With such a prolonged summer in Cornwall, followed by a very mild Autumn thus far, the trees and hedgerow ferns have only just started to transform into the deep russets, oranges and reds synonymous with the season, so it’s felt like Halloween has come a bit early to Cornwall this year.
Normally on Halloween weekend, we’d opt to go to a fancy dress party and partake in some spooky shenanigans, but this year my husband has been somewhat debilitated by a rather nasty bout of Sciatica and as it’s no fun doing anything much when you’re in pain, we voted instead on a plan B this year.
To ensure we didn’t miss out of any of the fun and festivities, we decided to spend a quieter All Hallows Eve weekend with some good friends. That way hubby could relax and rest-up as needed, enjoy some good company, without feeling such a party pooper.
We kicked off our evening with a cheeky pint in one of our more traditional local Cornish hostelries and some Halloween inspired Cornish beer rather aptly named ‘Bucket of Blood’.
Once our thirst had been suitably quenched and we were feeling as ravenous as blood starved vampires, we headed back to the ranch to tuck into some hearty Halloween fayre I had busily been prepping and planning for all day.
I love cooking and spending time in the kitchen, but not to the extent of missing out on all the banter and fun taking place around the dinner table when we have guests, so these days I like to try and keep things fairly simple and straight forward without sacrificing good taste.
One of my husband’s favourite comfort food dishes, and believe me he has many, is my version of the French classic - Boeuf Bourguignon.
It’s a rich, warming one pot dish and perfect for preparing beforehand and leaving on a nice gentle simmer so all those lovely herbs and juices infuse into the meat.
The gentle waft of thyme, bay and wine that had been slowly permeating the air and drifting through the house all day; filling it with its heady aromas, had been enough to send my husband into a post Halloween feeding frenzy and he had been caught red-handed several times, gazing into my large cauldron sized caste iron casserole pot that was gurgling and bubbling under its breath on the stove, trying to sneak out a ladle full or two.
I decided enough was enough and the patient, who should really be resting and recuperating, not trying to steal mouthfuls of boeuf bourguignon prematurely, should be banished to the lounge to lay in front of the fire while I got on with the rest of the evenings low-key preparations.
I acquired my boeuf bourguignon recipe about 10 years ago now and I’ve altered it and added to it over the years. It really is one of my favourite, one-pot dish recipes that I used to chuck it in our slow cooker before I headed out for a long day at work, when I knew I wouldn’t have much energy to do anything other than ladle it onto our plates when I got in at stupid-o’clock.
I don’t normally add carrot to the dish, but as it was Halloween I thought it would add a little seasonal colour to the table. It really is very simple and straight forward and I hope you enjoy it as much as we always do.
Oil and butter for browning the meat
1kg shin of beef, cut into large pieces
20 button shallots, whole
20 button mushrooms, whole
1 large chopped carrot
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
80g fatty bacon cut into short thick strips
3 lightly crushed cloves of garlic
Bouquet Garni of Parsley, Thyme, 4 Bay leaves, twig of Rosemary, a stick of celery.
1 bottle of red Burgundy
1 tbsp marmite
Salt and pepper, to season
Place the shin of beef in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with seasoned flour (you may have to do this in batches). Combine to coat the beef.
Heat oil and butter in a heavy casserole pan and brown the meat generously. Once nicely coloured, removed the meat from the pan and place to one side while you add the button shallots. Brown them lightly then add the button mushrooms.
When golden, set aside and add the large chopped onion to the pan with the chopped carrot and fatty bacon. Use a wooden spoon to try and incorporate as much as those lovely beefy, floury juices that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
When the bacon is golden in colour, return the beef to the pan, along with garlic and bouquet garni, the bottle of red wine, tbsp of marmite and 250ml of the stock. Stir everything in, focusing on amalgamating those floury beef juices from the bottom of the pan and then turn down to a simmer for 90 minutes. Be sure not to let your bourguignon boil.
Add the reserved button mushrooms and shallots after this time and continue to cook at a simmer for a further 30 minutes.
The longer this recipe is allowed to sit and absorb all those herbs once cooked, the better. I often prepare mine the day before and it tastes simply divine.
Serve with boiled rice, new potatoes or French baguette – the choice is yours!