3 years, 10 months ago
A simple and delicious traditional French recipe with a helping of local shopping, fantastic fresh ingredients and prep time that leaves plenty of time to take it easy.
Taking three hours over lunch. Shopping for fun. Reading instead of tidying. Smoothing and folding but never ironing. Sleeping late and not thinking any further than the next five minutes. We’re all about the taking it easy on holiday this year. But even the most laissez faire of us have got to refuel. The trick is to slide effortless into the experience. Add a bit of local interest. Pick something simple but spectacularly delicious. And go for versatile. You can spend six hours slaving over a stove if you want but don’t expect grateful applause to ripple in from the sun loungers, nobody loves a kitchen martyr. In that spirit we’ve teamed up with Lavenderandlovage.com to come up with some original recipes to inspire creative cooks and make sure they get plenty of richly deserved downtime too. Starting with a holiday take on the simplest of stews.
Trust the French to make even stew sound romantic. Daube de Boeuf, Boeuf Bourgignon – all pretty much meat in a pot with vegetables and gravy, but never to be confused with grey beef and boiled carrots. Some would say the elevation comes in the long, long preparation. Others claim it’s in the slow, slow cooking. We’re more inclined to think: great ingredients carefully handled and a method that works with whatever else you’re doing that day – in the case of this brilliant Provence Beef Casserole, you can pop it on the stove or put it in the oven, both equally impressive at the end.
Local markets are alive and well all over France and while they might vary in size there won’t be any anywhere without at least one fresh fruit and vegetable stall. Start here and you can’t go far wrong. A lot of smaller towns and villages have tables during the summer where locals sell off the excess abundance from their gardens – sort of like ‘produce pop-ups’. Don’t dismiss these gems on the grounds of misshapen or less than perfect specimens. France isn’t as picky about ‘ugly’ fruit and veg as some countries, it’s often the tastiest and nobody cares what an onion once looked like when it’s cooked to perfection with some fantastic herbs and tender beef.
Speaking of beef, we’re not going to go all ‘herd book’ and technical on you here, but it’s safe to say you may find French beef a bit different from the kind you’re used to. Fat and marbling isn’t prized in meat in France as much as it is elsewhere (yep, those funny little rolls of red flesh wrapped in a slice of pure white fat are really what passes for Sunday roast here). In an ideal world you’d have a chat with the butcher, but lets face it, you’re on holiday and nobody’s that passionate about meat. The next – but very near – best thing, is to get yourself to one of the many wonderland on earth French supermarkets and head for the butchery section. You want ‘Bourguignon’ for stew. Most places sell this in 500g – 1kg packs. It’s cubed and ready to cook but you might want to cut it into slightly smaller pieces and trim – good idea if you’re cooking for kids and want to avoid a forensic examination of the ‘bits’.
And so to the all important element that defines this casserole as Provencal, the herbs. This adventure is one you should leave some time for. Even the most meagre of French supermarkets would rather pack up shop and move to Mongolia than fail on the herb count. From tempting artisan bunches of dried herbs right down to the small buckets of fresh herbs you’ll often find by the scales, the choice is dazzling – and completely mesmerising. You want a bunch of herbes de Provence or a bottle of dried herbes de Provence. And you want to tell whoever you’re with, to come looking for you if you aren’t back in five minutes. Lost in the land of herbs is a real foodie risk in France.
Now all you need is a casserole dish, 10 minutes or so prep time and some hungry but happy holiday people to share the rewards of all your (not so) hard work.
by Karen Burns-Booth
Ingredients (Serves 4)
If you like the sound of Provence Beef Casserole and you’re up for more culinary travels. Our quest for deliciousness is taking us to Italy, Spain and even more of France next. So look out for our easy and amazing holiday recipes from those foodie parts over the next few days.