The temperature hovered around 0°C last night. I know that isn’t cold in some places but it is here. But the days are bright and the cold wind has dropped. The small plants from our first sowing of broad beans are doing well although those from the second sowing haven’t appeared yet. Everything else in the garden seems dormant apart from the herbs: bay, rosemary, thyme and parsley. I picked a large bunch of each for a casserole today. I love making casseroles because they seem to combine fresh ingredients in a magical way that creates something more than the sum of them all. And you can go out for a Sunday morning stroll in the sun, leaving it all to cook gently, and return to the appetising smell that fills the kitchen, as we did at lunchtime today.
Beef and red wine casserole – for 4
600 grams stewing beef (I used jarret or shin), cut in chunks; 1 onion, finely chopped; 3 carrots, finely chopped; 6 cloves of garlic, chopped; sprigs of rosemary and thyme; 2 tablespoons chopped parsley; 3 large bay leaves; 2 tablespoons juniper berries and 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar; 2 dozen black olives; 500 ml red wine; 1 large glass Cartagène or brandy (optional); 1 tablespoon flour; olive oil; salt.
Cook the onion and carrot in a little olive oil in a cast-iron pan until the onion has softened. Add the pieces of beef, stir and allow to brown slightly. Add the garlic, juniper berries, peppercorns and Cartagène and stir again. Cover the meat with the red wine and add the herbs and salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 hours, checking occasionally that there is enough liquid and adding the olives after about 2 hours. 10 minutes before serving mix the flour with a little of the liquid from the casserole then add the paste back to the pan to thicken it. Serve garnished with the chopped parsley, with rice or, as we ate it for lunch today, with potatoes mashed with olives and garlic. Guaranteed to warm on a winter’s day!