Category Archives: Recipes


robert burns/shirley spear

This year I won’t be doing  my Burns Night thing. The thought of cooking haggis on crutches just doesn’t appeal.

On the 25th January, anniversary of Scotland’s national bard, I’m heaving the dreaded knee op – not the full bifter plastic joint, I hasten to add, just a vacuum out, scrub and polish which, hopefully, we have me lepping about again soon.

Still, doubtess some of ye (especially those Irish who’ve taken to the wearing of kilts at weddings)  may want each  to celebrate the life and work of the bold Rab.

Here, courtesy of top Scottish chef, Shirley Spear, are recipes for the perfect Burns Supper including a mussel brose to start and her famous hot marmalade pudding to accompany the traditional haggis main course. Shirley is an ambassador for Scotland’s Year of Food & Drink which is being celebrated until the end of May 2011. She is also a cook book author and owner of the award winning restaurant  The Three Chimneys, on the beautiful Isle of Skye. .

Mussel Brose

Stage One. Cooking the mussels.


1kg mussels, washed and de-bearded. Discard any that are cracked or open

50 grams butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 heaped tablespoon chopped parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

200mls dry white wine

100mls water

Melt the butter in a large pan. You will need a good lid to fit the pan. Soften the onion and garlic in the hot butter. Stir in the parsley and add some freshly ground black pepper. Pour in the wine and water and bring to the boil. Add all the mussels, lower the heat, cover with close-fitting lid and leave to steam until mussels have opened. (If you want to serve mussels traditionally, cook them to this stage and serve them in warm bowls with the cooking liquor poured over them. Sprinkle with extra chopped parsley and chives when serving.) Remove the mussels using a slotted spoon and leave on a large dish to cool. Strain the cooking liquor through a fine sieve and reserve. Rinse out saucepan.

Stage Two. Making the brose.


500 grams potatoes, weighed when peeled and diced. Choose a floury variety that is good for mash.

200 grams onion, weighed when peeled and chopped quite small.

50 grams slightly salted butter.

2 rounded tablespoons medium oatmeal.

Approximately 250mls fresh milk plus 150mls double cream.

Freshly ground salt, black pepper, chopped chives and parsley, to finish.

Melt the butter until hot and foamy. Add onions and cook until soft. Add potatoes and stir together with the onion. Allow to cook gently for a few minutes. Pour in the strained mussel liquor. Bring to boil and then simmer with the lid on for at least 20-30 minutes. Add oatmeal, stir and simmer for a further 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the cooled mussels from their shells and reserve in a bowl. Retain a few whole for garnish. When brose is cooked, add fresh milk and liquidise. Stir in shelled mussels and the double cream. Reheat and season to taste. Be careful, as salt may not be necessary. Adjust the thickness of the brose at this stage. You may need to add a little more cream or a dash of white wine and water. Finish with freshly chopped chives and parsley stirred through the brose. Serve hot in warmed bowls with whole mussels placed on top for garnish.

Haggis, Bashed Neeps & Tatties

Haggis can be bought from good butcher’s shops and in many supermarkets. Vegetarian versions are also available so no-one needs to miss out. The haggis is already cooked and just needs some careful re-heating until it is piping hot.

Method: Bring a pan of water to the boil. Place the haggis in the pan and turn the heat down immediately. The water should only simmer, not boil as this may burst the case…resulting in a culinary disaster and a ‘murdert haggis’. Some haggis come in a ‘cook-in bag’ to avoid this problem – otherwise wrapping it in foil would help to protect the contents. The length of time it should be gently poached depends on the size of your haggis. As a guide, a 1kg haggis takes around 75 minutes.

For the ‘Neeps’ peel and quarter the turnip and boil for 25 minutes or until soft. Drain and mash with a little butter. Add a teaspoon of caster sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tatties Peel and quarter the potatoes and boil for 20 minutes or until soft. Drain and mash with a little butter and milk to get a smooth, creamy consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shirley’s Famous Hot Marmalade Pudding


150gms fine brown breadcrumbs

120gms soft brown sugar

25gms self-raising wholemeal flour (white self-raising would do)

120gms fresh butter, plus extra for greasing the bowl

8 tablespoons well-flavoured, coarse-cut marmalade (homemade is always the best)

3 large eggs

1 rounded teaspoon bicarbonate of soda plus  1 tablespoon water to mix

Butter a 3-pint pudding basin well. Place the breadcrumbs, flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter together with the marmalade, in a saucepan over a gently heat. Pour the melted ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix together thoroughly. Whisk the eggs until frothy and beat gently into the mixture until blended together well. Last of all, dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in 1 tablespoonful of cold water. Stir this into the pudding mixture, which will increase in volume as it absorbs the bicarbonate of soda. Spoon the mixture into the prepared basin. Cover it with close-fitting lid, or alternatively, make a lid with circles of buttered greaseproof paper and foil, pleated together across the centre and tied securely around the rim of the basin. Place the pudding basin in a saucepan of boiling water. The water should reach halfway up the side of the basin. Cover the pan with a close-fitting lid and simmer the pudding for 2 hours. The water will need topping-up throughout the cooking period. Turn out on to a serving dish, slice and serve hot, with fresh cream, ice cream, or – as is done at Three Chimneys – with Drambuie Custard.

Drambuie Custard

This is a proper egg custard flavoured with Drambuie liqueur. It is served warm, poured around the pudding. Alternatively flavours could be added, such as vanilla, ginger, or crushed cardamom, if you prefer. A tablespoonful of fresh ground coffee can be added, which is delicious with hot or cold chocolate desserts.


275mls fresh milk

275mls fresh double cream

6 egg yolks

100gms caster sugar

2 tablespoons Drambuie liqueur

Whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar until pale, slightly thick and creamy. Gently warm the milk and cream until it is just beginning to bubble. Pour the milk and cream on to the egg and sugar mixture and whisk together. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Bring to the boil very slowly, stirring all the time. As soon as it begins to thicken, or coats the back of the wooden spoon, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl or jug for serving. Stir in the Drambuie, or flavouring of your choice. Serve immediately. Alternatively, cool the custard quickly in a bowl sitting on ice and refrigerate when cold, until required. The custard can be used cold for assembling a trifle, serving with frozen or chilled desserts, or reheated carefully for serving with a hot pudding.

For holiday information on Scotland go to

Scotland’s Year of Food & Drink is being celebrated until May 2011 and is the first step on the road to Homecoming 2014 and a legacy of last year’s Homecoming celebrations. · The Three Chimneys restaurant and adjoining 5 star accommodation is located on the Isle of Skye

Shirley’s recipe book ‘Three Chimneys, Recipes and Reflections form the Isle of Skye’s World-famous Restaurant’, is published by Birlinn Ltd. Price 16.99


Another tasty recipe for  lobster. A ‘pirogue’ (pee-roag) is a Louisiana term for the wooden canoe used for fishing and negotiating the swamps and lakes, Ponchartrain included. By extension, it also means a vegetable that’s been hollowed out and filled. I’ve used aubergine here; you could equally well use large courgettes, marrow, squash or a butternut squash except with the last you’d have to be pretty ingenious to create the canoe shape.

This dish is dedicated to the Rev. Tony Ricard, late of Star of The Sea, New Orleans, the finest ‘sky pilot’ I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to and meet. I first had a version of this dish in an informal restaurant outside ‘N’Awlins’, the name of which I’ve long since forgotten.

2 large aubergines

1-2 tbsp olive oil

45g butter

4-5 scallions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 hot red chilli, cut up very small

1 thumbnail-sized nugget of ginger, cut small

1 tsp tomato purée

30g flour

2 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp cumin

grating of nutmeg

1 glass dry white wine

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to season

2 egg yolks

2-3 tsp Tabasco or 1-2 of Tabasco plus 1 of Peychaud cocktail bitters (some like it hot!)

60 cheddar cheese cut into small dice

350g cooked lobster meat, cut into pieces

1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

A few breadcrumbs

serves 4

Preheat oven to 220ºC. Cut the aubergines in half and hollow them out, leaving approx 1 cm of flesh on the skins (a melon baller or an old dessertspoon with the leading edge filed sharp is a perfect tool for this job). Brush with olive oil and place on a baking sheet (a small ‘flat’ shaved off the underside will make the ‘boats’ stable so they don’t rock or fall over when you plate up). Bake the shells for 8-10 minutes and remove before they start to crumble or collapse. Reserve.

Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. Add the scallions, garlic, chilli, ginger and tomato puree and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour, cumin, paprika and nutmeg and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour and butter combine. Add the wine, stir, then add the milk and the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, lower the heat immediately and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring to achieve the consistency of a bechamel. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf. Whisk in the egg yolks and the Tabasco or Tabasco/bitters, then add the cheese, lobster meat and flat leaf parsley.

Fill the aubergine ‘boats’ with the mixture. Sprinkle a few breadcrumbs over the top and return to oven until the dish is bubbling and the crumbs are browned. Serve very hot, either with a green salad or with some boiled rice, ideally a mixture of white and ‘black rice’.*

* technically, ‘black rice’ is not a rice at all



Preparing the beasts is not rocket science. Cut off the claws, as near to the body as you can. Whack them lightly with a hammer or the blunt end of a cleaver. Peel off the shell and prise out the meat (using fingers and a metal skewer). Twist off the head. Draw a sharp knife down the underside of the belly, splitting the body into two. Extract the meat and set aside. You can save the half-shells for serving the lobster in but I prefer to collect all the residue and make stock, boiling it up with water and any vegetable trimmings I can find.

For the stock

Place the residue of the lobster – head, coral (unless you like it in the risotto), shell – in a large plan with 1.5 litres of water, a chopped carrot, a small onion, a stick of celery and a handful of parley and thyme. If you want a stronger-flavoured stock, here’s a cheat – add a heaped teaspoonful of the Prawn Paste you can buy in the Oriental Emporium or Asian grocers. Boil briskly for no longer than 45 minutes or until the water has reduced by one third. Strain and reserve the liquid, keeping it hot but not boiling.


2 small knobs of butter and a little extra virgin olive oil

2 leeks, thinly sliced

1 small-medium onion, finely chopped

360g good Italian risotto rice (carnaroli, arborio, vialone nano)

1 heaped tsp dried oregano

1 good glass of dry white wine

1 litre lobster stock (above) or hot water

350g lobster meat

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Zest of two limes

Serves 4

Sweat leeks and onion in some butter and extra virgin olive oil in a large pan on the stovetop, under a low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon – important, according to all the top risotto chefs. When the onions just start to change colour, add the rice and continue to stir for one minute. Add the white wine and increase the heat. Keep stirring. When the wine has almost evaporated add some of the lobster (or chicken or vegetable) stock or water. Keep stirring, adding stock or water as necessary; don’t let it stick – as an Italian chef told me “Risotto is like an unfaithful girlfriend. Take your eyes off her, she’ll play you false.” Keep stirring with the wooden spoon, don’t move away from the stove. Add stock or water as necessary, a little at a time, stirring and keeping the constituency slightly soupy. Season to taste – if you are using lobster stock or stock cubes of any kind you won’t need much salt. When the rice is almost cooked, add the lobster meat. When the rice is firm but not grainy – the true meaning of the Italian phrase ‘al dente’ – finish with a knob of butter and lay out on a large plate. Grate the zest of two limes over the risotto and serve.

And, please… no cheese for this one.

The above methodology works for all kinds of risotto. It’s not difficult, it’s not time-consuming – approx 25 minutes from chopping board to table. Remember – stand-over/feed/stir and repeat until done.

Pumpkin Pie

I hate waste.

Having scooped out a large pumpkin so the children who were staying with us could make a hallowe’en lantern, I had to make something. This was the result. I have a smaller pumpkin which I’m saving to make a recipe a friend gave me for a pumpkin, prawn and tasso bisque.

To make the tart shell I used the sweet pastry (paté brisée) recipe from the excellent Dan Lepard/Richard Whittington ‘Baking with Passion’ (Quadrille) which I’d highly recommend if  still in print. The filling is my own.

Recipe made one very well filled 32cm tart. Most people will only have tart tins around 24 cms so this amount should fill two tarts.

(Thanks to Aisling and Rhiannon for being first rate pie-testers)


4 cups of flesh from a large pumpkin (mine was about 2.5 kg!), boiled, drained and pureed

200g dessicated coconut

100g brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of five spice

1 teaspoon flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

397g tin of  condensed milk

1-2 pastry shells (homemade or bought)

Preheat oven to 210°C . Combine pumpkin, coconut, sugar, salt, spices, and flour*. Add eggs; mix well. Add condensed milk and the water; mix well. Pour into pastry-lined tart dish pan. Bake at 210°C for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 180° and bake about 35 minutes longer, or until center is set.

Sprinkle with a little cinnamon/caster sugar mixture or some good grated chocolate, if you like.

*I like a little booze in these things so I added 1 dessertspoonful of Galliano, which I’d regard as optional.


Dukka is an Egyptian spice blend comprising toasted nuts and seeds, the combination of which varies depending on the cook. The ingredients are ground together until the texture is that of a coarse powder.

I first encountered dukka, not in Egypt, but in the Willunga farmer’s market in MacLaren Vale, South Australia during Tasting Australia 2005. Dukka seems to have insinuated itself into the Aussie food culture and sharing a crusty loaf of fresh bread, dipped in extra virgin olive oil, then in dukka, over a bottle or two of good wine is as good a way of whiling away an afternoon as I know.

The hake recipe was an experiment that worked, at least for me and my lunch guests. I served it with a butternut squash risotto and a green salad of French beans, mangetout, garden peas, red onion and rocket in an olive oil and tarragon vinegar dressing – an adaptation of a recipe I found in Yolam Ottolengi’s superb book ‘Plenty’.

In Australia it’s easy to buy dukka but I haven’t found it in Dublin. My recipe is still ‘work in progress’. This the best so far.

For the dukka

2 tablespoons whole hazelnuts

2 tablespoons macadamia or brazil nuts

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Small pinch ground dried chillis (optional)

Small pinch ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 degs. C. Arrange nuts and sunflower seeds in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast for 10 minutes and remove. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, roast sesame, cumin and coriander seeds, stirring often, for 7-8 minutes or until sesame seeds are golden brown. Allow cool. Pulse all dukka ingredients in a food processor or an electric coffee/spice grinder until finely ground – but do not grind to a paste. Apparently dukka can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a couple of weeks but in my opinion, it is best made and used fresh.

For the hake

4 fillets hake, skinned

Small glass of dry white wine

Small knob of butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200 degs. C. Arrange the hake fillets, side by side, in a flat dish. Pour the wine around the fillets, making sure that the tops of the fillets are well above the level of the liquid. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the fillets, plus a few flakes of butter. Add a squeeze of lemon. Bake in oven for 10 minutes. If necessary, pour off some of the liquid. Crust the fillets with the dukka and return to oven for a further 10 minutes.

Other white fish, cod, haddock, monkfish, pollock etc would work just as well. If using flatfish, keep the liquid level low. If the top of the fish is soaked in the liquid the dukka crust will go soggy.

Green Tomato Chutney

Never tasted a green tomato chutney I liked but something had to be done because the first frost came and, hey presto! I found myself with a mountain of green tomatoes. Lisboa81 put a recipe on the forum for fried green tomatoes that I’m dying to try and thanks also to Tony Ecock of the fine Thai House in Dalkey who told me green tomatoes add a good bite to Thai red curries – but I have 8kg of the bloody things – a lot of curry! In default of finding other recipes I liked, I had a play and came up with this. It works very nicely. I hate chutneys that taste burnt or have heavy overlays of dark raisins or are just too sour and vinegary or too bland. For me this one ticks all the boxes.

2 medium-sized onions,

1 red pepper

1 piece peeled fresh ginger  approx 30mm x 20mm

1 heaped ts ground cumin

1 heaped tsp five spice

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 flat tsp turmeric

1 flat tsp Australian alpine pepper or freshly ground black pepper

1 pinch coarsely ground dried chillies

2 tsp sea salt

2 kg green tomatoes

175g light sultanas

100g demerara sugar

100 g white sugar

75-120 ml wine vinegar (to taste)

1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

First sterilize your preserving jars. This can be done by with boiling water or with Chempro, the chemical brewers use for sterilizing fermenting vessels. From my home brew days I used bleach – of the non-scented ‘Domestos’ variety, rinsing thoroughly, and this works fine.

Chop all your vegetables finely and slice the ginger into thin slivers. Heat the olive oil in a stainless steel pan large enough to accommodate all ingredients. Sweat the onion, pepper, ginger and spices in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, stirring with a stainless steel or clean wooden spoon to ensure nothing sticks. Add the salt, tomatoes and sultanas (you can also add other fruits/vegetables such as chopped apples, pears, limes, lemons, courgettes or whatever but keep the total quantity at around 2kg). Add the sugar and bring to the boil, stirring. When the sugar has dissolved add the vinegar and boil for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 15 minutes, check and adjust for desired sweet/sour balance and adjust with sugar or vinegar as required. Add the fresh coriander at this point.

Remove, bottle and seal. Keep 2-4 weeks before opening to allow flavours to meld.

* I used ‘Australian Alpine Pepper’ – Cherikoff brand, used to be available at J.Sainsbury, UK and hopefully still is – for the same reason as people climb Everest – because it’s there! Freshly ground black pepper, I’d say would do fine.

PORK PIE – after the Melton Mowbray fashion

I dug up my old recipe in response to my mates’  Harriet and Evan’s request for pie recipes for their food project on KCRW’s Pie a Day Blog Project.

This is my own interpretation of an English traditional dish. The methodology and recipe is a cross between that of my mother, Doris Whalley and Jane Grigson (‘Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery’ is one of my all-time favourite cookbooks). The recipe is complex, takes considerable time and is definitely a labour of love which is why I only make this pie about every five years! Nor is it for the diet conscious. Lovers of lo-cal should avert their eyes.

In the north of England these pies are often known as ‘stand’ or ‘raised’ pies. A local nickname, from the Manchester area, for a smaller individual-sized pie is ‘a growler’. And of course the pork pie has also made it into rhyming slang parlance as in the phrase telling ‘pork pies’ or, more commonly, ‘porky pies’, i.e. ‘lies’.

Melton Mowbray is a small town in Leicestershire, in the English Midlands. The town has strong culinary associations. Stilton cheese originated near Melton Mowbray, and is still made in the town today. Stilton cheese takes its name from the village of Stilton, 80 miles north of London, on the Great North Road. This was a staging post where the cheeses were offloaded by local deliverers for bulk transportation to London. No Stilton cheese was ever made there.

Although supermarkets routinely carry pork pies with the label ‘Melton Mowbray’, there is in fact a specific hand-raising process and recipe which marks a pie as a Melton Mowbray pork pie. On 4 April 2008 the European Union awarded the Melton Mowbray pork pie Protected Geographical Indication status, following representations from the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association. As a result of this ruling, only pies using uncured pork and made within a designated zone, are allowed to carry the Melton Mowbray name.

The phrase “painting the town red” is said to have originated in Melton Mowbray. In 1837, celebrating a good day’s hunting, the Marquess of Waterford and his friends, under the influence of alcohol, found several tins of red paint which they daubed liberally on to the buildings of the High Street. Were this to happen today and were the offenders inner city kids they’d have been sentenced to community service at the very least. I presume the Marquess and his mates got off scot free.

A hinged mould (mine came from my grannie) facilitates making this pie. Mine measures around 9 x 5.5 inches and is just over 4 inches deep. Otherwise, use a round or oval mould with parallel sides, like a deep Le Creuset dish of similar dimensions.

For the jelly

1,000g (approx) pork bones, plus a veal knuckle or a pig’s trotter.

1 medium sized carrot

1 onion, stick with 4 cloves

6 peppercorns,

Bouquet garni

Salt, pepper and lemon juice to season

The jelly can be made the night before if you wish and refreshed by re-heating it just to pouring consistency.

Put the ingredients (no salt) into a large pan, cover with water and a lid and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2-3 hours and strain. Return to stove and boil down to 500 ml. Season carefully with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

For the pastry crust

700g plain flour

1 level tbsp salt

2 level tbsp caster sugar

250g lard

Cold water

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. In a saucepan dissolve the lard in hot water and pour the mixture into the well. Mix with a wooden spoon or electric whisk or combine in a mixer or food processor. Knead the warm dough until smooth. You need to be able to work it but it must not be so soft that it slides down the side of the mould.

For the pie filling

1 onion, chopped fine,

750g pork shoulder meat, coarsely chopped

250g pork sausage meat

200g chopped streaky bacon rashers (Melton Mowbray purists should omit – bacon is cured)

100g Leicester, Cheshire, Cheddar or Wensleydale cheese, broken into small chunks (optional)

1 Cox apple, peeled and finely chopped (optional)

2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped fine

1 tsp ground mace

100 ml English pale ale

1 large egg, beaten

Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees C.

Cook the onion lightly in a little oil and reserve. Mix together the onion, pork shoulder, sausage meat, bacon, cheese and apple (optional), sage and mace and moisten with the ale. Season sparingly with salt and pepper.

Line the mould with the pastry, reserving about a quarter for the top. Spoon in the mixture until the case is filled about three-quarters of the way to the top. Roll out and cut a lid for the mould. Moisten the exposed edges, place the lid on top and crimp the sides to seal. Brush the top with the beaten egg. Lay 3 circles of baking paper on top of the pie and bake for 2 hours . Remove from oven and allow cool for 2 hours. Cut a hole in the lid large enough to insert a small funnel and pour in the stock until it just starts to overflow. Place in refrigerator until set.

Remove carefully from mould and cut into wedges to serve.

So it goes… This week's decent drinking

Forget schnizel and noodles. For Chinese, Thai, and even Indian curries there’s no more savvy match than Austrian whites. Asheesh Dewan who runs the Jaipur group of restaurants has long been a fan; ‘gru v’ has been on all his wine lists since he first opened. Recently at Chakra, the group’s Greystones restaurant, head chef Sunil Gai got together with the Wicklow Wine Company’s Ben Mason to devise some congenial pairings. Of these, pan seared scallops with cauliflower and coconut foam matched with young winemaker Birgit Eikinger’s Grüner Veltliner Wechselberg 2008 (18.60, Wicklow Wine Co) proved inspired, as did the Morecambe & Wise combo of pork vindaloo and Eikinger Riesling Heiligenstein 2006 (around €23.00) .

DIY department. How about this. Leafing through a deceased aunt’s papers we came across this recipe, dated 1910


3 raw potatoes

2lbs demerara sugar

1/2 lb large raisins

1/2 green grapes

1/2 oz yeast

4 pints boiling water

Crush grapes and raisins; grate potatoes; add sugar and boiling water. Add yeast. Stir every day for 3 weeks then push through a strainer. Leave for a week to settle then strain through a thin cloth and bottle for use. It is ready to drink in 3 months but the longer it is kept the better.

Try it at your own peril and don’t go grassing me up to the lads in Jerez!

Boeuf a la Bourguignonne

bb-ingredsIn response to an inquiry on the forum, I’ve dragged up an article I wrote some years ago and a recipe, in fact, MY recipe, for this classic dish.  Enjoy!

The Culinary History

Burgundy, thanks to its inhabitants having an all-consuming devotion to colouring matters (plus a skilled publicity campaign conducted by the mediaeval dukes who ruled the province), has come to be regarded as the epicentre of French and astronomy. Strange then, that the dish that has become such a worldwide flag waver for the region should be a rustic peasant a thing.

The food writer Elizabeth David described Boeuf a la Bourguignonne as “a favourite among those carefully composed slowly cooked dishes which are the domain of French housewives and owner cooks of modest restaurants rather than of professional chefs.”

although Burgundian origin, it is now regarded as a quintessentially French dish, found on the bill of fare in restaurants as far apart as Paris and Marseilles, not to mention bistros from Manchester to Sydney.

In France itself you often find it written down on menus simply as ‘Bourguignonne’ and, what’s more, in French butchers shops you’ll often see a slab of meat marked out for its culinary purpose, i.e. ‘bourguignonne’ rather than “topside” or “shoulder”.

Simon Hopkinson and Lindsay Bareham have an excellent recipe in their entertaining review of retro cuisine, ‘The Prawn Cocktail Years’. I think it’s out of print but if you do come across a second-hand copy, it’s a joy. Paul Bocuse has a recipe in his maius opus, something you would hardly expect from the arch moderniser.

The first English-language edition of the ‘Larousse Gastronomique’ segregates ‘Boeuf Bourguignon’ and ‘Boeuf a la Bourguignonne’. The recipe for the former the mushrooms are omitted. This seems to be the sole difference. The “female version” must be the simplest recipe ever presented, if not exactly the cheapest containing the instructions just “lard the meat and marinate in brandy. Then braise in red wine.” Committing a bottle of cognac plus a bottle of Burgundy to a humble stew would give both  my wife and my bank manager palpitations so I feel I’ll never make this version!

Most culinary experts agree that it is de rigueur to incorporate a pig’s trotter or a calf’s foot to yield a nourishing, rib-sticking gravy. At the same time opinions are divided as to whether to marinate the meat or not.

What you include – according to the experts

The ingredients in this list are, by consensus, the common ones.

1. Well hung, sinewy beef- chuck, topside, shoulder and shin have all been mentioned by various chefs and writers. The beef should be sliced into large pieces, weighing-some recommend-up to 150 grams per piece. From this it will be evident that the miserable cubes adopted by the pub lunch trade clearly have no place in this dish.

2. Red wine – the general consensus is that the wine used should be Burgundy. Obviously, you don’t go rooting down the cellar for a bottle of your finest Domaine de la Romanee-Conti!

3. Pig’s trotter, split lengthways, or a calf”s foot. I can’t recommend this addition  highly enough. It makes the sauce rich, silky, and even more flavoursome.

4. Streaky bacon, cut into thick match length strips.

5. Onions. Around two dozen small round onions, peeled and left whole, seems to be the consensus. I tend to use shallots when I can get them.

6. Mushrooms. Again, around two dozen.

7. Bouquet garni. Parsley, thyme and a bay leaf are the favoured constituents.

8. Brandy. For the sake of authenticity, you would have to use marc de Bourgogne but, considering the small quantity involved, cognac, armagnac,  Greek or Spanish brandy would be fine. Almost every recipe I’ve ever read involves chucking in a glass of brandy and setting it on fire. The addition really does make a difference to the dish and the flames are welcome, alleviating the boredom that comes from slicing 2.5 kg of beef and peeling a mountain of shallots.

9. Garlic. When it comes to garlic, the pundits diverge on the subject of its quantity and even desirability, ranging from nought (Paul Bocuse) to 8 cloves (Simon Hopkinson). I’m somewhere in between.

The Recipe


One bottle of Burgundy, or other red wine

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

4 cloves of garlic

bouquet garni – 2 dtdp parsley, 3 sprigs thyme, 2 bay leaves

2 – 2.5kg sinewy beef, chuck, shoulder or shin, approximately 15-20 mm thick

sea salt and freshly milled black pepper

2 to 3 tbsp plain flour

one calf’s foot or a pig’s trotter, sliced lengthways

120 g thick cut streaky bacon, cut into match length strips

1 glass of marc de Bourgogne, cognac or other brandy

500 ml stock

two tablespoons olive oil

200 g unsalted butter

24 shallots, peeled

24 button or small chestnut mushrooms

2 dessert spoons chopped parsley for garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Put the wine, chopped onion, celery, garlic and bouquet garni into a non-reactive (stainless steel) saucepan and bring to the boil. Ignite the wine and allow the flavours to subside. Turn down the heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the wine is reduced by half. Season the beef and roll it in the flour.

Melt the oil and butter in a large frying pan or saucepan on top of the stove.

2. Put in the bacon and fry until  brown, stopping shorty of crisp. Remove and reserve. Brown the beef, cooking only a few pieces at a time. Colour well on both sides, remove and reserve.

3. Put the pig’s trotter or calf’s foot into the pan and fry on both sides until well coloured. If there is a good deal of fat in the pot, remove most of it by skimming with a kitchen spoon. Turn up the heat, toss  in the brandy and ignite. Strain the reduced wine and pour into the pan. Add the stock. Return the rest of the meat to the pan.  Cover the pot and braise the meat for two hours. Remove and skim off any scum from the surface.

4. Add the shallots and mushrooms and braise for another half-hour or until the meat is tender. Added at this late stage they won’t shrink to nothing. Remove the trotter or calf’s foot. Check the seasoning.

Serve with plain boiled or mashed potatoes and a plain green salad to refresh the palate.

To drink… Burgundy?????

Ray Wings with a spiced beurre noisette

Cooked this for a dinner party in my own rather different take on ‘surf’n’turf’ – the other half was veal sweetbreads coated in sage flour, shallow fried in olive oil and coated at the last minute with a Madeira glaze.

2 large wings of ray, each cut in half

500 ml court bouillon (light stock from onions, celery, carrots, sprig of thyme, seasoning)

for the spiced beurre noisette

1 tsp Sichuan peppers

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped very fine

juice of a lime

1 tsp flour

60g butter

3 tbsp of the court bouillon in which the ray has been cooked

Pre-heat oven to 180 degs C.

Grind the seeds and the ginger in a pestle and mortar. Bring the court bouillon to the boil. Place the ray wings carefully in the pan and cook for 12-15 minutes. Remove and keep warm in oven.

Put just a spot of olive oil in a small pan and fry the spices for a couple of minutes. Add the  flour and a tsp of the butter and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the ingredients amalgamate and the mixture changes colour to a light brown. Add the stock and the lime juice and cook for another minute. Reserve. Whisk in the rest of the butter just before serving and cook only until the butter turns brown. Plate up the ray and spoon some of the butter over each portion.

Note: You sometimes see ‘skate or ray with black butter’ . This is a misnomer; it’s a plain beurre noisette. It should be brown, not black. Butter cooked to black tastes horrible.