I’m in Burgundy, France, where food and wine come pleasingly together. Boeuf Bourguignon is the dish of the region. It’s a stew of beef cooked in red wine. The name means beef cooked in Burgundy style, and also cooked in the wine we know in English as Burgundy, Bourguignon in French.
You can find many recipes for this dish, but having eaten it on many occasions throughout the Burgundy region it’s become apparent that the only essentials are red Burgundy wine and beef.
However red Burgundy is rather expensive to be used for cooking, and I think it’s preferable to drink with the meal. So what red wine should be used to get the same effect, if not Burgundy? Red Burgundy is made from Pinot Noir. It was back in July1395 when the ruler of the region, Duke Philip the Bold issued an edict banning Gamay, that left Pinot Noir as the sole red grape variety. Gamay was banished to Beaujolas. Philip had really got it in for Gamey, calling it an “evil and disloyal plant” and ordering it to be “destroyed and reduced to nothing”.
So, given our wine will be Burgundy or at least a Pinot Noir and our meat will be beef, what else do we need? That seemed to be the only ingredients in some dishes I ate while others contained a generous addition of vegetables. I prefer my stew to contain some veggies so my version of Boeuf Bourguignon adds root vegetables in fairly large pieces that won’t turn to mush with long cooking.
Ingredients for two – meat and veggies (except onion and garlic) cut into chunks about 1-2 inches square.
400grams/14 ounces Beef
Bottle of Pinot Noir
Two tablespoons of flour for dusting beef
1 onion chopped
1 turnip or swede
4-6 small potatoes
½ a butternut squash
A dozen leaves of Sage
150ml/ ¼ pint beef or vegetable stock
Garlic to taste, chopped finely
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat oil in large oven proof pot and add onion and sage leaves.
Dust the beef in the flour and add to pot when onion turns translucent.
Add veggies except for butternut.
Pour yourself a large glass of wine and put the rest in the pot
Bring to boil, then cover pot and place in oven at 160C/300F for 3-4 hours until beef is tender, stirring every hour or so. Halfway through, add the butternut.
This dish is easy and very flexible, you can adjust quantities and ingredients as you wish and add some tomato puree, Tabasco, or Worcestershire sauce.
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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.