Sunday, January 13, 2008


Today, Sunday, is a day about which stern weather warnings have been issued. I don’t think I have ever heard a weather forecaster actually tell me to stay indoors with a good book, but that is what they advised us to do today. Seems like a good day for a daube.

I love the way the French use the name of the utensil in which a dish is cooked to describe it. Marmite, casserole, terrine, pot-au-feu come to mind, as does daube. Alan Davidson, in his monumental work The Oxford Companion to Food, tells us that the daube originated in 18th century Saint-Malo where they were a speciality and included artichokes, celery, pork cutlets, goose as well as beef, and the foodstuffs, once cooked, were removed to be eaten without the sauce and often cold, in the jelly. With the sauce the correct French name is en compote. So Boeuf en Daube, the one remaining familiar dish, should by rights be Boeuf en Compote. I will cook mine in the black oval cast iron cocotte that I use for just about everything.

Next but one to Daube in Davidson’s fine book is David, Elizabeth, to whom I automatically turn first for recipes for this sort of thing. I have several of ED’s books, though not all by any means, and I was surprised to find that daube features at length in only one of them, French Provincial Cooking. She rightly says that there must be scores of different recipes for daubes in Provence alone, and how you make it is largely a matter of what you have.

I chose to use topside, sliced and marinated overnight. Put the oven on at 290ºF.
Into the pot goes:
Olive oil to cover the surface of the pot
A couple of slices of streaky bacon, sliced
1 onion, sliced finely
1 carrot, sliced diagonally
1 tomato, skinned and sliced

Arrange the slices of meat on top, overlapping, and bury a flattened clove of garlic in the centre, plus a bouquet garni that includes a thin slice of orange peel.

With the pan uncovered, start the cooking on top of the stove on a moderate heat.

Strain the marinade into a small saucepan and add to it a large glass of red wine. Bring to the boil and simmer long enough to boil off some of the alcohol. Pour over the meat, cover the pot with foil and then a tight fitting lid and put into the oven for about 2 ½ hours. After no more than half an hour the scent of wine and oil and herbs and garlic starts to penetrate the house, bringing a delicious perfume of Provence to cold and windy old England.

With the daube safely tucked up in the oven it is time to sit down to read, of which more anon.

Serve the meat with a little of the sauce and perhaps, says ED, a persillade of finely chopped garlic and parsley, with an anchovy and a few capers. Or add some stoned black olives to the pot half an hour before the end of the cooking time.

1 comment:

lindy said...

You have been busy since I last stopped by! I'm going to go read about the sherry next.

We seem to use the identical recipe for daube, although mine came originally, I think, from a Nicholas Freeling detective story (!), one of the Van der Valk ones, where Piet's wife was French, and quite the cook. He was insistent on marjoram in the garni.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if NF read some Elizabeth David in his day, though he was a food professional himself before he turned to writing.

I love this dish, and like to toss the extra sauce with some ziti and a bit of parm to have with it. When I first made it, and served it to much approval to my young family, I began to realize that sometimes the simpler thing is best of all. And how nice to smell it cooking all afternoon!

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