Sunday, 14 December 2014

French Style Braised Beef

Over the last few days we have eaten a lot of Middle Eastern and Oriental-style meals, so with it being my turn to cook (an opportunity, you understand, not a chore!), I decided to do something much more European. Having a browse through our library of cookbooks I lifted out Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook, which I particularly like on account of its illustrated index. I like to look at pictures of dishes before looking at their ingredients, and if something catches my eye I look further. On this occasion my eye lit upon "French Style Braised Beef", and my dish is based on this recipe, with one significant omission - olives. Both Jane and I dislike hot olives, but they are easily left out without making too much difference to the overall dish.

Not wishing to infringe Mary Berry's copyright, I am not going to give you all the details of the recipe. Suffice it to say that you marinate the beef overnight with wine, Thyme, Bay and orange zest, and then cook it the next day, slowly. This is a dish that needs time, because it uses the cut of meat called Topside, which will inevitably be tough if you try to cook it too quickly. In Mary's recipe (which I suspect is pretty much the same as many other recipes for this sort), the meat is browned separately before being cooked submerged in its marinade at a modest (180C) temperature, for about 2 hours, in a covered casserole-dish so that it remains moist.

Here is the "mise en place" showing the wine-marinated beef ready for browning, and all the veg prepped and waiting. The vegetables are onions, carrots, tomatoes and mushrooms. you can also see smoked bacon lardons, fresh Thyme and loads of butter!

This is a potato dish which I served with the beef. It is loosely based on Potatoes Lyonnaise, except that in my version the thinly-sliced potatoes are placed in alternate layers with lightly-browned onions, and dotted with pieces of butter.

I covered the potatoes with a layer of greased foil and then cooked them in the oven for about 40 minutes, before removing the foil to let them go brown. This is what the dish looks like when it is finished. Crispy on the top and soft inside.

I also did a dish of Brussels Sprouts - from the garden of course:

We usually like to eat Sprouts plain boiled, but on this occasion I wanted to do something a bit special so I cooked them as usual but then smothered them in a creamy mustard sauce, using wholegrain mustard, with a light dusting of paprika purely for decoration.

I used some of the cooking juices (wine and stock, heavily infused with herbs and beef!) to make a wonderfully flavourful gravy.

As always, my photo of the finished item is the least good of the lot. I'm always too keen to tuck into the food, so it looks a bit of a mess!

I carved the cooked beef into very thick slices, like steaks. Being really tender, it would have been difficult to carve it thinly. Of course, the 500g piece of meat I used was far too much for two people to eat at one sitting, so there was a lot left over. I'm sure it will be put to good use...

Overall, I was quite pleased with how this meal turned out. My only real disappointment was that the flavour of the orange zest got lost somewhere, and I think it was an irrelevance.


  1. That looks fabulous, my kind of food, and I love having leftover beef, something which never goes to waste.

  2. Have you ever chopped sprouts and stir fried them?

    1. No, but I have seen this suggested. I always envisage them as being dry and burnt at the edges! Maybe I'm wrong..? What do you think?

    2. I've not tried them this way but was told it was delicious. Maybe adding onion, bacon and a little stock

  3. Sprouts are tasty shredded finely and stir fried quickly, or par-boiled whole (in half if big) and then stir fried. Longer stir frying, or adding a lid towards the end of frying to create steam, makes them softer and wetter, as does adding a sauce (a splash of cream, soya sauce, wine, orange juice etc) towards the end of frying. The final texture - dry and crisp, or softer and moister is up to the cook.
    Shredded cabbage of any sort is good cooked this way, and just about any spice or seasoning (allspice or juniper is good) can be added to ring the changes.

    1. Interesting! You have given me lots of ideas to try. Thanks.

  4. Yum that looks delicious. I wish I could make beef dishes like that, but my husband won't eat red meat anymore. And he never really liked it much when he would.


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