Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fast Beef in Red Wine

Bouef Bourgignone, that brilliant classic of great, rich French cuisine, is to my mind about as desirable as a stew can get. But it has drawbacks. It takes ages and it needs the right ingredients – and as we all know, sometimes those ingredients can be scarce. So if you don’t have pork belly and small shallots (or pickling onions) to hand and lack the (at least) two and a half hours’ cooking time that it’ll take to turn that braising steak into something edible, then this recipe will, within the hour, reward with something just as deep and delicious in under half the time. I look forward to the usual death threats from purists.

Fillet steak? Am I mad? Probably. That’s the key to getting a tender stew so quickly and in fact how this recipe got developed: I ended up with a slab of awful fillet, falling for the Spinneys’ trick of wrapping scraggy fillet-ends in cling film. With no time to take it back and feeling lazy, I did this. I can only justify using such an expensive cut for a stew with the time argument! As for mushrooms, I often use Carrefours’ mixed frozen mushrooms: quickly pan-fried before adding to the stew, you’d never notice they weren’t fresh. Use button mushrooms otherwise, though.

I like to serve this with pan-fried sweet cherry tomatoes and herby toast alongside something green (wilted spinach, peas, asparagus: whatever). So now you know I haven’t been going mad this week – it’s all been a cunning lead-up.

Try this with a cheeky Musar. If you’re going to eat fillet steak stew, at least do it in style...


  • 500g fillet steak, in 2cm cube
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 8 smoked streaky rashers, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 150g mushrooms
  • 1 tsp herbes de provence
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp salt

Heat a splash of oil in a covered, deep frying pan over a high heat and add the steak in two batches so that it fries dry rather than stewing in its own juices. Put the flour and herbs in a bowl and reserve the browned all round steak into this, tossing it to coat it with flour. Slosh the wine into the pan and boil it to reduce by half: this should take 10 minutes or so. Reserve the reduced wine. Wipe out the pan, add the oil and then add the onion to fry over a medium heat until it turns transparent. Turn the heat up and add the bacon, then the mushrooms and then the garlic, stir frying it all so that it starts to brown but doesn’t catch and burn. Re-introduce the steak and fry, stirring, for a minute more before adding the wine and stirring everything together well. Cover and turn the heat to low and leave for 45-60 minutes, depending on how much time you’ve got. Serve!

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