“The best dinner party I ever went to was a black-tie affair to celebrate a book, catered by the author’s sister. When we sat down in our long dresses and tuxedos, my heart failed. What sort of fancy something or other were we going to get? …..

When the food appeared at this party I could hardly contain my delight. It was home food! The most delicious kind: a savoury beef stew with olives and buttered noodles, a plain green salad with a wonderful dressing, and some runny cheese and chocolate mousse for dessert. Heaven!”

-Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking


So yes, this works well for a dinner…but I also find it works well as a comforting, warm stew to come home to after a hard day out at a business meeting somewhere far flung. It works just as well with venison and muntjac (the image is, in fact, of muntjac) fillet.

Serve, as Colwin suggests in the evocative quote above, with a green salad, fabulously dressed; and some buttered noodles. Follow with runny cheese and chocolate mousse.


Recipe for sunny south of France slow-cooked beef stew

Serves 4


  • 1 kg/2 lbs cubed (cut into 1”/3 cm cubes, NOT larger, gristle and fat removed) beef fillet
  • Butter and olive oil for searing
  • 60 ml/¼ cup/4 tbps brandy
  • 240 ml/1 cup red vermouth
  • Small bunch of thyme
  • ideally, a pinch of Urfa pepper flakes, or generous grinds of black pepper
  • 4-5 strips of orange peel (cut off the surface of the orange, no white pith)
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
  • 150g/5 oz Crespo pitted black olives


  1. Sear the meat in a large dutch oven. Go here to find out why you do this.
  2. Add the brandy and heat to evaporate a little. Add the vermouth, reduce to about two thirds.
  3. Add the Urfa pepper flakes (or the black pepper), the orange peel, the garlic and the thyme leaves.
  4. Cover the casserole with a couple of layers of greaseproof paper, and the lid and simmer (if you have an Aga, in the simmering oven of course; otherwise on the hob) for four hours.
  5. About ten minutes before serving add the black olives.



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