It seems to me that every vegeterian cook has a meat-less version of the cult beef bourguignon in their repertoire, and understandably so. The seasoning, a mix of red wine, garlic, onions and herbs, sounds appealing in its own right, but there are many other factors working for the popularity of the dish, with the attention it got from the iconic Julia Child possibly having the most influence. I first learned about it watching the movie Julie&Julia, about ten years ago, when food was as interesting to me as football still is - read, not at all (buzi, Moni!). But over the course of this year, I stumbled upon many vegeterian variations of the recipe, mot memorably here and here. Surprise surprise, beef is most usually replaced with beets, which keep stuffed into fruit bowls well enough to consider this a pantry dinner.
At least in my version, which skips mushrooms, because those are bleeeh (unless they are 20e/kg porcini, which I eat once a year). There is lots of wine, because that, on the other hand, is yuuum, same thing with onions. Like Marta, I like to add hazelnuts, which I toast beforehand, because nothing beats toasted hazelnuts. And with all the herbs I stir into the pot as the contents bubble happily for an hour, there are so many changes to the cult recipe I decided to call the whole thing simply beetroot stew as opposed to using a name that has so many expectations attached. I served this with parsley root puree for my family today and everyone claimed to be very happy.
There is a lot of chopping and stirring and the initial sauteing isn’t on the short side. The herbs are numerous, and while I can’t see any student jumping into this project voluntary, let me just point out why making this is a great idea: you can make a looot and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, it is cheap, and even more so if you skip the hazelnuts, it gives you a reason to open a bottle of wine if you need one. But! those are just practical matters. What is key here is that the transformation of several roots and pinches of dried herbs is just MAGIC. Everything in the pot will turn deep ruby save for the pearl-like nuts, The neat chopping will make you feel like a French chef, especially if you choose to an appropriate soundtrack. Linger will the cozy smell of caramelized onions and garlic, cooked carrots and beets, with deep notes of wine and sage and thyme, And then you’ll have a bite, a little too early, a little too hastily, burn your tongue but go for another spoonful right away because little combinations prove as hooking as that of tart and sweet.
2 tbsp olive oil
4 small onions
3 garlic cloves
1 medium carrot
1 medium parsley root / parsnip if that’s easier to buy
3 stalks celery
3 large beetroots
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 cup green lentils
2 cups dry red wine
1 cup vegetable broth (or 1 cup water)
1 cup water
1 tsp each: thyme, rosemary, sage, allspice
5 bay leaves
salt and pepper, generously
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
Begin by halving and peeling the onions. Cut the dry ends and roots, then slice each half into four pieces (take a look at the photos above). Peel the cloves of garlic and press them with a knife to release the fragrant oils. Take out a large pot. Heat up the oil, keep on low-medium and add the onion and garlic. Stir every now and then, the slices will begin to fall apart, soften and eventually shrink noticeably. This will take about 15 minutes. Use this time to prepare the rest of your ingredients.
Wash the carrot, parsley and celery stalks, peel them if there are any brown spots on the skins. Quarter the carrots lenghtwise, then slice into 0.5cm or so pieces. Set aside. Slice the celery stalks in half and proceed like you did with the carrot. Parsley roots tend to be funnily unproportional, so it might be easiest to cut off the thin part and slice that into medallions, then chop the fat part like the rest. At this point, the onions should be ready as described before. Remove the garlic cloves from the pot using a spoon. Add the chopped vegetables and saute for 10 minutes until the carrots look soft around the edges and the celery looses its green color.
Add the hazelnuts and lentils, stir, bring the heat up to high. Stir for 3 minutes and pour in the wine. After 2 minutes, add the rest of the liquids, salt, pepper, herbs, bay leaves and allspice. Bring to the boil, lower the heat again to gentle simmer, put a cover on, set a timer for 30 minutes but stir once or twice in the meantime. The stew is ready when the lentils are cooked. Turn the heat off. Check for salt and pepper, and, if you like, stir in a tablespoon of vinegar.
The stew will keep in the fridge for 3 days or so - just remember not to heat the whole pot when having a serving.
You can prepare the puree while the stew is cooking.
Parsley Root Puree
(serves 4 / for 6, do 1.5)
4 parsley roots
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup milk of choice (even sweetened will work here)
2 bay leaves
Peel and chop the roots into 2cm pieces, place them in a small pot, cover with water, put the lid on, cook on medium heat for 10 minutes from the moment water boils, but poke with a fork to see if the roots are soft - that is, easily pierceable. Drain on a colander.
Don’t even bother washing the pot - add the milk as is, along with the oil and bay leaves. Bring to simmer over very low heat - this allows for the bay to influse the milk. Once hot, remove the leaves and add the parsley back to the pot, put the lid on to heat the vegetable through - about 2 minutes. Then, transfer to a food processor, blend with an immersion blender, or go all retro and mash with a potato masher (there will be some swearing though, there are way more fibers in parsley than in potatoes). Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.