The world is full of amazing cuisines, but the one that has maintained its reputation as having incredible flavour and taste is France. This class was designed to help you enjoy some of the classic flavours of France without too much stress.
This classic dish can be made two ways – there is a slow cook version that uses a cheaper cut of beef, or you can do a speedy recipe that uses fillet steak – if you buy fillet tails from your butcher, you can save on the cost of ingredients and the dish is a great midweek supper.
Slow Cook Traditional Version – Ingredients – serves 6
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 170g bacon
- 1large carrot sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 1 ½ kg brisket, stewing steak or chuck steak. This should be cut into 2’ pieces
- 1large onion diced
- 6cloves garlic
- 2tbsp plain flour
- 12small pearl onions (optional)
- A bottle of red wine
- 700mls of beef stock
- 2tbsp tomato puree
- 1beef stock cube
- 1tspn fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 2tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2bay leaves
- 500g mushrooms
- 2tbsp butter
- Preheat oven to 170°C (if you are putting it in the oven, rather than the hob method)
- Heat the oil in a large heavy based pot. Fry the bacon pieces over a medium heat for about 3 minutes, until crisp and browned. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large dish and set aside.
- Seal the beef in the same pan, do it in batches so that all the pieces are browned. Remove the beef and set to one side.
- In the remaining oil/bacon fat, fry the carrots and diced onions until softened, then add 4 crushed cloves of garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the bacon and the beef back into the pan, season well, and stir in the flour. Cook for a few minutes.
- Add the pearl onions if you are using them, wine and enough stock so that the meat is covered. Then add the tomato puree, herbs and stock cube. Bring to a simmer.
- Pop a lid on and cook on the hob on a low heat for at least a couple of hours, or pop into the oven and cook for 2-3 hours. For both methods check the pan occasionally to ensure that it isn’t drying out.
- When the dish is cooked, prepare the mushrooms separately. Heat the butter in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms and two cloves of garlic and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Traditionally you would leave this overnight now and eat the next day. This can be really helpful if guests are coming around! Do check seasoning carefully.
Speedy Version –
Start by cutting your steak into strips or chunks.
Heat your pan and add the oil – you can also add some butter
Season your meat and in small batches quickly brown and set aside; then into the pan add your onion, bacon and carrots – soften all and then add the mushrooms until brown.
Sprinkle over the flour, stir and then add your herbs, stock and wine – you want to reduce the volume of liquid by about half.
Taste and season. Once happy with the flavour and texture, add back the beef chunks and it’s ready in 2-3 minutes – the beef should still be slightly pink.
Ingredients – serves 4
- 500ml double cream
- 500ml milk
- 3 garlic cloves
- 8 large King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes
- 100g grated gruyère
- Salt and pepper
- Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
- Tip 500ml double cream, 500ml milk and 3 garlic cloves into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Slice 8 large potatoes very finely, about 3-4mm, add them to the cream and simmer for 3 mins until just cooked.
- Gently stir to separate the potato and stop it sinking and catching on the bottom of the pan. Check seasoning at this point.
- Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and place in a wide shallow ovenproof dish so that they are about 5cm in depth.
- Pour over the garlic infused cream (discarding the garlic) – just enough to seep through the layers and leave a little moisture on the surface.
- Scatter over 100g grated gruyère cheese, if using, then bake for 30 mins until the potatoes are soft and browned – increase the heat for 5 mins if not brown enough.
Baked Croque Monsieur
Ingredients – serves 4
- Béchamel sauce (Note 1):
- 50 g/ 1.7 oz/ scant ¼ cup butter
- 40 g/ 1.4 oz/ 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 375 ml/ 12.6 fl.oz/ 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove
- fine sea salt and pepper
- Sandwich (Note 2):
- 1 French baguette (Note 3)
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ 1 cup Gruyère cheese, freshly grated
- 20 very thin slices cooked ham
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the flour and stir until the flour starts to colour, it should be slightly golden.
- Slowly start adding the milk while whisking continuously. Add the mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper generously and grated garlic. Stir well and let bubble, stirring often until the sauce thickens and becomes slightly elastic. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius/ 430 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slice the baguette into thick slices, about 1 cm/ 0.4 inches thick, I had 20 thick slices. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Top each slice with a good amount of Béchamel sauce, about 1 good tablespoon sauce per slice, more if the slices are larger.
- Top each slice with grated cheese.
- Top only half of the baguette slices with two slices cooked ham each.
- Cover the ham slices with the remaining cheese-covered baguette slices, the cheese should be facing up.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce and the cheese are bubbly and golden brown. Serve immediately with green salad, for instance.
- The Béchamel sauce can be made in advance, covered directly on the surface with cling film/plastic foil and kept in the fridge until later or the next day.
- They can be assembled a few hours in advance. Keep in the fridge until ready to bake.
Apple Tart Tatin
Ingredients – serves 4
- 300g all-butter puff pastry
- plain flour, for dusting
- 6 dessert apples
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 85g unsalted butter (60g/2¼oz chilled and diced, 25g/1oz melted)
- Fresh cream to serve.
- Roll the pastry to a 3mm-thick round on a lightly floured surface and cut a 24cm circle, using a plate as a guide. Lightly prick all over with a fork, wrap in cling film on a baking sheet and freeze while preparing the apples.
- Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Put the sugar in a flameproof 20cm ceramic dish or a 20cm ovenproof heavy-based frying pan and place over a medium-high heat. Cook the sugar for 5-7 mins to a dark amber caramel syrup that’s starting to smoke, then turn off the heat and stir in the 60g diced chilled butter.
- To assemble the tarte tatin, arrange the apple quarters very tightly in a circle around the edge of the dish first, rounded-side down, then fill in the middle in a similar fashion. Gently press with your hands to ensure there are no gaps. Brush the fruit with the melted butter.
- Bake in the oven for 30 mins, then remove and place the disc of frozen puff pastry on top – it will quickly defrost. Tuck the edges down the inside of the dish and, with a knife, prick a few holes in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake for a further 40-45 mins until the pastry is golden brown and crisp.
- Allow to cool to room temperature for 1 hr before running a knife around the edge of the dish and inverting it onto a large serving plate that is deep enough to contain the juices. Serve with crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream
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