Julie, Julia and a Whole Stack of Books
It have a stack of cook books. They sit in two separate locations due to the sheer volume of them. The most used in the kitchen, propped up against my slow crock pot, the others in the sitting room, on the shelf of the console table. Some are well thumbed, others never opened. All written within the last 15 years. Apart from one.
I have a very scruffy paperback which is lodged amongst the Jamie Oliver’s and the Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall’s. It’s Fleur de Lys patterned cover worn and tattle and its pages curled. Inside its pages are recipes to peak the interest and rattle the taste buds of any food lover; Gnocchi de Pommes de Terre, Champignon Sautés, Duxelle and, Boeuf à la Bourguignonne.
Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a complete unknown to me until the release of the film of the book, Julie & Julia in 2009. I watched it because I love Meryl Streep but I completely fell in love with the movie and it remains to this day one of my all time favourites. Between Julie, Julia and Meryl I had a quite read, a cooking course and a movie night all rolled in to one.
I had even never really heard of blogging before I read Julie and Julia by Julie Powell and looking now at her blog, it seems a clunky age away of what can be achieved on free blogging platforms. But it inspired me and I started writing my own blog and I began cooking, in ernest.
In 2010 I took a trip to Washington, DC and made a special visit to see Julia Child’s Cambridge Kitchen in the Smithsonian. While I was there I picked up a paperback copy of her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What I really wanted was the whole set of hardback volumes but I was persuaded that the excess baggage on the weight would probably make them the most expensive set of cook books ever so I had to settle. But, five year on and judging by the state of it compared to some of my other books it was a compromise worth making. It as been read, cooked from, spilled over and almost burned. Its a gem of a book and one I love to use.
For someone who is practically vegetarian and not that fond of beef, this stew is one of my absolute favourite things to eat. Served simply with a spoon of cream mash it fits in to every occasion; family dinner after an afternoon in the cold air, date night to impress a loved one or, if prepared in advance, a mid week meal.
- 500g diced beef, patted dry in a cloth or paper towels
- 4 rashers of smoked bacon, fat still on, finely chopped
- 1 white onion, finely sliced
- 2 carrots, sliced into batons
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Half a pint of red wine
- Half a pint of beef stock
- A tablespoon of tomato puree
- A heaped tablespoon of flour
- A teaspoon of mixed herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley, marjoram)
- A pinch of sea salt
Heat your oven to 230ºC
To begin with, pat your beef dry with some kitchen paper or a clean cloth. By doing this the meat will brown more easily.
In a pan, heat some oil or fat and fry off the bacon until it colours, remove it carefully leaving the oil and rendered fat behind. Add it to an ovenproof (with lid) pot.
Now, add the beef a little at a time to the hot fat and brown it all over to begin to create a crust. Again, remove it carefully and add it to the pan with the bacon.
Add the onion, carrot and garlic to the remaining hot fat and cook until they colours. Whilst it takes on colour stir the flour in to the meat so that it is evenly coated and the flour has soaked up all the meat juices. Put the pot (uncovered) in to the hot oven for around 10 minutes.
Add the vegetables to the meat, along with the rest of the ingredients. Bring the pan to the boil on the hob before popping on the lid and putting it in the oven.
TURN THE OVEN DOWN TO 160º and cook for 2-3 hours. The cooking time will depend on the beef you use and your own oven but the sauce should be deliciously thick and glossy and the meat should pull apart easily with a fork.
I like to leave it overnight and then warm it gently on the hob before serving with some creamy mash…..
This recipe was inspired by Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle & Simone Beck.