Every region of France has it’s own classic stew or casserole. The most famous, and certainly the most abused beef stew must be Boeuf Bourguignon, closely followed now by the increasingly popular Provencal Daube. In the Languedoc, just south of the Quercy, the king of casseroles reigns supreme, it’s the land of the Cassoulet. However we are splendidly situated for an outstanding casserole of own. To the south we have access to the finest haricots in the world. Just to the north, in the Limousin, some of the finest beef in France. In the west of the province the great Marmande tomatoes beg to be included and right on our doorstep the deepest, darkest, richest wines known to man. This is my own version of a time-honoured recipe that I first ate in the ancient stone kitchen of a nearby farmhouse. I present for your delectation, Boeuf Quercynois.
1kg shin of beef (jarret) on the bone if possible
150g streaky bacon, chopped
50g goose fat or lard
2 large onions, chopped
6 large carrots, peeled and sliced into large chunks on the diagonal
3 leeks, sliced on the diagonal
3 large Marmande tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 bay leaves
Pinch of fresh thyme
Handful of fresh parsley
750g fresh haricots blancs.
* If you do not have access to a fresh supply, this recipe can also be made with dried beans soaked overnight.
1 bottle Cahors wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees
Melt the goose fat in a capacious flameproof casserole, cut the beef into large chunks – reserving the bone – and brown them. Add the bacon, onions and garlic and fry gently for five minutes. Add the leeks, carrots, tomatoes and bay leaves. Give everything a good stir and add the wine. Wedge the bone into the edge of your casserole. Add the thyme and a good few twists of black pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer on the hob, and then put a lid on the casserole and place in the oven for 3 hours.
Meanwhile place the haricots in a separate pan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about an hour. Watch them carefully, they should be soft but not broken, some beans will need longer than others. Add a good couple of pinches of salt and simmer for a final ten minutes. Strain.
After 3 hours, remove the casserole from the oven and take out the bone. Stir in the beans, adding a little water if the casserole seems too dry. Taste the liquid and adjust the seasoning. Return to the oven without the lid for a final twenty minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and take straight to the table.
Serve with a good bottle of Cahors, fresh crusty bread and the last of the green salads.
© Amanda Lawrence