Several years ago I came across a very interesting beef casserole originating from the Rhone valley. I've modified it slightly, but believe me it is wonderful rich, lightly spiced, aromatic stew which is still light enough for spring and summer eating!
1.5 kg chuck steak (neck and shoulder) reasonably thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
6 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
freshly grated nutmeg - a good pinch
3 large onions
90 g drained capers
12 chopped cornichons
6 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon plain flour
500ml beef stock
The day before serving we must start with marinating the meat. Take your chuck beef and unusually slice the meat into slices about 1 cm, perhaps a little more, thick. Lay the slices in a large shallow tray and pour over the olive oil and add the bay leaves, garlic, cloves and a good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Cover and leave in a cool place to marinate overnight.
The casserole has to cook for a minimum of 3 hours, so bear in mind your timings. Prior to cooking, remove the meat from the marinade. Strain the marinade and reserve the oil and the garlic cloves.
Take your three large onions, slice finely and mix with the reserved garlic. Now add the drained capers and 12 chopped cornichons. Set aside.
Place the anchovy fillets into a mortar and mash with the tablespoon of plain flour before thinning with 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Pour the anchovy paste into a large bowl and add the oil from the marinade. Stir well and season with a little salt and rather more freshly ground black pepper. Take the meat slices and add to the bowl ensuring an even coating throughout.
Now take a large casserole pot and carefully layer alternative layers of meat and the sliced onion mix. Carefully pour in 500 ml of beef stock, topping up with a little water if required.
Now to create an authentic "brouffade", and more importantly to create a perfect seal on the casserole dish, seal the lid of the pot with a ribbon of firm dough made from flour and water (this is only for the purposes of creating the perfect seal, not for eating!).
Heat the oven to 180 C and cook the casserole for 20 minutes before reducing the temperature to 160 C and cook for a minimum of 3 hours.
When time to serve, bring to the table, removing the seal at the table in front of your family or guests. There's always great excitement as the lid is removed revealing the most wonderful stew, which smells so fabulous!
Serve with vegetables of choice or even a green salad in the summer - fantastic outdoor food for a summers evening!