Monday, 21 June 2010

Boeuf Bourguignonne a la Julia Child for 25 hungry people

Wednesday 16 June 2010 was Youth Day and we had an invite to go away for a few days with friends to the Underberg. They have a small piece of land with an old farm house somewhere between Nottingham Road and the town of Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg, near the Lotheni Reserve. Image stayed at Lamb’s oldest sister, Star and her family. Wednesday early we set out.
Beforehand I learned that we would be about 25 people going of which half would be students. We were also divided into groups responsible for feeding everybody. Lamb, myself and another couple (Cara Noir & Little King)got Thursday to take care of. I appointed myself as coordinator and decided that because of the cold expected in the Southern Drakensberg, we would need something warm and nutritious. I chose Huevos Rancheros (Mexican farm style eggs) for brunch and Boeuf Bourguignonne for dinner. Like so many others, I am inspired by the movie Julie & Julia. Julia Child + Julie Powel = Julie & Julia = inspiration. Breakfast was easy: 4 chouriço sausages chopped and sautéed in a large cast iron pot to which I added 10 cans of Mexican style tomatoes. As soon as the tomato & sausages started to simmer on the stove, I broke 25 eggs into the pot. I then put everything into a hot oven. Once the whites set, but yolks were still runny, I put grated cheese and nachos over. Maybe not authentic Huevos Rancheros, but still really very good, and easy if you have to feed many. It went down very well anyway.
Main attraction though, was dinner. I have never attempted Boeuf Bourguignonne, but I knew Julia Child would not disappoint. My only two worries were to achieve success having to increase the recipe 4 times as well as doing so in the slightly primitive kitchen (small Univa gas stove). So after spending a leisurely day trying my hand at fly-fishing and lounging around with Lamb like dassies on the rocks seeking out the sun, I was ready to impress.
Starting off with the preparation, I decided that the students also must earn their keep and asked them to peel and chop 5 large onions for me and also peel the 60 odd small pickle-sized onions which I would require. The girls set off with gusto, till their eyes started tearing up. Very ingeniously, they got the male students to part with their quad-bike goggles, which solved the crying problem. Following then the ingredients and my adapted method for Boeuf Bourguignonne for 25 hungry people: 600 g pancetta (ordinary bacon gives too much of a smoky taste. Nice in other dishes, but not this one) olive oil – lots butter – lots 5 large onions 60 small pickle sized onions 2 kg button mushrooms vegetable sprinkle (because I forgot to pack the carrot) 4 tsp salt 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper no flour – because I forgot to pack it. 7 kg mature rump cut in 4x2 cm cubes 3 bottles red wine 250 ml strong beef stock x 2 (for preparing meat & onions respectively) 4 table spoons tomato paste 8 cloves of garlic mashed 2 tsp thyme 2 tsp tarragon (not in original recipe) 5 crumbled bay leaves Sauté pancetta in a little olive oil till done. (I used a very large cast iron pot). Keep pancetta aside. Then start browning the cubes of rump steak in batches. This takes forever. Cara Noir is also a very good cook and she assisted with the browning of the meat. Add more oil after each 3-4 batches. One of Julia Child’s best tips however is to dry the meat with kitchen paper – it browns much easier and quicker. I transferred the browned meat and pancetta to a very large stainless steel oven roaster – biggest vessel I could lay my hands on.
Once all the meat is browned, sauté the 5 large chopped onions in the same whatever pot, saucepan etc. you’ve browned the meat in. Add the wine, seasoning, herbs, tomato paste, garlic & stock to the onions to deglaze the pan. Pour over the meat. Since the roaster wouldn’t fit into the small little gas oven, I put it over two of the burners on the stovetop. The stove was a bit dodgy with (it seemed to me) only two settings – hellfire and slow-cooker, but I managed to keep the dish at a simmer and the meat was perfectly tender after 3 hours. In the meanwhile I brown braised the small onions in stock in the oven and sautéed the mushrooms in butter as per Mrs. Child’s instructions. This involves sautéing the whole onions in butter. Add a bay leaf and thyme and beef stock. Braise the onions till brown and most of the liquid evaporated. Sauté the mushrooms in butter as well and season. By that time, the aromas from the kitchen was driving everyone mad and the people were literally drooling. The older people were sitting around the fireplace in the lounge and the students had a big bonfire going outside. I was drunk on red wine, coffee flavoured tequila, stroh rum, gluhwein and whatever else the people brought into the kitchen to appease the cook. With all the appeasing, I floated on a cloud of bonhomie. During the last half hour I was badgered constantly...when are we eating, when are we eating, but the 25 large potatoes took forever to cook. All that remained to do was add the mushrooms & onions to the meat and... voila! I served the Boeuf Bourguignonne with boiled buttered & parsley potatoes and peas. The whole meal came out fantastically good. To quote Julia Child: “Carefully done and perfectly flavoured, [Boeuf Bourguignonne] is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man,...” I received so many compliments that I started blushing, or was that drinking sherry and sitting too close to the fireplace? Cara Noir took care of dessert. She stewed home-bottled peaches in Cointreau and served that with mascarpone cheese and toasted almonds. Bon appétit!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Sausages braised in cider with super-comfort mash

I, J Hardspear de la Azotea have tried in vain to stick to a diet. (Neither can my wife Lamb). Recently when I took our little Image for her 18 months shots, the clinic sister weighed her as usual. Now the growth chart the sister keeps is printed on graph paper and contains 3 curved lines – a bottom, middle & top curve. Its meaning is obvious. Since Image’s birth she followed the middle curve. At 1 year Image’s line moved to the top curve. Now at 18 months it shot up to some distance above the top curve. Lamb and I are very good at rationalising. So we told ourselves that Image has De la Azotea genes, as well those of as our forefathers (and foremothers) who was Swarts, Van Aswegens, Le Roux’s etc. All being big boned Boere-people. Ja, little Image is tall for her age and sturdy. Rather sturdy than a frail sickly little thing, so we say. Yet at the back of my mind, I am resolved not to raise a fat child. So...what shall we do? Lamb and I have started to become uncomfortable with the size of our respective tummies and our child over-achieves on her growth chart...
A while back my friend Army Man gave me a book by Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry’s wife) called Deceptively Delicious. In this book Mrs. Seinfeld describes her worry over her children (and husband) not eating their veggies – so she started pureeing veggies and putting it into everything – from Mac & Cheese to Chocolate Brownies. The book comes with all her recipe’s and her family’s comments on them.
So with this in mind, on Monday night I started cooking up a storm. Lamb and I love our veggies, but still putting certain pureed stuff in dishes apparently lowers the GI etc etc. My reasoning is that if we all have 3 healthy, hearty (but not diety) meals per day, with healthy snacks in between – we should have results. Basically our eating patterns have been unhealthy and we eat too much snacks and sweets and take-outs. I further reason that 3 healthy square meals will reduce our cravings for bad stuff and empty kilojoules. (Have you ever noticed that you can gorge yourself on KFC, but be hungry again within 90 minutes after the overindulgence?). As usual, I start out over-enthusiastic, so Monday night I cooked a curry and a beef stew for Lamb and me. For Image I cooked a Ragout D’Agneau (lamb stew), spring chicken stew and savoury mince. I put tins of mixed beans (red kidney, chickpea, small white etc) in everything. In ours I kept the veggies and beans whole, but in Image’s I pureed it, but kept the meat & chicken in small cubes. All of it turned out delicious. I divided everything in portions and stuck it in the freezer. Image loves all of it and we already had one of the curries. Last night I used this principle again and made this pork sausages braised in cider with super-comfort mash:

(again, I wish I was a better photographer - it looks more attractive in real-life)

I used Basil and Sundried Tomato Pork Sausages from Woolworths 1 bottle cider 1 onion quartered olive oil 1 tsp good quality powered beef stock 1 level tablespoon corn flour 1 cup cold water 2 potatoes 1 sweet potato ½ can mixed beans 1 fresh clove of garlic crushed 1 tablespoon butter. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Use a saucepan or something which can go in the oven. I used a cast iron pot (used to belong to my Mom’s aunt). Brown the sausages and onion in olive oil. Add the cider and bring to a simmer. Put uncovered in oven for 30 mins. In the meanwhile peel and cube potatoes and sweet potato. Boil in salted water for 20 mins or until soft. Take out of pot and keep aside. Puree the beans. Sauté the garlic in the butter in same pot in which you have boiled the potatoes. (do this very briefly – garlic burns easily) Add the potatoes and bean puree back in the pot and mash. By this time the cider would have reduced considerably. Put sausages back on stovetop. Sprinkle beef stock over. Mix the corn flour with cold water and pour over the sausages. Stir carefully and give just enough heat for sauce to thicken. Serve sausages with mash & cider gravy and slices of fresh pineapple. The cider gives the gravy a wonderful hint of sweetness. Try different brands of ciders. This one this one gets a good ranking on my list of winter comfort foods!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Bad Blogger Hardspear

I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea has been a lazy blogger. So what has happened in nearly 2 months? • I finished a very taxing project at a parastatal. If the way that institution is run is in any way a sample of how other Government institutions in this country are run – I want to emigrate! • Currently I am involved in shorter Change Management projects. • I stressed a bit because of nothing long term being lined up • That changed yesterday • I am busy studying a new computer programme – smoke is turning out my ears • I bought both Julia Child’s volumes of ‘Mastering the art of French Cooking’. I turned out to be some of the best cookery books I have ever seen. I thought I knew how to roast a chicken till I tried Julia Child’s method – wow! • I still get very sad about my Mom, but not depressed any more. • Now my Dad has an aneurism which has to be operated on. Luckily it is in a section of the aorta close to the stomach. Still a big operation, but fortunately not in the brain or heart. • I am SICK TO MY STOMACH about what has been reported in the news relating to children as of late. First the reports of the little girl severely assaulted during a house robbery in Randburg. Then reports that the attack left the girl blind. Then reports of babies dying in childrens’ wards in state hospitals. In one account SIX babies died in one hospital in one day! Then reports of babies being rented out to beggars in order to garner sympathy from motorists in JHB. Reports that these babies get drugged to make them look poorly and accounts of them not getting fed or changed, leaving them listless and dehydrated leaves me angry, frustrated and nauseous. Is this fucking India or what? In the case of the assaulted toddler, the domestic (who knew the attackers and opened the door to them) had the GALL to go to the CCMA after she was fired? Again, I am physically revolted. • I am still in love with my Amazon Kindle. Apart from e-books being cheaper, there are loads of free books to be downloaded as well. • We were not sleeping so well in recent weeks on account of little Image kicking herself open during the night. She then starts crying ‘cause she’s cold. We get up, struggle to get her to go to sleep again and then ourselves struggle to sleep again. Then I found the solution on the net. Moo Moo Kids. They make sleeping bags and babygrows for babies & toddlers up to 5 years old. The sleeping bags have loops which go over the shoulders, so they can’t crawl out of it and they can’t kick the blankies off. I ordered, the package arrived yesterday and Image slept snugly through the night. What a pleasure. I am going to try to find a balance between posing obsessively and not posting at all....