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.
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!