It seems that in the UK that as we are about to move from winter into spring that winter intends to have a last fling with cold coming in from the east across continental Europe. So how about a suitably warming winter dish? Travelling around France we have often eaten Daube of beef, and at the moment of eating wondered what daube meant, only to forget to look it up before discovering it on the menu again. Well it is quite simple really, daube refers to the earthenware cooking vessel – the daubière in which the dish is cooked. Traditionally shaped to inhibit the escape of the cooking liquid, it was usually a pitcher shaped, and cooks sometimes went as far as to seal the lid with a paste made of flour and water. The idea is simplicity itself, to braise the tougher cuts of beef in wine to allow the cooking to soften and tenderise the meat, and to do this without letting the liquids in the dish evaporate. The effect can be duplicated using a cartouche of parchment paper sitting over the meat to help reduce the evaporation whilst it braises in a casserole dish in the oven . We were going to take things one stage further. As the BGE retains so much moisture in the cooking, as long as the lid is kept closed, we were going to use a Dutch oven in the EGG, but were going to leave the lid off, just to add some gentle smoky flavours to the dish. There seems to be as many variations on the recipes as there are regions in France! The one we were going to make probably centres its origins around Provence as we were going to include orange and olives and so a further variation of adding a little cherry smoke seemed perfectly reasonable!
As it was a perishingly cold day the cooking was started indoors in the Dutch Oven. Two large onions were chopped into chunks and lightly fried off in a little olive oil. As they became translucent 6 finely chopped garlic cloves were added, as were the little batons of celery cut from 6 celery sticks, Finally, as we wanted some shape and texture 6 halved shallots were added and very lightly fried off.
The onion mix was then removed from the pan and a little more oil added. The meat we were going to use was ‘beef rib trim’ which is the trimmed intercostal muscle from between the ribs of a rib of beef.
This is a lovely meat if handled appropriately. It is a set of hard working muscles that needs to be cooked slowly for an extended period of time to allow the connective tissues between the meat fibres to soften and allow the glorious taste of the meat to emerge. We were using 1.8Kg of beef which is enough to make 12 generous portions. The meat was dusted in seasoned flour, and then in small batches, browned in the pan and set aside with the onion mix.
Once all the meat had been browned, the pan was deglazed with some red wine, and the vegetable and meat mix returned to the pan. Half a dozen small carrots were peeled and sliced into 1cm slices which were added to the pan together with the rest of the bottle of red wine. The wine should be a drinkable wine, but it would be wasteful to use anything more than ‘adequate’ for this task! The mix was brought to a very light simmer, and the rest of the ingredients added: black olives, dried tomatoes, bay leaves, large sprig of rosemary and the juice and zest of one large orange. The original recipe used 1.2L of beef stock at this stage, but as we had no fresh beef stock to hand we used 2 commercial liquid/gel ‘stockpots’ added directly to the mix with no extra water.
The large Big Green Egg had previously been lit and brought up to around 130C in indirect mode and a small piece of cherry wood added to the charcoal for that very light smokey flavour.
The unlidded Dutch oven was placed onto the grill and the BGE lid closed. The plan was to leave this for a good 2 hours before taking a peek at it again as we wanted to keep the moisture in the oven. After 2 hours the whole ensemble was very gently bubbling away (the temperature had kept a very steady 95-96C) – this really slow simmer seems key to the success of this dish. As it all looked very happy we decided to leave if for another hour or so before removing it from the heat. The pan was brought into the house and tilted slightly to let some of the fat that comes off the meat to collect so it could be spooned off.
The dish is ready to serve straight away – but is so much better when left overnight and reheated on the second day. If doing this then some of the fat can simply be lifted off once the dish is cold.
Before serving, remove the Bay leaves and the sprigs of Rosemary (in this case tied together with string so as not to be lost) and finally adjust the seasoning if necessary. Going back to the start of making the dish we had used relatively little of the seasoned flour and so a little of the leftover flour was made into a roux and stirred into the sauce; you really need to judge how much to add at the time. I had thought that cooking without the lid, even in the EGG, would have resulted in enough liquid evaporating to leave the sauce naturally thickened. In general I like to keep any thickening of a sauce to a minimum, but so little liquid had been lost in the cooking of the dish that the sauce was perhaps just a little runny and some very slight thickening allowed it to hold and present the flavours so much better. We served it simply with rich mashed potatoes but I am sure it would have worked equally well with baked potatoes or a large handful of green beans. Unused portions freeze beautifully and can be easily kept for 3 months or so …………. Do give it a try!!
Daube de boeuf
Slow cooked beef casserole
- 1.8Kg Beef Rib Trim
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 2 Onions peeled and chunked
- 6 Celery stalks trimmed and cut into batons
- 6 Garlic cloves finely chopped
- 6 Small carrots chopped into 1cm slices
- 6-8 long shallots halved
- 3-6 tbsp Seasoned flour
- Bottle of Red wine
- 1 Orange (zest & juice)
- 2 Beef 'stock pots'
- 4 tbsp Black olives
- Handful of sun-dried tomato halves (roughly chopped)
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 Bay leaf
- Large sprig Rosemary
- 1 tsp Fennel seeds
- Step 1 Chop the onions into chunks and fry off in a little olive oil. As they become translucent, add 6 finely chopped garlic cloves, the little batons of celery cut from 6 celery sticks, together with 6 halved shallots and very lightly fry off.
- Step 2 Set the vegetables to one side. Lightly dust the beef with seasoned flour and then in small batches brown in the pan then set aside with the onion mix.
- Step 3 Deglaze the pan with some red wine and add the vegetable and meat mix back to the pan.
- Step 4 Add the carrots cut into 1cm slices and the rest of the bottle of red wine.
- Step 5 Bring the mix to a very light simmer and add the rest of the ingredients (black olives, dried tomatoes, Bay leaves, large sprig of Rosemary and the juice and zest of one large orange). Add the equivalent of 1.2L of stock but with as little water as possible (commercial stockpots are ideal for this)
- Step 6 Heat the Big Green Egg to around 130C in indirect mode and place a small piece of cherry wood on the burning charcoal. Put the unlidded Dutch oven onto the grill and close and leave the BGE for a good 2 hours before taking a peek at it again. Check the dish after 2 hours and if all is well leave for a further 1.5 hours.
- Step 7 Remove from the heat and skim any excess fat from dish. Before serving, remove the Bay leaves and the sprigs of Rosemary and adjust the seasoning.
- Step 8 If necessary thicken the sauce slightly with a roux made from the leftover seasoned flour.
- Step 9 Served simply with rich mashed potatoes and freeze any unused portions