Chez Bruce is my local restaurant. It is also my favourite restaurant and was my mother’s favourite restaurant, so when I was given his eponymous cook book for my birthday I was overjoyed. I couldn’t wait to use it. But I needed a suitable occasion and recipients who would appreciate it – or at least put up with my wittering on about how amazing it would, hopefully, be. Last week the perfect opportunity arose – dinner for some dear friends, no slouches in the kitchen themselves.
The whole book is full of recipes you want to try, but the boeuf bourguignon looked the most ‘do-able’ recipe - a classic that I had cooked before, albeit not using this recipe. It looked relatively simple, merely, as the name suggests, time consuming.
A three-day concoction sounded rather impressive – rather ‘cheffy’ if you will – and the list of ingredients neither looked too long, nor too expensive. Bingo. Perfect. Now all I had to do was find ox cheeks.
Cheeks seem to have become a very fashionable cut of meat, one of the ‘forgotten cuts’ (see also cods’ and pigs’) – much like old-fashioned children’s names such as Ethel are now de rigeur – I’m looking at you Lily Allen – cheeks are turning up on menus again. I found pigs’ cheeks whilst drooling over the menu at Ben’s Canteen. Definitely worth a visit I think.
Anyway back to those ox cheeks. One local butcher said they didn’t stock them and that I was in fact the first person to ask for ox cheeks in twenty years. Chadwick’s in Balham, could order them – but they were the most expensive at over £12 per kg. Moen’s in Clapham were very reasonable, but I couldn’t get there in time. So far, so faffy.
Of all the places, I found the cheapest meat in John Lewis’ Food Hall, just round the corner from work. So far, so convenient. All that was left to do was buy the ingredients for the marinade. But did I have a big enough container to put it all in?
In my case? No. Or not, unless you count a washing up bowl. Bruce specified ‘roomy’. Who knew that some carrots, leeks and celery could take up so much space?
After a night resting in the fridge, I hot-footed it home from work – mainly because the casserole would take 3-4 hours. That’s after the reducing of the marinade and fannying around with the vegetables and ‘aromatics’ – that’s herbs to you and me. It was going to be a long night. As it was I managed to get it in the oven at just after 7.45pm. So at least it looked like I’d make it into bed by midnight. Phew. And more importantly – it smelled fantastic.
Having cooled in the broth, I refrigerated the beef and reduced the sauce by half. ‘Reducing’ just seemed to me to mean ‘boil the bejaysus out of it’, but I have to say once I had ‘reduced’ it (see, I’m even speaking like a chef now) I could see why. I now had a rich, deep sauce. Delicious.
To finish off this three day extravaganza the final ingredients (pancetta lardons, button mushrooms and button onions had to be cooked separately and added as the beef and sauce was slowly reheated on the hob.
In the meantime I ‘whipped up’ a parsnip puree (the parsnips sauted in butter, cooked in milk then blended). I could easily have eaten a bowl of it on its own.
Finally, the marathon session was nearly over. Unfortunately in my haste to get it to the table, I forgot to take a picture of the final plateful. I’m pleased to report that there weren’t any leftovers to take a picture of either.
So I’m afraid you’ll just have to buy Bruce’s book and cook it yourselves. It’s worth it. I am compiling a list of future culinary challenges from it – see I haven’t been scared by the beautiful photography and neither should you!