A winter warmer: Alsacian baeckeoffe

I discovered baeckeoffe when I lived in Strasbourg for a year and, whereas other students headed mostly for Paris or the south, I headed east, not because I was particularly imaginative but because I had friends there. It did my French accent the world of good, spending so much time actually talking French rather than speaking English to all the other year-abroad students, but during the long and very, very cold winter I often wondered what on earth I’d done. It started snowing in December and didn’t stop, really, till February. Which explains why Alsace which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful regions of France with some of the best wines, is also home to some of the greatest comfort food in the world: onion tarts like flammekueche, wonderful pastries like kouglof, and stews, like this, that can keep out several feet of snow.

This is a recipe that I shared last year, as part of my French Home Cookbook Kickstarter campaign and it is one that I want to store and share here, for its downright simplicity and one-potness though, I have to warn you, it is not fast. It is supposed to marinate for 12 hours/overnight before being cooked for three, but I confess to having marinated it for five on many an occasion and I can’t say that I noticed that another seven hours improved it that much.

In Alsace it would be cooked in a dish like this, but any good, solid lidded casserole dish will work. Traditional recipes sometimes seal the earthenware dish with a flour and water paste so you get a satisfying crack when the lid comes off. I don’t. The only addition you need for this is a sharp, refreshing salad. In Alsace it was often served with radicchio but anything bitter and peppery, such as rocket, watercress or frisée would be good.

Makes enough for 4

Cupboard (or things you may already have)
garlic clove
celery stick
clove
onions, 6
potatoes, 800g
fat (lard, bacon fat, or butter), 30g
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shopping list
Alsacian white wine, 400ml
bouquet garni (or make your own by tying sprigs of parsley and thyme and a bay leaf together with kitchen string)
boneless lamb shoulder, 350g
boneless pork shoulder, 350g
beef topside, 350g
carrots, 3

How to
1. The day before you want to serve this, peel the garlic, trim and slice the celery and crush the clove with the blade of a knife. Put them all in a large bowl or dish and add the wine, bouquet garni and some salt and pepper.

2. Dice the meats and add to the bowl, mix together well, cover with cling film and leave to marinade overnight/for 12 hours.

3. The next day, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan-assisted/gas 6, peel and trim the onions, potatoes and carrots and cut them into slices.

4. Spread the fat inside a casserole dish then add half the carrots, onions and potatoes, then the meat, then the rest of the vegetables. Pour over the marinade, cover the casserole dish and cook for three hours. Serve immediately.

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