Here's the thing - invite friends for dinner and when they arrive, surprise them with the fact they have to provide it.
We did just this the other night. It wasn't intentional, in fact, we'd planned a scrumptious, belly-warming feast but had got the timing slightly wrong.
Rather than being ready by 7 o'clock, it required way more cooking than we anticipated - and wouldn't be worthy of eating until 10 o'clock. Which for us country folk is tad too late.
I blamed the husband, he blamed the recipe he found on the internet. This, in fact, turned out to be the culprit. The cooking time was listed as "120 minutes or more." It was the 'more' that threw us, as in, add on another three hours.
The dish was boeuf bourguignon, which is French for beef stew, or something.
A few weeks before I had wolfed down a delicious plateful of the stuff at a fine café in Auckland. As the nights grew chillier, I was keen to make it at home, using our wood-burning stove.
Hearty, sustaining, and seriously yummy - we just needed a recipe. I should have been a bit wary of the fact that the recipe, when printed out, ran to three pages and involved many complicated steps. I've never been a huge fan of chucking out all the vegetables halfway through and straining everything else through a sieve. And then having to prepare more veges to add all over again.
But, there we were. The evening had set in, and the guests had arrived and were demanding, quite understandably, food. The situation wasn't made any better by the wonderful aromas wafting up from the oven. Clearly, something had to be done quickly. At this point, I renamed the dish beef buggerit, which I rather like.
That night we tucked into excellent Chinese takeaways, paid for, and picked up by our very good friends. The next night we turned up at their house with sheepish looks, and absolutely, perfectly tender and delicious bourguignon. We also had red wine, homemade bread and apple crumble. Because they deserved it.
However, since then we've hunted out and adapted another recipe, without all the fancy steps. And it only needs 2 1/2 hours of cooking time. Better yet, this version recommends adding brandy and setting it alight - which is always a good party trick.
In the perfect world, pork belly is used rather than bacon, but I think you can't go too wrong with some nice streaky bacon.
And guess what? This week we've got more friends coming, and Beef Buggerit is on the menu. What can possibly go wrong?
- 1kg stewing steak
- 1/4 cup flour
- 200g bacon
- 2 large onions
- A small glass of brandy (optional)
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 cup stock
- salt, pepper
- bouguet garni
- 2 cloves garlic
- 10 small onions or potatoes (optional)
Ideally, this can be cooked in a large cast-iron casserole dish. If you don't have one, brown the meat in a skillet, and transfer it to a casserole dish afterward.
Remove excess fat from the steak, but leave some of this on - it will add flavour to the dish. Cut steak into cubes and coat with flour. Cut bacon into strips and fry for a few minutes in a skillet. Add steak and cook on high for about five minutes. Be prepared to add a little oil if needed.
Add onion and, if you're doing the brandy thing, get everything hot, pour in the brandy, and ignite it. It will be spectacular for a minute or two. Stir in the wine, stock, salt, pepper, and herbs. Chop the garlic roughly and also add this.
Cover and simmer gently for about 2 1/2 hours, stirring from time to time.
In the last half hour, peel and fry the small onions in a little butter. Or you can throw in some small potatoes, which is what the Auckland cafe did.
Lastly, stir in a generous knob of butter before serving.
Serve with mashed potato or bread and some good red wine.