Another school week has ended, bringing us to the weekend of Epiphany. We celebrated the Galette des Rois at CB’s with plenty of food and more presents. There we ate lollipop chicken, hungarian sausages, Italian Panettone and of course, the galette, accompanied by copious flutes of champagne.
Weekends are usually for rest and relaxation. SS often has plenty of homework to complete and RN just wants to stay home and listen to music. She said a very funny thing one Saturday morning, a few months back while lying on the floor, still in her PJs, head on a fluffed up cushion and a woollen sofa throw over her legs, “Ahhhhh! I dream of staying home everyday, listening to music in my pyjamas!” She had her eyes shut, clearly in another world with Andrea Bocelli playing in the background. This child of mine!
Today was an exceptionally lazy Saturday. My plan was for some R&R – reading, listening to music and writing, simply chilling. Of course when you have a young family and a husband with exactly the same plans, the only R&R I got was cooking the dinner at lunch time! But who can blame the Italian, he had been at work all week and the last thing he needed was for his femme to tell him that she had no plans but to chill which translated into man-talk sounds like this: ‘It’s your turn, honey!’
However disgruntled he was with my R&R plans, he acquiesced and took RN to the movies later, leaving me time to bond with SS. Not exactly the “alone” time that I had planned but that’ll have to wait until the kids fly the nest and the husband takes up golf in his mid 50s. There is hope yet!
I had a plan to start this year on a clean cooking slate. This plan involved cooking more wholesome, tasty food with the freshest of ingredients, to improve on my repertoire of dishes so that the girls and the Italian would benefit from a wider variety of cuisines. I also planned to utilise more herbs and spices to add depth to my dishes.
I’ve been a fan of Jamie Oliver for the longest time. His recipes are so easy to put together and to execute. From time to time, I would delve into the only cookbook I have of his,”Jamie’s Dinners”, looking for inspiration and pointers.
I thought I would make my own version of Caldereta since the family enjoyed the last one that manny Ted had made. Jamie has his version called “Jool’s favourite beef stew’ which I thought I’d copy and adapt to the ingredient in my fridge and dried goods corner.
1 Onion chopped
A generous sprinkle of herbes de Provence
800 g of stewing beef or boeuf bourgignon, cut beef into cubes of 5 cm
sea salt or kosher salt (I used sel de fleur)
flour to dust
4 carrots, peeled and halved or sliced into big, thick chunks
1 red pepper, chopped into chunks
2-3 tblespoons of tomato purée
1 beef stock cube (pot au feu) mixed into 285 ml of water (of course if you have stock that you’ve made yourself, you win the award)
2 glasses of red wine
3 -4 cloves of garlic, depending on how much you like the taste of it
Piment d’Espelette (optional)
Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 162 degrees C. Put a generous glug of olive oil in a le crueset or casserole pan. Add your onions and herbes de Provence and fry until fragrant, takes about 3 -4 minutes. Toss your meat into some seasoned flour, then add to the pan and brown. Add water and tomato purée, 2 spoons if you feel it is enough. Add your stock cube, wine and bring to boil. Add the piment. Put the lid on the pan and bunk it in the oven and let it cook for 2 hours. Depending on your oven and your meat, this stew should take no longer than 4 hours. I cooked mine in 3.
In the last hour, add the carrots and red peppers and allow to cook until the meat is tender. This ensures that the carrots still keep their crunch and the peppers are not overcooked. Jamie’s version included parsnips which are quite rare in Paris but there are green grocer’s who sell them, and Jerusalem Artichokes which are plentiful here. He adds all his root veggies at the beginning of the cooking process but I prefer my vegetables crunchy, so I added my carrots and pepper later. The stew is basically done when the meat is soft and yields to the prodding of a wooden spatula.
Serve this over pasta or rice. I served mine with big pasta tubes. Jamie says adding a sprinkle of a mix of chopped rosemary, garlic and lemon zest will pump up the volume on this dish. I can see why because this mixture which is his tweak on gremolata releases a fragrance so beautiful when it hits the hot stew that it leaves you salivating for more. No wonder it’s Jool’s Favourite Stew. Lucky her to have married a celebrity chef!