Casserole Provençale and Crunchy Chocolate Bakewell Tart

by Kristin on October 26, 2009

We’re excited to announce our first giveaway at Dinner du Jour! Thanks to Gill & Macmillan, I have a copy of From Brenda’s Kitchen: 100 Favourite Recipes by Brenda Costigan to give away* to a reader.

Brenda Costigan is one of Ireland’s most renowned cookery writers. A weekly food columnist for the Sunday Independent Life magazine, she has also written three other bestselling cookbooks. This book, written with busy families in mind and suitable for cooks of all abilities, features some of the most popular recipes from her column as well as many new favorites.

To be in with a chance of winning From Brenda’s Kitchen: 100 Favourite Recipes, just leave a comment in this post telling us what some of your favorite recipes are. The competition will close at 12:00 (Irish time) on Monday, November 9th and a winner will be chosen randomly from the comments.

brenda cover

Casserole Provençale
adapted from From Brenda’s Kitchen: 100 Favourite Recipes by Brenda Costigan

Serves 5 to 6

Brenda says you shouldn’t hold back on the olives, as they give a wonderful flavor to the finished dish. It’s also preferable to use fresh herbs rather than dried here.

for the marinade:
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) red wine
1/4 cup (60 ml) brandy (optional)
sprigs of fresh thyme
sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the casserole:
2 1/4 lb (1 kg) stewing beef, cut into generous bite-sized chunks
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 rounded tablespoon flour
7 oz (200 g) rashers or bacon, chopped (Brenda likes to use smoked rashers/bacon)
2 large onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 oz (170 g) button mushrooms, halved
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
3 to 5 oz (75 to 150 g) pitted black or green olives
1 x 14-oz (400‑g) can of chopped tomatoes
1 3/4 cups (400 ml) hot beef stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all the marinade ingredients into a bowl and stir well to combine. Add in the beef and mix well. Cover with clingfilm and allow to marinate in the fridge for a few hours. Stir once or twice if you think of it.

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).

Lift the meat out of the marinade with a slotted spoon (keep the marinade). Pat the meat dry with paper towels and fry in small batches until browned in the olive oil, then transfer to a casserole or heavy saucepan. Add the flour to the browned meat and toss together. Fry the rashers until golden and add to the meat.

Lightly brown the onions in the pan. Add the garlic and then the mushrooms, then add this onion mixture to the casserole. Add the carrots, olives and tomatoes to the casserole.

Pour the marinade, including the herbs, into the pan the meat etc. was browned in and bring to the boil, making sure to scrape up all the bits on the bottom of the pan. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes to reduce the amount of liquid a bit and to intensify the flavor. Add the beef stock and simmer for a few minutes to heat it up, then pour the hot liquid directly into the casserole. The liquid should just about cover the meat and vegetables. Add very little salt, if any, because the rashers and olives are already salty. Add freshly ground black pepper and stir everything together. If necessary to make the lid fit more snugly, cover the casserole with a layer of baking parchment or tinfoil, then put on the lid (this helps to prevent evaporation).

Cook in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is really tender. Discard the sprigs of fresh herbs before serving. Serve with mashed potatoes or boiled potatoes and a green vegetable of your choice.


Crunchy Chocolate Bakewell Tart
adapted from From Brenda’s Kitchen: 100 Favourite Recipes by Brenda Costigan

Serves 8

Brenda says this tart is one of her favorites — rich and moist, it keeps for up to 2 weeks. Brenda has used a base of crushed digestives and butter instead of the more traditional pastry base. For a touch of luxury, serve the tart with the fruits of the forest sauce (or 12 oz (340 g) mixed fresh summer berries) and some whipped cream.

Note: If the baking tin sizes recommended here aren’t adhered to, the cakes may be thicker (if smaller) or thinner (if larger), which can affect the cooking times.

for the crushed biscuit base: 
7 oz (200 g) digestive biscuits, crushed (or you can substitute graham crackers)
1/2 cup (110 g) butter, melted

for the filling: 
4 to 5 tablespoons blackcurrant jam, softened (not fridge cold)
3/4 cup (170 g) butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/2 oz (100 g) chopped blanched almonds
3 1/2 oz (100 g) ground almonds
5 oz (150 g) dark chocolate, melted and partly cooled
small handful of flaked almonds

for the fruits of the forest sauce:
juice of 1 large orange
12 oz (340 g) frozen fruits of the forest or summer fruits
1/4 to 1/3 cup (50 to 75 g) sugar
1 heaped teaspoon cornflour

3/4 cup (175 ml) lightly sweetened whipped cream, to serve

You will also need a springform tin 9 inches in diameter

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

To make the biscuit base, mix the crushed biscuits and melted butter together and spread in an even layer over the base of the tin, pressing the mixture down firmly. Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes, just to lightly crisp the biscuits. There will be no change in the appearance. Stand the tin on a wire tray to cool while you prepare the filling.

Reduce the oven to 325°F (170°C).

To make the filling, place the jam in a small bowl and stir briskly with a spoon in order to make it looser and more spreadable. Spread the jam carefully in a thin layer over the cooled biscuit base, leaving a 1‑inch margin all the way around. This is to ensure that the jam doesn’t ooze out at the edges and get too highly baked on the sides, spoiling the appearance of the finished cake.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until soft. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and almond extract and beat well. Mix together the chopped almonds and the ground almonds and stir into the butter/sugar mixture, then stir the melted chocolate through. Pour into the tin over the biscuit base and scatter the flaked almonds over the surface.

Bake for about 40 minutes –- start at the higher temperature and lower if halfway through if the tart is cooking too quickly. It’s ready when the almond mixture has become set on the outside but is still slightly wobbly in the center. Stand the tin on a wire tray for about 15 minutes to allow it to cool. With a sharp knife, loosen the edges, then release the spring clip sides of the tin and leave the tart to cool completely.

To make the sauce, put the orange juice and frozen berries into a saucepan. Cook gently to thaw, then add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Blend the cornflour with a dribble of water and some of the hot liquid from the saucepan. Mix well, then stir the cornflour mixture into the berries in the saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring to thicken. If a thicker consistency is required, more cornflour can be added (in the same way). Taste for sweetness.

To serve, carefully slide the tart off the base of the tin onto a serving plate. Serve each slice topped with the fruits of the forest sauce (or fresh berries) and some whipped cream.

*In the interests of full disclosure, I was involved with the production of this book and the publishers, Gill & Macmillan, generously gave me a copy to give away here.

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