Daube Provençal – the perfect winter stew

As far as stews go, this is royalty and there are lots of different versions of this famous recipe throughout Provence. My stew is made with black olives and lardons which is a gorgeous combination and gives extra flavour and colour to the delicious red wine sauce. One indispensible ingredient to success of this dish is time…and lots of it.

Other than that you can bank on its success as it’s really a very easy recipe to follow and make. The main thing to remember is to start cooking the day before you want to serve it (even though it’s often easy to get distracted with kids, homework and unexpected stuff). But it’s essential! So, voila, here are the ingredients you need to feed a family of 4-5.

  • About 1 kg of good braising steak, not too skinny. Cut into large chunks (3-4cm). I use macreuse which is a shoulder cut. Proper Frenchies use much more fatty meats but I am a bit squeamish about all that blubber.
  • A packet of lardons (small cubes of bacon)
  • An onion
  • Couple of carrots
  • A bouquet garni (some rosemary and thyme)
  • A ½ bottle of  red wine (I usually use a Cotes du Rhone – or one of ours if Stephen isn’t looking)
  • A couple of teaspoons of brown sugar
  • A good quality beef stock cube
  • A handful of chestnuts
  • Some de-stoned black olives
  • A teaspoon of cornflour (dissolved in water)

Soak the beef the day before in red wine with a quatered onion, two carrots and a bouquet garni. Leave it in there for a good 3hrs or so, longer if you have the time.

Once the meat has been marinated take a large casserole dish and brown the lardons in a bit of olive oil and add the black olives. Then pour the red-wine marinade (not the meat) into your casserole dish, reduce it by half by boiling it gently, then add the cornflour.

Add the meat, sugar, beef stock cube and top up with water to make sure all the meat is covered by liquid. Gently heat it up to a simmer – without letting it boil (as that toughens the meat and will impact the result). Then put it in your oven at 100°C (I usually put it in the oven before bed and leave it overnight).  The meat needs to cook for about 5 hours to be nice and soft and you should be able to cut it with a fork (always taste the meat to ensure it’s cooked enough, as it depends on the type of meat, casserole dish you use and other mysterious factors- if the meat’s still bouncy it needs some more time..).

Remove the daube, turn up the oven to around 180°C roast the chestnuts for 20 minutes. Peel them when cool and add them to the daube (and try and fish out the carrots and onions as they will be very flabby).

You’ll normally need to thicken the sauce a bit prior to serving, so put it on your stove without a lid for 15 minutes or so to heat through. If your pieces were very large then cut them down to smaller more bite-size pieces, though I prefer them on the large side and it looks more impressive on a plate. Serve with creamed cabbage or winter vegetables. Here in Provence it’s usually served with fresh pasta and a creamy/cheesy sauce. If that’s not your thing, mashed potatoes or roasties will do just as nicely, or maybe some pan-fried gnocci.

Bon appétit!

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