Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Autumn Stews from France - Boeuf en Daube

Daube is Provence’s most famous meat stew. It has crossed the borders of provincial France and is found in other regions, too. The origin of a daube seems to be related to the Italian addobbo (which also gives us the Mexican adobo), meaning “seasoning or dressing”. It is likely that the French incorporated this Italian concept into their cooking sometime before the 17th century. A Daube is made of beef, although in Avignon they make it with lamb, and in Nice it is made without as many spices as the Daube Provençal.

A Daube is traditionally cooked in a stewpot called a daubière and is eaten with la macaronade, flat macaroni cooked with a sauce made from the juices of the Daube, along with some mushrooms and a little white wine. The sauce is reduced and tossed with the pasta along with some parmigiano cheese and a fresh grating of nutmeg.

Although most modern recipes call for red wine, a minority call for white, as do the earliest recorded Daube recipes. Variations also call for olives, prunes, and flavouring with duck fat, vinegar, brandy, lavender, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, juniper berries, or orange peel. For best flavour, it is cooked in several stages, and cooled for a day after each stage to allow the flavours to meld together. In the Camargue and Béarn area of France, bulls killed in bullfighting festivals are often used for Daube.

Boeuf en Daube

1.15kg top rump of beef
30g butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
225g onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
450g carrots, peeled and finely sliced
225g salt pork, rinded and cubed
300ml dry white wine
150ml beef stock
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried rosemary1 bay leaf
½ tsp mixed spice
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
6 black olives, pitted

Secure the beef firmly with string then combine the oil and butter in a frying pan. When foaming add the beef and fry quickly to brown on all sides. Drain on kitchen paper then transfer to a large casserole. Fry the vegetables and salt pork in the remaining fat, until golden, then arrange around the beef. Pour in the wine and stock then sprinkle the herbs and seasonings over the top. Bring the mixture to a boil then cover and transfer to an oven pre-heated to 160°C. Cook for about 160 minutes, or until the meat is completely tender. About 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the olives to the pan.

When done, remove the meat from the dish, take off the string then slice. Skim off the fat from the juices in the casserole, return the meat to the pan and serve from the casserole itself.

On the subject of wines to go with your Boeuf en Daube I would pick Château Brane Cantenac (£23 - £50) which is a really good buy. The château was originally an estate of high repute named Château Gorce (sometimes known as Gorse) and its wine was considered the equal of Château Margaux in price and was listed as a second growth in pre-1855 classifications. The château was bought by Baron Hector de Branne in 1833 and took his name. Baron Brane was an influential local figure known as "Napoléon of the Vines" and was responsible for the identification of Cabernet Sauvignon as the Médoc's primary grape. The château was so prestigious that Baron Brane sold the land that today is Château Mouton Rothschild (then known as Château Brane Mouton) to help finance the purchase of this estate. With the Baron's total devotion to the vineyard, the wine was estimated to be the finest produced in Cantenac and was unofficially ranked as the “first of the 2ème Crus”.

The wines from Brane Cantenac are admired for their exotic bouquet of spice, sandalwood, mint and an apple character which makes them accessible 5-6 years after bottling. The flavours are of cassis and ripe raspberries and the wines age well.

Another good choice would be Château Sociando Mallet (£25 - £35) which is in the unusual situation of not being a classed growth when it should be. It was never entered into the Classification despite turning out wines of such quality that it out performs many that are produced by its neighbours. Sociando Mallet's inky purple wines have an unusual capacity for longevity and are one of the longest lived wines made in the Médoc. They are powerful, full bodied, tannic and rich. They are fragrant and have notes of blackberries, raspberries, blossom blueberries and wood.

The second wine of Château Léoville Poyferré is Moulin Riche (£10 - £11) and this is another great buy. It was once a 19th century cru bourgeois estate but since the 2003 has been incorporated into the Léoville Poyferré vineyard. In 1932 Moulin Riche was classified as a Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel – the only wine out of the 11 Cru Bourgeois Saint Julien wines to be marked out as such. Moulin Riche wines are concentrated, dense and powerful. They have smoky flavours of spiced black fruits and plum. They have a voluptuous finish, are tannic and age well. The addition of Petit Verdot to the blend of Moulin Riche since 1970 has helped to express the deep backbone of the wine.

On the theme of high quality wines at fair prices I would also point you towards Le Roc du Chateau Pellebouc (£8.57). Château Pellebouc is owned by Pascale and Baudouin Thienpont – members of the famous wine making family who own Le Pin and manage several other top flight châteaux. The wine is a Gold Medal winner and it's a superb wine. It has a deep, intense purple colour, with a scent of red fruits and spicier notes. In the mouth, it is quite powerful in terms of both roundness and balance. It will delight the palates of wine-lovers looking for a heavy, balanced, fruity wine.

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