Cook this: beef bourguignon

Winter is here. Properly. It was a long hot summer, and in the current COVID-19 haze, I just want to sit at home in my pjs and dressing gown, and eat warm comfort food. Maybe you do, too.

I wanted to share this beef bourguignon recipe from my cookbook, because it’s one of the best winter comfort foods I know – I first ate real beef bourguignon in a little bistro in Paris back in 2013, and it was the first time I understood why people make such a fuss over French food. It was magnificent.

My version isn’t quite the food of the gods they’ll whip up for you if you ever have the pleasure of dining at Le P’Tit Troquet, but it’s easy enough to make for yourself. And make sure you make a huge pot of it, because left overs.

Ingredients:
• 500g chuck steak
• olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
• 1 onion, roughly diced
• 3 cups red wine
• 2 cups vegetable stock
• 2 large carrots, peeled & sliced
• 500g button mushrooms
• 3 celery stalks, chopped
• 5 bay leaves
• 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
• ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
• mashed potato, to serve

Method:
1. Roughly dice the steak and season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a large pot over high heat and add enough oil to coat it. Cook the steak (in batches if necessary) for a few minutes, until browned.

3. Add the garlic and onion, and stir for a minute or two, until fragrant.

4. Next, pour in the wine and stock, bringing the pot to a boil.

5. Reduce to a simmer and add the vegetables, bay leaves and thyme. Stir through, place the lid on the pot and simmer for 3 – 4 hours (until it reduces and thickens a little), stirring occasionally.

6. Serve with mashed potato and a little fresh parsley sprinkled over the top.

 

And if you’d like to see more recipes inspired by my travels and the wonderful people who’ve fed me around the world, you can get a copy of my book from $9.99 right here!

Eating the city: Paris, France

The food in Paris is good enough to require no preamble, but the city is a labyrinth when it comes to actually finding the best spots. This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to eat there (so if you’ve been to Paris, please add your recommendations, too!), but I think it’s a pretty solid start to your French food experience!

 

Pistachio choc chip escargot

Why get it:
Because honestly, it’s probably the best pastry in the city. There was a constant, unrelenting stream of people rolling like tidal waves through the place, and most of them were walking away with an escargot pastry if some variety. But Rachel Khoo said she gets the pistachio, so that’s what we got, and that was absolutely the right choice! Perfect in every way.
We got ours from: Du Pain et des Idées, 34 Rue Yves Toudic

 

Savoury crepes (galettes)
Why get it: Paris has a tight Nutella crepe game, but did you know their savoury ones are just as amazing? Usually made with buckwheat flour, they can be filled and/or topped with just about anything, but I’d recommend getting some cheese involved; the porous nature of the galette means that when it hits the hot pan, the melty cheese starts o seep through and caramelises on the grill. That’s why you should get it.
We got ours from: Le Comptoir du Commerce, 1 Rue des Petits Carreaux 

 

Deliciously fancy cakes

Why get it:
It’s not all croissants here – there are some ridiculously good cakes, too! You’ll see lots of little individual cakes, because they’re incredibly rich, and more than a few bites could leave you with diabetes. But they’re the ultimate fancy, elegant treat to accompany your tea or coffee.
We got ours from: Le Valentin, 30 Passage Jouffroy

 

A proper, classic French meal
Why get it: French food has a reputation for a reason, but there are a lot of tourist traps in Paris which don’t really live up to the expectations of visitors. If you can get a proper classic French meal, though, you’ll understand why people go so crazy for a real tarte tatin and a beef bourguignon – the flavours are incredible!
We got ours from: Le P’Tit Troquet, 28 Rue de l’Exposition, where a three course meal will cost you around €35.00

 

Steak frittes

Why get it: It’s one of those meals that should be so simple, yet it’s rarely done to perfection. If you’re willing to spend a little money and eat a little further away from the Eiffel Tower, you’ll find some really fantastic steak. Don’t be scared to order it medium-rare; when you’re dealing with high quality beef, anything more than a few minutes each side will take a lot of the flavour away. Oh, and chips.
We got ours from: Le Café du Commerce, 51 Rue du Commerce

 

Perfect, buttery croissants
Why get it:
Because it wouldn’t be a trip to Paris without a truckload of these! Honestly, I didn’t eat a bad one over there, not this time and not the visit before in 2013. It’s always a good idea to take a sight seeing pit stop for a pot of tea or cup of coffee with a croissant in Paris!
We got ours from: Maison Morange Côté Bio, 113 Rue Mouffetard – we got way more than this one, but it was the unanimous favourite for best plain croissant!

 

Eat here: Le Café Flo, Melbourne

Le Café Flo
709 High St, Thornbury
http://www.lecafeflo.com/

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I love living so close to High Street – the whole way down is amazing, from Preston through to Thornbury, all the way down to Northcote. But, if I had to pick a favourite area right now, it’d be the Thornbury strip. The crowds mostly gather at Welcome to Thorbury’s food truck park, leaving the rest of it pretty free for the locals.  I love spending a lazy Saturday morning walking down the street (saw this GIANT sunflower on the way to this particular lunch stop!), rummaging through Green’s, followed by food. On our last venture, I had a hankering for a sandwich, so we stopped at Le Café Flo.

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This little place is always busy, which is why it’s taken me so long to stop in for a feed – we got lucky, with a table vacating as we walked past, so we quickly grabbed it. It’s a gorgeous little café, with friendly service and a really happy atmosphere. A lot of the diners were obviously regulars, with staff stopping for a chat with a few of them on their way through.

The menu is beautifully and simply French – there are a few fancy dishes like snails, but the baguette and crepe menus are the most extensive. We decided to go with baguettes…
For husband – Le Parisien: Grand Mother’s ham, Dijon mustard butter and cornichons
For me – Le classic: Grand Mother’s ham, Dijon mustard butter, salad and fromage d’Affinois triple cream

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The perfect baguettes – soft and fluffy inside with nice crunchy crusts. This was the ultimate ham and cheese sandwich – husband’s was nice, but the creamy cheese in mine was magic. This is what happens when you use good quality ingredients and put them together in a simple manner. If you’ve got such good ham and cheese and bread, you don’t need to do anything else to them! Considering how busy it was, the service was still pretty quick and friendly, the dessert window looked amazing (pastry!), and it was the perfect little place to relax on the weekend 🙂
Le Café Flo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Le P’tit Troquet, Paris

Le P’Tit Troquet
28 Rue de l’Exposition, Paris, France
https://www.facebook.com/Leptittroquet

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We found this place, as so many stories go, by a fortunate chance. I had been browsing TripAdvisor reviews of Parisian restaurants, not really knowing what I was looking for, other than something on the way to the Moulin Rouge from our hotel near the Eiffel Tower. I got bored after 10 minutes, tossed my phone aside, and got on with picking out some warm clothes for the night ahead. About 2 hours from show time, we left our hotel and started walking in the general direction; the idea was to find somewhere for dinner on the way to the show. When we saw this place, I actually recognised the name from a favourable online review, so we decided that’d be good enough for us!

What we found was a gorgeous little bistro, with the friendliest staff we’d encountered in Paris. We also found an amazing and surprisingly well priced dinner menu – from memory, it was around 30 euro for an entrée, main course and dessert each. I tried not to annoy husband by shoving my camera in his food, but my three courses looked like this:

Entrée: salmon, apple and fennel salad
Main: Beef bourguignon (meat so soft it really fell away at the fork!)
Dessert: apple and almond cart/cake

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Honestly, I wasn’t expecting too much, because at that point, my Paris experience hadn’t been amazing. But this meal really blew me away. It was such a beautiful, warm, cosy little spot, the service was so lovely, the food was incredible, and so was the wine. It wasn’t very busy either, and it felt like it was our own little corner of the world for that dinner time. We’re not a very lovey-dovey kinda couple, but if we were, I’d have said this place was just a little bit special and romantic. I’m really glad I took a business card and the address of this place, because if I ever do go back to Paris, this will be one spot I’ll definitely be re-visiting.