cuts. They are cheap, incredibly nourishing, and respond best to slow, gentle cooking, melting into tenderness and creating rich flavours with the other ingredients.

What’s so good about beef?

• High quality protein with all the essential amino acids in one package in relatively large amounts. One hundred grams of beef contains approximately 33 grams of protein.
• Iron, specifically haem iron, the easiest one to absorb. Iron is so essential for avoiding anaemia, and for enabling the blood's red cells to carry oxygen around the body. That 100 grams provides a hefty three to four milligrams of iron.
• Vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12, zinc, selenium and phosphorus – good amounts of these essential vitamins and minerals.
• Tryptophan, the “feel good” food element. Tryptophan is an amino acid that works as a precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite and mood. Foods rich in tryptophan are said to be “good mood foods”. Beef has tryptophan in spades – 100 grams contains about 0.33 grams.

So to the recipe: Boeuf Bourgignon

This is not the upmarket version that Guillaume Brahimi prepares, but a more budget conscious, down-to-earth casserole that’s probably nearer the French peasant original. As the name suggests, the meat was originally cooked in Burgundy. Since appellation contrôlée, we can no longer buy Burgundy in Australia, so choose a hearty red wine such as a cabernet-merlot or cabernet shiraz blend. Even a good cask wine will serve the purpose.

1kg (2 lb) stewing steak cut into 4cm (1½ inch) cubes
125 gm (4 oz) streaky bacon, cut into strips
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 (or more) garlic clove smashed or chopped
1 teasp salt and ¼teasp ground black pepper
1 tablesp plain flour
500 ml (2 cups) red wine
250 ml (1 cup) beef stock (or chicken stock)
2 tablesp tomato puree
½ tsp thyme
1 bay leaf

16 small button onions or shallots peeled
60 gm (2 oz) butter
2 tablesp olive oil
375 gm (12 oz) button mushrooms

Put the flour with the salt and pepper into a large paper or plastic bag, and shake gently to mix. Drop in the beef cubes, a few at a time and shake to coat the meat with seasoned flour. Keep the bag firmly closed as you shake, you don’t want flour flying all over the kitchen and you!

If your casserole is safe to use on the stovetop, fry the bacon strips in it until the fat is rendered out and the pieces are crisp. Use a large frying pan if you can’t fry with the casserole. (The frying pan needs to be big enough to hold the meat, vegetables, stock and wine.) Take out the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan.

Add a big slurp of oil and heat until sizzling, throw in the meat cubes in batches so as not to crowd them, and brown all over. Set aside with the bacon. Now add the carrot and chopped onion and fry briefly.

Put the bacon and meat back into the casserole/frying pan, add the tomato puree, thyme, bay leaf and garlic, then pour in the red wine and stock. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring as it boils, and turn down to a low simmer. Allow it to simmer gently for five minutes to cook off all the alcohol, then transfer casserole to a preheated 160C (325F) oven. Cook for 3 to 4 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms and shallots. Heat up half the butter & olive oil in a small saucepan and sauté the onions or shallots for about 10 minutes until softened and brown. Set aside and repeat with rest of the butter and oil and the button mushrooms.

When the meat is tender, pour off as much of the liquid as you can from the casserole into a saucepan. Pop the cooked onions/shallots and mushrooms into the casserole, tucking them in around the meat. Bring the cooking juices to a boil, and simmer until reduced to about a third. Pour back into the casserole.

Serve with potatoes, either steamed or mashed and creamy, and steamed green vegetables.
Serves 4.

Another Beef Casserole in the next post!

Buon Appetito!

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