Thursday, 16 December 2010

Just call it aillade

This is a stew that is oh so simple to make and is absolutely delicious. A  wonderfully rich tomato sauce coats the slow-cooked meat. The colour is stunning, and the sauce, thickened with breadcrumbs, has a particular texture. It takes me straight back to the family table, waiting for my plateful of food to arrive.

It's taken from the classic cookbook ‘la veritable cuisine provencale’  by legendary chef Jean-Noel Escudier. He keeps the sauce short. I prefer a substantial sauce, mopping the plate with bread, despite it being thick enough to scoop up on its own. It’s also a next-day pleasure for me, as long as I get there first. Of course there may not be leftovers.

Since I’ve always let economy, convenience and time constraints override a recipe’s instructions, I admit I usually substitute pork for veal. What I do know is that pork and veal are a bit bland, and so both are suited to a flavoursome sauce, which this recipe produces (butchers can shoot me later). I use shoulder of pork. Please, in the time honoured tradition of cooks and writers of recipes, enjoy making your own substitution.

A little word about garlic. Isn’t it great? A younger me used to worry about smelling of garlic. I didn’t worry enough to stop eating it. Elizabeth David’s recipes sometimes tell you to rub a dish with garlic. What a strange idea. I suppose at the time garlic was looked on as a powerful and pungent flavour. Now garlic is used generously and often, without a thought. Despite my supposed anxiety about smelling of garlic I was reassured to read that eating cooked garlic avoids this problem. Another approach is to make sure that everyone you meet has also recently eaten garlic, and if they haven’t you can give them some to eat: problem solved. Remember, this recipe has lots of garlic in it.

Oh, and another excuse to make this dish is if you have a stale loaf of bread, because the breadcrumbs should be from stale bread.

Aillade (de veau)

500g meat, cut into large chunks
Two large handfuls of breadcrumbs from stale bread
400g Tin of tomatoes
2 heaped tbsp tomato paste
1 head of garlic – about twelve cloves
Large glass of white wine
Pepper and salt

Use a heavy based casserole with a lid.

§         Brown the meat in a couple of glugs of olive oil, over medium heat.
§         Add peeled garlic cloves, and stir for a moment.
§         Add tomatoes and white wine and stir.
§         Add breadcrumbs, pepper and salt and tomato paste.
§         Stir, put the lid on, turn heat down and cook at low simmer (barley bubbling) for 2 hours stirring occasionally. Alternatively put the pot in a low oven (Gas Mark 1/275F/140C) and leave for two hours.


As I write this I’ve got a version made with beef cooking. The aroma is exceptional. It is a dish that sits at the high table of family reminiscence.

I want to know more about meat, closeness of grain, different cuts and so on, however I seem too busy cooking and eating to actually get around to increasing my understanding.

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