Thursday, 7 May 2009

Bordeaux Beef

Bordeaux is famous for its Entrecôte Steaks à la Bordelaise and for the ancient breeds of cattle that were once used as draft oxen to pull carts carrying weapons and goods. They were used for all kinds of agricultural and forest work, hauling wood and working in the vineyards up to the end of the 1950’s.

The Blonde d'Aquitaine

The Blonde d'Aquitaine is emblematic of these Bordeaux breeds. They are large sized, (1.50 meters at the withers and approximately one ton), well muscled, hardy animals with a docile nature, harking back to their days as beasts of burden. The Blonde d'Aquitaine have wheat coloured coats with white horns ending in blonde tips.

The origin of the Blonde d'Aquitaine cattle dates back to the 6th century in the South West of France. At this time, invaders entered France from central Europe and were used by the invaders to draw their carts full of plunder back to Portugal, Spain and Germany. These "Bos Aquitaine", as they were called, were chosen for their strength and robustness and for the their tender marbled meat, low in fat and for their milk.

The Blonde d'Aquitaine result from the merger of three different branches: the Quercy, the Garonnais and the Blonde des Pyrenees. These cattle are from the southwest part of France: from the plains of Garonne, the hills of Garonne, and the Pyrenees Mountains. The Garonnais were well suited to meat production, so much so, that during the 18th century, they were known as "the good cows that fed Paris".

The Bazadais

The Bazadais breed originates from the historic town of Bazas to the south of Gironde (approximately 30 miles from the city of Bordeaux). They are a light steel grey/sable colour with black hooves and have great stature. Bazadais is an ancient working cattle breed, once widespread from the forests of Les Landes, the marshes of the Gironde, the foothills of the Pyrenees to the vineyards of Bordeaux. At one stage Bazas beef very nearly disappeared; it was gourmets who saved it and now 180 French breeders are working to safeguard this heritage which has such a strong genetic potential.

The Bazadaise is an old breed of cattle possibly originating in Africa and arriving in Europe several hundred years ago with the Moors. They are highly adaptable to any terrain and will extract the best from any type of country and used to summer on mountain pastures up to 2400m high (7200ft). They were a working breed, vigorous, strong and resilient and are valued for their endurance to cold and heat and ability to cope with rugged, poor terrain. Today the Bazadaise is gaining a worldwide reputation for the fine flavoured low fat and well marbled meat.

The Bordelaise

The Bordelaise cattle, named for Bordeaux, are on the point of extinction. It was thought that this breed had completely disappeared about 30 years ago, until some animals were discovered in several parts of south west France. There is now a conservation programme: Conservatoire des Races d'Aquitaine in place to restore their numbers.

The Bordelaise is a dairy breed which originated from Dutch and Breton blood. They are black with a white speckled body (sometimes white spots). Their head and legs are always black.

The cows ranged on poor heathland and marshes, providing milk and butter as well as manure for the large vineyards of the Medoc and Graves. The reason for their loss of numbers was the introduction of the Friesian.

Beef Fillet with Périgueux Sauce

Périgueux Sauce is named for the ancient city of Périgueux in the Périgord region of Southwest France that is noted for its truffles. It's is traditionally served with Tournedos Rossini (beef fillet topped with a slice of foie gras).

Fillet of beef
3 tbsp olive oil
4 shallots
1 tbsp flour
20 cl dry white wine
20 cl beef stock
2 tbsp cognac
1 whole truffle or a small tin of truffle pieces
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and place the roast in an oven proof dish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Peel and chop the shallots. (If you are using fresh truffles, peel them.) Cook the roast for 20-25 mins in the oven, depending on how well done you like it. When it is cooked, take it out of the oven, season with salt and pepper and wrap it in aluminium foil to keep warm.

Périgueux Sauce

Fry the shallots in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan without letting them brown. When they are soft, sprinkle them with flour, stir it in, immediately add the white wine, mix well with a wooden spoon and add the stock. Stir again and reduce by half, so that the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Once the roast is out of the oven, deglaze the dish with the cognac, scrape it well with a spatula to break up the sediment and pour it into the sauce in the pan. Stir in the truffle pieces, adjust the seasoning and increase the heat a couple of times to warm it through. Carve the beef into slices and serve with the sauce.

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