Easy Peasy Supper: Beef Carbonnade.

Fiesta Friday *4.  

Hip, Hip Horray –

at last, it’s FRIDAY!

Beef Carbonnade.  Comforting, homely.  A no fuss, healthy treat.

Beef Carbonnade.

Beef Carbonnade.

Dress up with Dauphinoise potatoes or herby roasties for a dinner party.

Make a big batch and portion into freezer bags.  Take them out one at a time in the rush of the morning for an instant supper, served with quickly cooked rice and a bagged salad – who needs ready meals?!

A little advance planning required for this Easy Peasy Supper… it takes almost no time to make, and doesn’t require any ingredients that are demanding to use or difficult to source.  Allow a decent amount of time for it to cook, though.  Also, the flavours will fully develop if you make the stew in advance, allowing to cool and then rest in the fridge over night – which I see as an added bonus!

Beef Carbonnade: Easy Peasy Supper.

Beef Carbonnade: Easy Peasy Supper.

Use Shin of beef rather than stewing steak for best flavour and texture.

The recipe is based on Nigella Lawson’s Carbonnade A La Flamande.  See her website for details http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/carbonnade-a-la-flamande

This recipe apparently serves 8.  When I make it, it didn’t go quite that far – either evidence that it’s very good, or that they were very hungry people.

I served with Dauphinoise potatoes.  They gently cook in the oven as the beef heats up.  Their rich creamyness compliments the beef perfectly, as does the colour and texture.

Dauphinoise potatoes.

Sizzling Dauphinoise potatoes.

1 Table spoon olive oil

250 grams thickly sliced bacon, sliced into strips (not too thin)

4 onions (chopped)
2 teaspoons ground allspice
dried thyme, sage, rosemary or oregano – or a combination
1.5 kilograms shin of beef (in approx. 4-5 cm cubes.  Don’t let the butcher cut it into tiny bits!)
50 grams plain flour – wheat free if that suits you better
625 ml beef stock (I use a good quality instant, which is quite salty, so I don’t add extra salt)

4 large carrots, cut into evenly sized cubes
4 teaspoons whole grain mustard if desired
3 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar (I used quince jelly)
625 ml dark Belgian beer (or other dark ale). If you don’t have ale, use red wine

4 bay leaves

1 pinch of black pepper

A large handful of mushrooms, quartered

* * *

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/gas mark 2.

Gently heat the oil in a large, heavy based casserole dish.

Fry lardons of bacon for 5 – 10 minutes, until they’re a bit crispy.

Add the onion and turn the heat down.  Gently soften for 10 – 15 minutes.

Add spice, herbs and beef.  Brown the outside, shifting with a spatula to stop it burning.

Add the flour and shake the pan.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  I always crush the bay slightly to release the flavour.

Cover and gently cook in the oven for 3 hours until tender.  Enjoy the smell as it cooks, but best if you let it cool and then refrigerate for a day or two before eating.  reheat gently but thoroughly before serving.

Dauphinoise Potatoes

Dauphinoise Potatoes

I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but do appreciate it occasionally.  I agree with the importance of the origin of what we eat, and think that’s all the more important for meat, due to ethical concerns.

I sympathise many of the points put across by vegetarians and vegans, but do think that well-managed meat production can be a bonus to life and the countryside, both for us humans, and the other animals that we share it with.

Everyone knows that meat, beans & nuts are especially good sources of protein.  Protein is derived from the Greek Protos, or ‘first’. Whereas vitamins are mainly responsible for ensuring that the body functions well, proteins are needed to build and replace cells and tissue: muscle, hair, bone, nails and skin are all made up of proteins.  Blood contains proteins which help to carry oxygen around the body.  Proteins are needed to make enzymes, responsible for food digestion; and neurotransmitters, which (as the name indicates) help send messages from the nerves – enabling us to see, hear, think and move.

Although some proteins can be made by the body, there are 10 essential amino acids which have to come from food, and can’t be stored by the body.  So a regular consumption is needed to stay healthy.

When we do eat meat, it’s always unprocessed, and I think it’s important to know that it is from an ethical source – what was pure and good for the animal is going to be good for us.

Carbonnade of beef.

Carbonnade of beef.

I’d love to hear about your food choices, and the reasons behind them…

Now I’m off to see what other goodies people have brought to Fiesta Friday.

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Chicken with Dates, Olives and Capers.

I’ve just stumbled across Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful recipe for chicken, dates, olives and capers.  Comforting, exciting, fresh and zesty: what more could a girl ask for at the end of a long day..?

ottolenghi's chicken with dates, olives and capers 1:2

Perfect for family suppers, easy entertaining, or prepare ahead & freeze suppers for one.

Treacly, dark sugar mingles unexpectedly but perfectly with sharp capers, green olives, white wine and vinegar.  Preparing ahead and allowing to marinade for a day or two tenderises the chicken, and adds to the all-round chilled out personality of the dish. Serve with your favourite green salad and crispy herb coated potatoes, basmati rice, or a hunk of fresh bread to mop up the juices.

A warming blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, this is an inspiring, easy dish to prepare for long, cold winter’s evenings, adding a spark at the end of the day when the dark has drawn in.  Having said that, I know I’ll be enjoying it outside, on balmy summer evenings too.

Roast Chicken with Dates, Olives and Capers.   

Serves 4 (ish).

8 chicken legs, drumstick and thigh attached, skin on (2kg )
5 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
15g fresh oregano, torn, plus extra for garnish (be flexible  – I use basil, marjoram or similar)
3 Tbs red wine vinegar
3 Tbs olive oil
100g pitted green olives ( I use pitted olives stuffed with pimento, as I like the flash of red)
60g capers, plus 2 tbsp of their juices
70g , pitted and quartered lengthways Medjoul dates (or the best dates you can afford)
2 bay leaves
120ml dry white wine
1 tbsp date syrup or treacle
Salt and black pepper

Skin the chicken or not as you wish – I always do half and half, as some do and some don’t like to eat the skin.  I’m definitely in the latter camp.

Place the chicken in a large bowl and add all of the ingredients, apart from the wine and date molasses, along with ¾ teaspoon of salt and a good a few turns of black pepper. Gently combine, cover the bowl and leave in the fridge to marinate for 1 to 2 days, stirring the ingredients a few times during the process.

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Spread out the chicken legs on a large roasting tray, with all the marinade ingredients poured over. Whisk together the wine and molasses and pour over the meat. Cook in the preheated oven for 50 minutes, basting 2 or 3 times, until the meat is golden brown on top and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and transfer onto a preheated large platter.  Sprinkle your herbs over to garnish and add to the melange of flavours… yum 🙂

This recipe is from Yotam Ottolenghi’s website – well worth a visit if you haven’t found it yet: http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/roasted-chicken-legs-with-dates-olives-and-capers-shop