Beef bourguignon

The first time I ate beef bourguignon was when I was in Paris – mind you, this was so many years ago that I barely remember what it tasted like. This was also way before I started my love affair with cooking and baking. What I do remember though, was that it managed to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, which is always a plus when it’s cold and gloomy outside.

This dish truly is very simple, and although it may seem like it takes quite a while to cook, you don’t actually need to do very much as you can just leave it to simmer on the stove. Very different from a dish like risotto where you would have to constantly stir it every 2-3 minutes. What more could one want on a cold and gloomy winter’s day?

I love eating this with a dollop (okay not a dollop, more like a huge mound) of mashed potatoes or polenta, as I personally feel they complement each other really really well. I favour polenta over mash, as polenta is much easier to whip up and requires less washing up. Always a winner when it’s been a long day at work – in my books anyway!

Another plus is that this dish can actually be turned into a vegetarian dish – simply by omitting the beef, and replacing it with more mushrooms. I’ve cooked both the mushroom and beef versions countless times, and I honestly can’t choose between the two.

Beef bourguignon
Please note: I know this may not be the most traditional (or correct) way to cook this, but it works well for me.
  • 500g stewing beef
  • 100g pancetta cubes
  • 4 carrots, diced (I use a lot as I love carrots)
  • 6 shallots, quartered
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms (use them whole)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 600-700ml beef stock (I use stock cubes)
  • 350ml red wine
  • 2-3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from the stems
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed from the stem
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat 1tbsp of olive oil in a pan/pot over medium high heat, and brown the beef on each side (usually takes 3-5 minutes). Remove from pan and set aside.
2. In the same pan, cook the pancetta cubes until they start to release their oils. Add the quartered shallots, diced carrots, mushrooms and tomato puree to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes until everything is nicely browned.
3. Return the beef to the pan, and stir to combine.
4. Add the red wine, beef stock and herbs to the pan, and bring to the boil.
5. Turn down the heat, and simmer over medium heat for 2-3 hours. Alternatively, you can slow cook it in a 150°C oven.
6. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with your choice of polenta or mashed potatoes. Or maybe even some pasta!

For the polenta:
Use a 1 part polenta: 4 parts water* ratio. Put polenta into a pan (over medium high heat), add the water and bring to the boil, stirring constantly the whole time. Be forewarned that the polenta will bubble madly, which is why you need to stir it whilst it cooks. The consistency you are aiming for is that of mashed potatoes.Season with salt and pepper. I also season it with garlic olive oil to add some extra flavour.

*I sometimes use an equal mix of water and milk to cook this as I find it makes the polenta creamier.

A birthday cake (and some food)

I still remember the first time I baked a birthday cake – it was about 4 years ago in my tiny little kitchen, where I impulsively decided to bake a simple chocolate cake for my flatmate. Being completely clueless about cake decorating, I just used halved strawberries along the sides of the cake, and was happy when it looked reasonably presentable. Fast forward to 4 years later, when I start planning what cake to make at least a week in advance, and inevitably ending up with too many ideas.

I went through the very same process during R’s birthday, and didn’t actually manage to decide which cake I would make until I was shopping for the ingredients. Shocking, I know. Anyway, I finally decided on Tartelette’s chocolate, mango and coconut cream cake. The vibrant colours just looked so beautiful, and I knew R would like the tropical theme of the cake.

(Edit: Just a note to say that all this took place more than a month ago, I just didn’t get around to posting till now. :P)

As you can see, I didn’t do terribly well with the cake as I am completely incompetent when it comes to splitting cakes into half. I have much to learn! :P Alternatively, I may just bake each layer in a seperate tray instead of trying to split an already thin cake into half… Despite the rather “uneven” look, the cake was delicious. The sponge layers were the best sponge cakes I’ve ever baked, and I think I’ll be using Helen’s recipe from now on. I did find that the mango mousse was not “mango-ey” enough for me, but this may have been because I used canned mangoes instead of fresh.

I topped the cake with some raspberries, lemon swirls, and dried mango slices (only thought of the mango once I sliced it up, which is why it’s not in the photo above).

And of course, it wasn’t just about the cake – there had to be some food as well…

A very simple proscuitto wrapped tomato/buffalo mozzarella salad, topped with fresh basil leaves and a dash of olive oil. This was inspired by a recipe in Donna Hay magazine (as always!), and was wonderfully delicious. I chose this primarily because it was very simple, and because I knew I would be spending a long time on the cake. Definitely something I will make again in the future.

Beer bacon wrapped beef fillet with a mushroom sauce, served with cheesy semolina. This was also a Donna Hay recipe. I was originally slightly disappointed as my sauce was not as dark as it appeared to be in the photos that accompanied this recipe – but as it still tasted amazingly good, I just had to be content with less attractive photos.

In the end, we were so stuffed from all the food that we couldn’t even eat the cake. That’s saying something as I always have room for dessert. R just blew out the candles, and we had to wait till the next day to eat the cake.

The recipe of the chocolate mango and coconut cream cake can be found here.

Beer bacon wrapped beef fillet with mushroom sauce
Adapted from a recipe in Donna Hay magazine, issue 40

  • 2 rashers bacon
  • 3/4 cup dark ale
  • 2 x 200g beef fillet steaks
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 150g chestnut/white mushrooms
  • 150g oyster mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup beef stock
  • 2 slices of cheese (I used raclette)

1. Place the bacon rashers in a bowl, and pour the ale over it. Leave to marinade for at least 1 hour.
2. Remove bacon rashers from the bowl, and reserve the ale. Wrap a bacon rasher around each beef fillet steak.
3. Heat oven to 180°C. In the meantime, brush the steaks with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Cook the steaks in a hot ban for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until they brown. Place the browned steaks in a baking tray and cook for 8-10 minutes (I like my beef to be medium-rare). Set aside and keep warm.
5. Heat some oil in a pan, and fry the mushrooms until they are browned (should take 1-2 minutes). Add the beef stock and reserved ale, and cook for 2 minutes. If you want to make the sauce thicker, either add some cornflour to the mixture, or cook until it reduces.
6. Place the steaks on a plate, top with the raclette cheese, and spoon over the mushroom sauce.

Note: I also served this with some cheesy semolina. This was simply semolina cooked with milk and some soft cheese.

Burger heaven

The weather in London has been terrible lately – rain, rain and more rain. (With a little bit of sunshine thrown in once in a while.) If I had my own way, I would hide indoors the everytime it rains, curled up in my duvet whilst drinking a hot drink of some sort. Unfortunately life can’t stop whilst the weather is miserable, which is why I turn to food to cheer me up.

I first came across these burgers in Donna Hay magazine – they were in a feature called ‘Posh Patties’, and I fell in love almost immediately. The burgers looked so good that I was almost salivating with hunger. Though to be fair, I love most of the photos in Donna Hay magazine, as it is the ultimate food porn. I mean, the photographers manage to make lemon slices look absolutely stunning. How ridiculous is that? :P

I love most burgers, and these are no exception. I especially like the vegetarian burger as it uses halloumi, which has a very meaty texture, and goes amazingly well with the grilled vegetables. I also decided to make the burger buns from scratch as I have this disease where I feel the need to use my beloved KitchenAid stand mixer at every possible opportunity. The buns came out really well and I was very pleased with how they turned out!

Burger buns
From the King Arthur Flour website

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I later felt this might have been too much, I’ll cut down on sugar the next time I make this)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water
  • sesame seeds

1. Put the lukewarm water and sugar into a bowl of a stand mixer, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Sprinkle the yeast over the sugar and water mixture, and leave for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to “bubble”.
2. Add the bread flour, salt, egg, and butter to the yeast mixture, and mix on low speed (with a dough hook) for 8-10 minutes until the mixture forms a nice dough. If you find that the dough is too sticky, just add more flour until the dough doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.
3. Pour oil into a large bowl; use a some kitchen roll to oil the bowl. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with clingfilm or a tea towel, and leave to rise until doubled in size. (usually takes an hour)*
4. Divide dough into 6 equal portions, and shape each portion into a burger shaped bun. Leave to rise again until they become very puffy (about an hour). **
5. If you wish, brush the burger buns with an egg wash, and sprinkle sesame seeds on the tops. Alternatively, just dust the buns with flour.
6. Bake the buns in a preheated oven at 190°C, for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool.

*It was at this point I left the house to do some shopping, and I ended up leaving the dough to rise for a good 3 hours.
**I only left it to rise for 15 minutes as I didn’t have enough time to wait a whole hour… or roughly translated as: I was getting hungry. :P

Roasted tomato, aubergine, and halloumi burger
Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine
(Serves 2)

  • 1 tomato, thickly sliced
  • 2 burger buns, sliced
  • 1 aubergine, sliced
  • 200g halloumi, sliced
  • olive oil
  • harrisa mayonnaise (I added some harissa to Japanese mayonnaise, how much harissa you use depends on how spicy you want your mayo)
  • caramelised red onions
  • rocket leaves

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the tomato on a baking tray and brush with oil. Roast for 20 minutes or until cook. Set aside.
2. Brush the bun halves with oil, and place them (cut sides down) on a non-stick pan over a high heat, until the surfaces are golden brown.
3. Heat a grill pan (I use a Chasseur grill pan) over high heat. Brush the aubergine slices with oil, and grill for 2 minutes on each side. Cook the haloumi slices in the same way.
4. Spread the bun halves with the harissa mayonnaise. Top the bottom half of the burger bun with the tomato slices, aubergine, haloumi, caramelised onions and rocket leaves. And enjoy!


Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine
(serves 4)

  • 500g beef mince
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 portebello mushrooms
  • 4 burger buns, halved
  • olive oil
  • 200g sliced Swiss cheese
  • caramelised red onions
  • rocket leaves

1. Heat the oven to 180°C.
2. Mix the beef mince, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce in bowl, and mix to combine. Divide into 4 equal portions, shape into patties and wrap it in a slice of Swiss cheese. Place on a baking tray, and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and patties are cooked through.
3. Place the mushrooms on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and roast for 8-10 minutes. (I cook the mushrooms and the beef patties in the oven at the same time)
3. Brush the bun halves with oil, and place them (cut sides down) on a non-stick pan over a high heat, until the surfaces are golden brown.
4. Top half a burger bun with another slice of cheese, beef patty, mushroom, caramelised onions, rocket leaves and top half of the burger bun. Sit back and bite into the meaty goodness that is this burger.