Boeuf aux carottes

This is real cold weather comfort food, maybe the kind of thing you won’t find in many French restaurants but the sort of thing that would be welcome if you did.

I think that it is rather old-fashioned food, and all the better for not being updated or modernised. I looked through a variety of cookery books to see if I had a recipe for this, without luck, but there are plenty of versions on the internet. Clearly you need some beef, ideally a cheaper cut that requires a long slow cook, lots of carrots and some liquid, plus the aromatics. It is really just another one of those classic French slow-cooked daubes.

I used the following;

4 thick slices of beef shin, about a kilo, trimmed and cubed and coated in seasoned flour
8 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks on the bias,
1 diced onion
3 thinly sliced shallots
3 crushed cloves of garlic
half a bottle of dry white wine
500ml beef stock
three chopped plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons of tomato purée
3 twigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
olive oil

In an oven- and hob-proof casserole, heat the olive oil and brown the beef in batches and set aside. In the same oil slowly fry the onions, shallots and garlic until soft and slightly coloured.

Deglaze the pan with the wine, add the tomatoes, tomato purée and stock and return the beef, plus any juices that have come out of the meat. Stir together and bring to a simmer. Add the thyme, bay leaves and carrots, cover and place in a 160C oven for at least two and a half hours, longer if the meat isn’t tender at that point. You want the meat to be soft enough to be cut with the edge of a fork.

Shin needs a lot of cooking to break down the fibres and tissue and turn the toughness into something meltingly delicious.

I served this with Colcannon mash, not French, I know, but delicious. It is a kind of bubble and squeak really. I steamed a shredded January King cabbage and made some mash, pushing the potatoes through a ricer to ensure that it would be smooth.

I melted about 100g of butter in a deep non-stick pan and softened some chopped spring onions before adding chopped parsley, the cabbage and potato, stirring well so that it was nicely mixed. I seasoned it with a lot of black pepper and some salt and let this cook, so that the bottom took on some colour.

I think that the mix of a French dish and an Irish one is maybe the kind of food you would find in a decent pub.

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