Bourguignon, Cycle Touring Wonders 2.

Today we woke up late, again. It was raining, again. I didn’t go out on my bike, again. This weather is really starting to get to me. And anytime it is nice if I go outside I get mobbed by hordes of hungry mosquitoes.

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It reminded me of my first cycle tour in France. The first week was amazing sun, rolling countryside and a release from work. The next two weeks were sideways rain and always a headwind. During this time we cooked a stew every night and perfected the camp stove Beef Bourguignon (or “Burganoes” if your Australian). A good stew is the perfect thing when the weather is bad and you are camping in sodden woodlands and forets communal.

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You can prep it in the tent, pop everything in the pot and leave it simmering in the doorway giving it the odd stir whilst finishing the first bottle of wine and being slightly worried that wild pigs are going to invade your camp at any moment. Its also super cheap as you can get a bottle of very drinkable wine for less than 2 Euros and the meat costs around 5 Euros a kilo! With a second bottle of wine, a film on the tiny laptop (if you can hear it over the rain) and longer snuggled up in the tent. Its almost like a night in!

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Serves 4-6

  • 1 kg “stewing” beef cut into 5cm chunks
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • 200 gm “lardons” or smoked streaky bacon cut into cubes
  • 15 shallots (French variety, not Australian spring onions), peeled and ends removed.
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into spoon sized chunks
  • 200 gm brown mushrooms, sliced.
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and flattened with the flat of a knife
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • A few sprigs of rosemary
  • Bunch of parsley stalks tied with string
  • 2 black/brown cardamoms (not green, they are a totally different flavour)
  • 500 ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 300 ml water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Liberal amount of fresh ground black pepper

OR

If you are shopping on a French cycle tour the following will feed 2 (hungry) people.

  • 500-600 gm packet of beef labelled “Bourguignon”, typically French supermarkets have pre cut beef in packets ready for the pot. As the cooking time will shorter and the temperature higher I normally go through and cut out the really fatty and stringy bits as they don’t have time to render down.
  • 2 tbsp plain flour.
  • Any kind of oil you have lying around, could be butter if you want.
  • 100-150 gm packet of smoked lardons. Again this is very easy to buy in the supermarket.
  • 6-8 shallots (French variety, not Australian spring onions), peeled and ends removed.
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 100 gm mushrooms, sliced.
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and flattened with the flat of a knife
  • 1 instant Bouquet Garni “teabag”. Another useful find, in the same section as your stock cubes and the like you can find bouguet garni already packaged up in what looks like a little tea bag, just don’t eat the bag by accident.
  • 1 black/brown cardamom (not green, they are a totally different flavour, I normally carry a few of these as part of my spice collection as they add that little extra oomph to a lot of meals).
  • 300 ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Approx 200 ml water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Liberal amount of fresh ground black pepper (or stolen sachets from a MacDonalds).
  • Potatoes cut into 1cm cubes. I am not specifying the amount here as this depends on what will fit into your pot after all the other ingredients have gone in!

The method is pretty easy and universal to most stews I have made. If you are making this at home in a real kitchen you will want to pre heat your over to 150C (not fan forced) and use a Le Creuset style casserole pot. It you are out in the field you will want at least a 2L pot and a stove that you can simmer on. If you can’t get a low steady heat out of your stove  then the recipe won’t work as it does rely on slow cooking the meat. If you cook it on a high heat the meat will toughen up and won’t be so nice.

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Mix together the flour and the meat in a bowl (or a plastic bag) so that the surface of the meat is covered.

Prep all your veg.

Over a high heat cook start by browning the bacon off with a little oil, the garlic, and the herbs (don’t fry the garni sachet if you are using that). When your bacon has a nice golden colour remove into a suitable bowl leaving the fat in the pan (it needs to be big enough to hold all you ingredients).

Next fry the whole, peeled shallots until they have a nice golden colour. Don’t clean your pan in-between either, all the sticky golden bits you start to develop in the pan will add masses of flavour to the dish. Next fry off the carrots and remove them once they develop colour.

You may have some fat left from the bacon but add a little more oil if the pan becomes dry at any point.

Next, fry off your meat in batches. Only have one layer of meat in the bottom of the pan at any one time, you want a brief colour to the meat and to cook the flour. When one batch of meat is browned, take out of the pan and move onto the next batch emptying in all the flour with the last batch.

Add the red wine to the dish and scrape the bottom of the pan to release all those golden sticky bits into the sauce. Then add the cardamom, boquet garni teabag (if using) tomato paste, sugar, all the browned ingredients and stir.

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The final cook will now differ slightly.

At home: Add the 300ml of water, put the lid on the casserole and put in the over for 3 hours. Around 20 minutes before the time is up, stir in the mushrooms, salt and pepper.

Serve with plain boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes or some fresh white bread to mop up the sauce.

In the field: Add the potato, this is optional but I find a little extra starch when I have been cycling all day a welcome addition. Add enough water to cover the ingredients leaving yourself some room to stir. Turn down to a bare simmer and cook for an hour, uncovered. Stir it regularly as it is important that the heat is even distributed. 20 Minutes before serving, stir in the mushrooms salt and pepper.

Serve with a baguette each, with lashings of butter.

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