Challenge No. 38 – Beef Bourguignon

This challenge was suggested by my lovely Dad.  Beef bourguignon is one of the classics from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  With the film Julie and Julia being the inspiration behind my blog, I thought this was a perfect suggestion.  When I searched for a recipe, I did come across Julia Child’s version, however, I ended up using this recipe by James Martin.

Before I get into this challenge, I thought I would explain why I’m a little late with this post.  Sadly Dave’s grandad passed away last Saturday, the 19 September 2015.  At the age of 83, Eric had a long life full of some wonderful adventures.  He was a big part of Dave’s life and Eric, along with Dave’s grandma helped shape him into the wonderful, caring man he is today.  I unfortunately didn’t get to meet Dorothy who passed away 10 years ago, but I have had the pleasure of knowing Eric for the last 7 years.  He was a wonderful artist who was passionate about history and politics.  Eric’s health had deteriorated over the last 12 months and he passed away peacefully in his own home.  He will be sorely missed by those who knew him but I know he will always be a part of my life through Dave.  Rest in peace Eric.   

It has been a tough period since Eric passed away and I’ve struggled to get going with this post.  I actually made the challenge a couple of weeks ago but just couldn’t find the words for my write up.  I’m therefore going to apologise in advance if this post isn’t very good.  Hopefully you will still enjoy reading about this challenge and can maybe take something away to try for yourself.

For this recipe, you will need the following:-

  • For the beef bourguignon
    • 2 tbsp plain flour
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 kg/2lb 4oz blade of beef, cut into large cubes
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 150g/5oz pancetta, cut into small chunks
    • 2 shallots, finely chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 50ml/2fl oz brandy
    • 500ml/18fl oz Burgundy, or other red wine
    • 250ml/9fl oz beef stock
    • 1 bouquet garni made up of 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
    • 25g/1oz butter
    • 150g/5oz peeled baby shallots (or frozen button onions)
    • 200g/7oz chestnut mushrooms
  • For the mash
    • 1kg/2lb 4oz floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
    • 110g/4oz butter
    • 110ml/4fl oz full-fat milk

Edited - ingredients

When I went to get my ingredients, I had a little trouble getting ‘blade of beef’.  I ended up just getting some stewing beef and it seemed to work.

With everything ready, I started off by putting the flour in a bowl and seasoning it.  I then tossed the beef chunks in the seasoned flour and put it to one side whilst I fried the pancetta until golden-brown.

Edited - floured beefEdited - panchetta

I added the beef and fried it off until browned on all sides. Whilst the beef was browning, I sliced up the shallots and got the garlic ready to crush.  I then added these to the browned beef.

Edited - beef added Edited - shallotts

The recipe then states to add the brandy and light it.  I chickened out a little bit here.  Being in a flat with a small kitchen, I was terrified I was going to set the cupboards on fire! So I decided not to use the brandy. 

Instead, I went straight ahead and poured in the red wine and beef stock.  Once it came to a boil I added the bouquet garni and let it cook on low for two hours.

Edited - wine added

Practical tip: a bouquet garni is like a floral bouquet but made with the herbs.  Simply take the herbs and tie them together with some cooking string.

Edited - garni

When the two hours was up, I fried off the shallots before adding them to the beef along with the mushrooms. I had chopped up the shallots and chestnut mushrooms just because Dave and I prefer our vegetables a little smaller.

Edited - frying shalotts Edited - cooked

Whilst the bouguignon cooked for the final 20 minutes, I boiled the peeled and chopped potatoes until soft.  I drained them and put them back on the heat for a couple of minutes.  I added the butter and milk and mashed it all together.

And then it was time to serve up…

Edited - served up

Whilst this was really nice, to be honest, it was just a bit of a posh beef stew and I didn’t think it was as nice as the one made for Challenge No. 02, beef stew with dumplings.  Perhaps it is because I missed out the brandy or I didn’t use the right cut of meat.  Don’t get me wrong, I still polished off my plate and enjoyed the leftovers the next day, but to me, it just wasn’t quite as good as the beef stew I made earlier in the year.

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 39 – apple pie (which was meant to be windberry pie!)

Challenge No. 26 – Chilli Con Carne

This challenge was suggested by my dad and I was really happy to have a go at this one.  Dave and I quite often have chilli con carne but I always cheat and use one of the sachet powder mixes.  Dad’s suggestion was the final push I needed to actually have a go at making it from scratch.

I did a little google search and found a huge selection of recipes to choose from.  If I’m honest there were too many and I didn’t know which one to go for.  Eventually, I opted for this one by Susie Amy.

To make this recipe you will need the following:-

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 500g/1lb 2oz good-quality beef mince
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 red peppers, diced
  • 1 heaped tsp chilli powder
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cumin
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 x 400g/14oz can red kidney beans, drained
  • 2 x 400g/14oz cans chopped tomatoes

I also added 160g bacon lardons and I left out the kidney beans because neither Dave or I like them.  The bacon always adds a lovely taste to my cheats chilli con carne and I thought it would be a nice edition.

Edited - ingredients

I had planned to make this on a Sunday so I could give it a nice long slow cook but my parents decided to pop up for a last minute visit and we went out for dinner because they had eaten chilli con carne the night before.  I therefore ended up making this after work on Monday night.

I started by frying of the bacon lardons in a little oil in a large frying pan. Whilst the bacon was cooking, I started chopping up all the vegetables, making sure they were nice and small. 

Edited - bacon Edited - veg

Once the bacon was nicely browned, I tipped them into a big sauce pan along with the fat they had released.  I then returned the frying pan to the heat and added the beef.

Edited - beef

I then added all the vegetables (except the garlic) to the saucepan with the bacon and let this cook over a medium heat for around 10 minutes to soften.  After about 8 minutes, I added the crushed garlic. 

Edited - veg in pan

Once the vegetables were soft, I added the spices and some salt and pepper.  I gave it a good stir and then let it cook for 5 minutes.  At this point, I contemplated adding another ingredient.  I thought it would be nice to add some paprika, however, I decided to stick to the recipe.

Next up I added the browned mince to the saucepan along with the tinned tomatoes.  I brought the mixture to the boil, covered it with a lid and let it cook for one hour.

Edited - all in

With everything done, I served up with some rice and we tucked in.

Edited - served up

Dave and I both agreed this was really nice but to be honest it just tasted like a slightly spicy bolognese.  Personally we like our chilli a little thicker and smokier.  Next time I’m going to try adding some smoked paprika and perhaps take the lid off part way through to allow some of the moisture to escape.  My cheats chilli con carne is really good (even if I do say so myself, although Dave and my friend Nikki will also vouch for this!) so it was always going to be tough trying to make something as nice from scratch. 

This is the first recipe I’ve tried in Challenge 52 where I really wasn’t very happy with the result.  The recipe did however make enough for another four portions and chilli is better when its been left for the flavours to blend and strengthen.  So, I now have four portions of chilli in the freezer to try another day.      

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 27 – knickerbocker glory! 🙂

Challenge No. 22 – Homemade Burgers

This challenge was suggested by my colleague Dean after he bought himself a George Forman grill. I’ve been making burgers to a particular recipe for a couple of years now but I thought this would be a good opportunity to test my recipe against one made by my family in Canada.  When Dave and I visited my family in Goderich in 2014, my cousin’s wife made us some absolutely delicious homemade burgers and so a couple of weeks ago, I asked Kristen for her recipe.  With the recipes and ingredients ready, it was time to put our burgers to the test.

For my original burger recipe you will need the following:-

  • 250g beef mince
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped finely
  • 2 med egg
  • 25g breadcrumbs
  • 1/8 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 25g parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Edited - ingredients 1

For my adaption* of Kristen’s burger recipe you will need the following:-

  • 250g pork mince
  • 250g beef mince
  • 1 1/2 tsp worcester sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 50g Salt and vinegar crisps, crushed
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Edited - ingredients 2

To serve:-

  • Brioche buns
  • Cheese (we went for cheddar but I also love blue cheese on a burger!)
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Sauce(s) of your choice

*This is an adaption for 2 reasons.  Firstly, Kristen didn’t give me quantities with the recipe, just the ingredient list, so I just went with my instincts and used the amounts I’ve set out above.  Secondly, I left out one of the ingredients Kristen recommended – pickle juice.  Neither Dave or I eat pickles and I couldn’t find any small jars in the supermarket.  I didn’t want to buy a huge jar just for a bit of juice so I decided to leave this ingredient out. 

On with the burger making.  If you’ve never made burgers before, it is really simple! All you need to do is put the ingredients in a bowl, get your hand dirty by mixing it all up until well combined.  You then portion the meat mixture into balls and squash them flat to make your burger patties.

Edited - onion in bowl Edited - mixed up

 Edited - mixed up 2Edited - mixed up 3

I put the shaped burgers onto a greased tray, brushed the tops with some oil and then covered them with cling film before popping them in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up.

Edited - on the tray 2 Practical tip: the ingredients above make a lot of burger meat but it can be frozen to cook at a later date.  Simply shape your burgers, wrap them in some baking paper and cling film.  Pop them in the freezer and enjoy another day.  I also used the left overs from Kristen’s recipe to make some meatballs which I cannot wait to try with a rich tomato sauce and spaghetti! 

Edited - meatballs

Whilst the burgers were firming up, I heated up my griddle pan and sprayed it with some cooking oil.  This is a bit different to what I have previously done as I normally just use a normal frying pan.  However, my mum recently gave me a griddle pan and I thought this would be a good opportunity to try it out.  To be honest, I didn’t like it as much as my frying pan.  The burgers ended up sticking and I think next time I’ll go back to my trusty frying pan 🙂

Once the pan was hot, I added my burgers and let them cook away for around 7 minutes before flipping them over to cook the other side for another 7 minutes.  I gave each side a little longer until cooked all the way through.

Edited - in the pan Edited - flipped

Practical tip: the amount of time required to cook your burgers will depend on how thick you make them.  The thicker the burger, the longer they need to be cooked for but I suggest keeping the heat on medium to low so as to ensure you don’t burn the outside before the inside is cooked.

Once the burgers were done, I put them to one side and toasted some brioche buns (which I plan to try and make myself one day but for now they were store bought) on the griddle pan. 

Edited - toasting bottoms Edited - toasted tops

I added some cheese to the burgers and popped them under a hot grill to melt the cheese.  I then cut the cooked burgers in half and added half of mine and half of Kristen’s to each bun.  Finally, I added some lettuce and tomato to one of the buns along with some ketchup and mayonnaise; the other I left plain as Dave doesn’t like any of this stuff, he just wanted meat, cheese and bread 🙂  I then served the burgers with some homemade sweet potato fries and we tucked in.

Edited - served up

Both recipes produced very tasty burgers, however, I have to admit, Dave and I both agreed that Kristen’s recipe just won the competition.  Kristen’s recipe produced a great tasting burger with a really good texture and it was something a bit different from just your run of the mill burger.  We will definitely be having these again and I can’t wait to enjoy the burgers and meatballs already in the freezer!

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 23 – Chocolate Truffles