My mother used to tell how, as a young wife, she was somewhat put out when a guest, looking at the pot of Boeuf Bourguignon — the height of sophistication in the late 1950s — would ask, “And what do you call this stew?”
Today we prefer the word “casserole” to describe such a dish, but even that doesn’t do justice to the many and varied recipes - “tagine, “ragoût” or “daube” — that are created by gently simmering a mouth-watering mixture of meat, wine or stock.
This spiced beef ragoût, which hails from Russian Georgia, has lots of interesting spices, as well as walnuts and prunes to add an unexpected touch.
Like almost all slow-cooked dishes, it will taste even better after a day (or two). It also freezes well. Leftovers reheat well too. This dish will wait on guests, which makes them ideal for parties and buffets. Serve it with mashed potato, a bowl of Thai jasmine rice or bulgur cooked in vegetable stock.
Serves 8. Keeps three days in the refrigerator. Freeze 3 months.
● 1.8kg (4lb) braising steak
● For the spice rub:
● 2 cloves garlic, crushed in a press
● 3 teasp paprika
● 1½ teasp ground coriander
● For cooking
● 2 tbsp olive oil
● 3 large onions, finely chopped
● 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
● 2 teasp paprika
● 2 teasp ground coriander
● 1 x 400g can tomatoes in tomato juice or 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes + 1 rounded tbsp tomato purée
● 250 ml (9 fl oz fruity red wine
● Beef stock (if needed)
● 350 g (12 oz) ready-to-eat pitted prunes
● 200g pack walnut halves, tossed in a non-stick pan until they smell “toasty”
● Grated zest of a lemon
● Small handful fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley, chopped
● Preheat the oven to 160˚C (325˚F, gas 3).
● Combine the garlic, paprika and coriander and rub into the beef. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
● Just before cooking, cut it into 4 cm (1 ½ inch) cubes.
● Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add as many cubes of beef as will comfortably fit without crowding, brown quickly on all sides then transfer to a deep casserole.
● Repeat with the remaining beef, adding some more oil to the pan if needed between batches.
● Add the onions with a pinch of salt to the sauté pan, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
● Add the 3 cloves of chopped garlic, paprika and ground coriander, with 2 teasp salt and 20 grinds black pepper. Cook uncovered for 5 more minutes.
● Add the wine and bubble for 2 minutes then add the tomatoes, stir well and pour over the meat. The liquid should barely cover it — if not, top up with hot beef stock.
Bring to a simmer then cover and cook in the oven until the meat is almost tender.
● Add the prunes, walnuts and lemon zest, and cook for a further 30 minutes. Note: if using a fan-assisted oven, you may need to add up to 150 ml (1/4 pint) more stock at this point.
● Sprinkle with the chopped coriander or parsley and serve.