Or is it pilaf? I believe the words are synonymous, but perhaps it depends if your dish is Middle Eastern (pilaf) or Indian (pilau). This one is a pilau because it’s based on one of Meera Sodha’s from her wonderful book Fresh India, which I mentioned here and a copy of which I now own.
A pilau is made with long grain rice and is a great way of using up leftover ingredients, which is what I was doing the other night when I made it. I added asparagus because at this time of year during the British asparagus season, hardly a day goes by when it isn’t on our menu at home.
Inspired by the success of the lamb ragù in my last post, I decided to try out the “not browning the meat” method once again and made an old favourite: boeuf bourguignon. It was a success, so I thought I’d give you the recipe I used for this classic dish. I adapted it from Delia’s in her Complete Cookery Course. It’s also available online here. I’m probably breaking the rules here but if you don’t have any Burgundy, it would not be a disaster if you use whatever red wine you do happen to have in your kitchen.
Serves 6 generously
1kg braising steak (I used chuck), cubed
1 onion, sliced
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
400ml approx red Burgundy
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or ½ tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Approx 12 small onions or shallots, peeled and left whole
225g streaky bacon, smoked or green, ideally bought in a piece and then cubed but don’t worry if you only have rashers: just chop them up
120g mushrooms, sliced, or small button ones left whole
Spread the beef out on a large baking sheet which fits on the Aga runners and drizzle with olive oil
Place the tray on the top runner of the roasting oven for 10-15 minutes to brown the beef
Meanwhile in a large casserole, sweat the onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the simmering oven until soft and translucent
Place the casserole on the simmering plate and add the beef to it. Stir in flour to soak up the juices, then gradually pour in the wine until it barely covers the beef, stirring all the time. Don’t use all the wine if you don’t have to; remember that you tend to need less liquid when cooking in an Aga
Add the crushed garlic, thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper
Put the lid on and place in the simmering oven for 3 hours or more
In a frying pan on the simmering plate fry the onions and bacon in a little olive oil until coloured
Add them to the casserole together with the mushrooms
Put the lid back on and return to the simmering oven for at least an hour, but longer would not do any harm at all
Sprinkle with some chopped fresh parsley to serve
Boulangère or dauphinoise potatoes go well with this and so does rice. A green salad and/or green beans are also good accompaniments. As with most casseroles, this one is better on the second day so it’s worth making the day before you want to eat it. I’d maybe not add the mushrooms until reheating it on the second day
Look away now if you don’t approve of buying those packs of fine green beans imported from Kenya and Zambia because of the air miles involved in getting them here. We like them in this house so I do buy them. In the last few weeks Waitrose has been stocking homegrown ones which seem a little fatter but are full of flavour.
One of my favourite ways of serving them in the summer is as a salad in a classic vinaigrette. I cook the beans, drain them, plunge them in cold water so they retain their colour and drain them again. And then I toss them in the vinaigrette which I make as follows:
Add a little salt, freshly ground black pepper and 1/2 tsp of sugar
Add 1 tbsp of white wine vinegar
Using a small whisk mix this a little and then slowly pour on extra virgin olive oil, continuing to whisk all the time. I cannot tell you how much oil I use. It emulsifies gradually and somehow I just know when it’s enough. I taste it too of course: if it’s still very tart I might add a little more oil
You may prefer to make your dressing in a jug or small bowl, or in a jam jar by placing all the ingredients in it, putting on the lid and giving it a shake. I find it easier to make it in the salad bowl and have got used to knowing how much dressing I need for the amount of salad I’m making. Sometimes I vary it; for example, I might omit the mustard and add red wine vinegar instead of white, a little crushed garlic and some chopped flat leaf parsley; or, to avoid a too strong taste of raw garlic, I’ll peel and flatten a clove slightly and leave this in the dressing but remove it when it’s time to serve the salad. This provides a mere hint of garlic flavour.
Making the dressing in the salad bowl takes me back to one of my first stays in France as a teenager. I was 15 and went to stay with the family of Sophie, whom we had hosted the previous year. Sophie lived in the heart of Burgundy country in a stunningly beautiful house which seemed to me like half a chateau. She must have found our house in England very small. It was a very hot summer and all meals were taken outside with rarely fewer than about ten people at each sitting. Sophie’s father ran his own business and always came home for lunch, sometimes bringing a couple of colleagues with him. We girls occasionally helped their maid, Lily, in the kitchen and that is where I learnt to make vinaigrette. Another memory is Sophie’s father taking his lunchtime red wine (Burgundy, obviously) with ice cubes. My father was astonished when I told him this. I returned from that holiday with much improved French, new friends and feeling very worldly wise.