With the weather cooling down, and the leaves starting to turn, I felt the need to make something a little heartier and comforting. I settled on a daube de bœuf à la provençale, or Provençal Red Wine Beef Stew as I called it.
On this occasion, I must confess that although my translation was faithful to the source recipe, the actual cooking was less so. Making use of ingredients I had in the kitchen, I swapped chuck steak for beef short rib, added mushrooms and potatoes, and even used a slow cooker, rather than simmering away on the stove. I also skipped the marinating step entirely. We could say that my meal was ‘inspired by’ a daube de bœuf, rather than a faithful representation.
Cuts of meat – cultural differences
Who knew translating cuts of meat could be so confusing?! In fact, the more I looked into this, the more I realised that in many cases, there is no direct English equivalent for a French meat cut. Plus, when we say ‘English’, what do we mean? Cuts of meat vary by country, with the US butchering and naming meat differently from the UK. A British ‘brisket’ is a different piece of meat from the American ‘brisket’. And of course, once we move to pork, the cuts are different again.
Thankfully there are quite a few resources available online – such as the Great British Chefs Guide to Beef cuts, which has useful info about cooking each type of meat. Also have a look at this handy diagram of English* cuts. Meanwhile, see a US version of the different cuts of beef.
I haven't yet found a definitive resource which compares UK and French cuts of beef (or other cuts of meat, but I'm sure one must exist - please feel free to let me know if you have one to hand.
In my recipe, the French meat cut gîte appeared. This initially proved confusing. since, as the links above show, there are quite a few different types of gîte, i.e. Gîte à la noix, rond de gîte. But it seems that the cut named simply gîte corresponds to an English/British ‘leg’, and indeed, the type of meat the leg is described as, and the suggested cooking process, seems to fit with my recipe. (Although I would welcome correction from those more knowledgeable in this area).
*Interestingly, I've heard it said that cuts are actually different between Scotland and England, but I don’t know much more about this, and if they are different again in Wales and Northern Ireland.
The importance of context – words that take on a different meaning in cooking
I came across a few words whose meanings are quite specific, or different, when applied to the world of cooking:
To explain, detail, itemise
In cooking, to chop
To seize, grab, grasp, understand
In cooking, to sear
To make something come back, or return
In cooking, to brown (i.e. cook in fat/oil/butter until it colours)
As I mentioned, I rather loosely followed the recipe, so there aren’t many comments to make in this section. One thing I did notice however, was that the orange peel imparted quite a strong flavour to the stew, so much so that I actually removed it when I added the mushrooms, olives, and potatoes halfway through cooking. Interestingly, despite the fact that I used about half a bottle of wine in the stew, the orange was still the most noticeable flavour once it was all finished.
I don’t have any fixed plans for next time yet. If there are still some lovely tomatoes, aubergines, and courgettes around, ratatouille might be a fitting way to bid adieu to summer. However, we might be too late and perhaps something with squash would be more appropriate – I’ll have to see what my lovely oddbox delivers.