Daube Provencale, traditional beef stew

Daube Provençale, beef stew, is a traditional dish in the Provence inland, and it exists in many slightly different versions.

It is a brilliant example of slow food. In the old times, the dish was slowly cooked in a large heavy casserole in oven or on stove for hours; 5 – 7 hours were usual cooking times. The French have a nice word for this slow-cooking, mijoter, which means that the dish is so gently simmered that the surface only slowly moves but does not bubble.

The following recipe is inspired by a recent trip to Camargue. There the dish was made with local organic red wine, black olives, mushrooms, and tasty tomatoes, and served with red Camargue rice.

For modern times, I have reduced the cooking time for about two hours in oven. I have also omitted the traditional browning of the meat thanks to a great tip for stews from Jamie Oliver.

4 servings

About 1 kg stewing beef (a package for Bœuf Bourgignon is perfect)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions cut into large chunks
3- 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, sliced
4 tasty tomatoes cut into large chunks (or a 400 g tin of Italian plum tomatoes)
2 tbsp tomato pure
8 large mushrooms cut into large chunks
About 20 black olives
1 tbsp flour
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 strip orange peel
200 ml beef stock
400 ml Camargue or other South of France organic red wine
Fresh thyme

Trim the beef from extra fat and, if needed, cut into smaller chunks.

Warm the olive oil in a large heavy casserole over medium heat. Soften the carrots, onions and garlic for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 180 ⁰ C. Add the meat and flour into the casserole, stir.
Add the beef stock, wine, tomato pure, orange strip, cloves, bay leaves, black pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme (leave some for the decoration) into the casserole and stir. All the ingredients need to be just covered with liquid, if not add a little water. Bring to the boil, stirring now and again.

Transfer the casserole into oven for 2 hours. Check occasionally so that there is enough liquid. You want the liquid slightly reduced and the stew surface getting a nice colour, but you don’t want your stew getting dry. You may need to cover the casserole towards the end of the cooking time. Add the fresh tomato chunks when about ½ hour of the cooking time remains, you want them just cooked, al dente. If you are using tinned tomatoes, you can add them earlier.

Meanwhile, cut the mushrooms into large chunks and fry in a large frying pan in a little olive oil. Cook the Camargue rice. Remove the stones from the olives. Remove a little thyme leaves from the sprigs for decoration.

When the stew is cooked, add the mushrooms and olives. Serve with Camargue rice and decorate with thyme leaves.


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