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Beef and Wine Stew with Black Olives (Bœuf à la gardiane)

by Elizabeth David from At Elizabeth David’s Table

From Elizabeth David, this beef and red wine stew is inspired by the flavours of Provence. The slow cooked beef has added flavour from the piquant black olives.


A dish from western Provence and the Camargue demonstrating the stewing of a tough piece of meat in red wine without the addition of any stock or thickening for the sauce. The old Nîmoise cook who showed me how to make this particular version of the dish used Châteauneuf du Pape to cook it in (we were in the district, so it wasn’t so extravagant as it sounds, and it most definitely pays to use a decent and full-bodied wine for these beef stews) and she garnished the dish with heart-shaped croûtons of fried bread instead of rice.

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1kg / 2lb top rump of beef
butter and olive oil
4 tbsp brandy
1 large glass red wine
salt and pepper
A bouquet of thyme
parsley and bay leaf
A little strip of orange peel
1 clove garlic, crushed
About l75g/6oz stoned black olives


The meat should be cut into small neat cubes, not more than 2.5cm/1 inch square. Brown them in a mixture of butter and olive oil. Warm the brandy in a soup ladle, pour it over the meat, set light to it, shake the pan until the flames go out. The flaming with brandy, although not absolutely essential, burns up the excess fat and makes quite a difference to the flavour of the finished sauce, which will be a short one, most of the liquid having been absorbed by the meat. Add the red wine; let it bubble fast for about half a minute. Season with only very little salt and pepper, put in the bouquet tied with thread, turn the flame as low as possible, cover the pan with at least two layers of greaseproof paper or foil and the lid.

Cook as gently as possible, on top of the stove for about 3½ hours. Ten minutes before serving remove the bouquet and put in the stoned black olives. Taste for seasoning before serving. A dish of plain boiled rice can be served separately.

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