Slow cooked Provençale beef, or Daube Provençale, is ideal for feeding a crowd - just plan ahead and you can prepare 24 hours in advance.
This recipe is based on the one used by Mme Brunier of Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe from ‘La Cuisine Provençale’ by J. B. Rebouil, thought of locally as the cooking Bible.
What makes a daube, a daube? This dish, which crops up on almost all harvest menus, is perfect for feeding a large party. Preparations must be made in advance, and all authorities seem to agree that the flavours improve and develop on reheating, which makes it convenient. Is there a definitive version?
Surely not. Everyone who makes it has a favourite recipe, from which over years they may have deviated without noticing. The use of local wine, orange zest for seasoning (only a small thing but the taste comes through subtly) and spices such as cloves, juniper berries and allspice, make this version Provençale, but there are many other versions.
Slow Cooked Provençale Beef
For 8 people
2 kg (4 lb) stewing beef – cuts with some fat, such as top rump, or silverside or even brisket (U.K.) or a boneless pot roast, such as chuck underblade (U.S.A.) are suitable
200g (7 oz) pork fat or 125 g (4 oz) lard
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 – 5 cloves garlic
A piece of orange zest
For the marinade:
2 onions, cut in quarters,
2 – 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
a bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme and parsley tied in a little bunch, with a stick of celery if liked)
salt, peppercorns and other spices (4 – 5 juniper berries, 2 – 3 cloves, 4 – 5 allspice berries)
1 bottle red wine (here Côtes-du-Rhône would probably be used)
1 small glass red wine vinegar
NB Start at least 24 hours ahead – allowing time for marinading, slow cooking, and if wished, reheating.
Cut up the meat into large cubes weighing about 125 g (aprox 4 oz) each. Put them with the marinade ingredients into a bowl and leave for 6 hours in a cool place, or overnight in the refrigerator.
Drain the meat and vegetables, reserving the liquid. Place the liquid in a pan and boil hard to reduce by half. Skim off any scum as it boils.
Dry the pieces of meat carefully. This is important as they will not brown successfully if wet.
Melt the fat in a pan. If using pork fat, lift out any resulting little balls of frizzled fat which have not melted, using a skimmer. Brown the onion gently in the fat and set aside.
Let the fat get very hot and brown the pieces of meat well on both sides in batches. You may find it easier to do this in a heavy-based frying-pan, transferring the meat to a casserole once browned. Add a little of the marinade to the caramelised juices in the pan, stir and pour into the casserole. (An enamelled castiron casserole is ideal.)
Add 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, the orange zest, and the vegetables, herbs and spices from the marinade. Pour over the reduced marinade, adding a cup of warm water. The meat should not be completely drowned.
Cover with foil and the casserole lid and simmer very gently. Timing depends on the cut of meat used; it is best to check after 3 ½ hours. (The most economical cuts need a bit longer)
Baste the top of the meat with the liquid from time to time, so that it does not dry out if it is not quite covered. Remove any fat before serving – this is much easier to do if the daube is allowed to cool so that the fat rises to the top and can be spooned off; it can be reheated when needed. You may also like to remove the orange peel and bouquet garni.
Mme Brunier says the daube should be served very hot and goes well with boiled potatoes or fresh pasta. She adds black olives towards the end of the cooking.
Many cooks thicken the sauce. After browning the meat, sprinkle with a little flour and cook briefly before adding the marinade. Or add a beurre manié (a spoon full of flour mixed into the same of butter) just before the end of the cooking. If you prefer a sauce with more body but do not wish to add flour, you could drain it from the meat and reduce it a little by boiling in an open pan, before reuniting with the dish and serving.
Decanter recommends trying this with either a Syrah/Grenache blend, Côtes du Rhône (if you’ve not used it all in the recipe!) or Châteauneuf-du-Pape.