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Peasant food in the provinces: Pressure cooker beef shank bourguignon

As any foreigner who lives outside of the major cities knows, things can be pretty basic in the provinces. For those accustomed to a diet with red meat and green leafy vegies it can be tough to eat a balanced diet. I’ve got nothing against rice, I just can’t deal with it three meals a day.

I’ve made it my mission to come up with a series of dishes that use only locally available ingredients. In my case that means a 7/11, a reasonable wet market and a small grocery store. The 7/11 means that things like wine are available, although they’re expensive. The small grocery store has a selection of dried herbs, but I’ve also built up a herb garden over the last few years – something I highly recommend to anyone living here.

So while I did not have all the ingredients of a traditional Bourguignon I did crack out a very reasonable facsimile. Unfortunately we demolished it before I thought to take photos (or write this article) but I’ll make sure to get photographs for future recipes.

One of the things that I adore about French peasant food, indeed about peasant food in general, is that it is needs-must cooking. Sustenance is necessary and ingredients are sparse, this style of cookery lends itself very well to substitution and exclusion of ingredients without destroying the dish. As a result I’ve found myself making everything from Irish Stew using Goat as a replacement for lamb (delicious, I’ll put that recipe together for you another day) to this minor bastardisation of a Bourguignon, using sliced beef shanks in place of a more traditional cut.

There’s always room for a herb garden and most of the basics grow very well here

Later today I’ll be making Duck Cassoulet. One thing about the provinces is that we’ve got very easy access to fantastic, fresh meat such as duck, turkey, goose and goat. Also, if you’re living in a more remote location chances are you’ve got access to the space to grow a few herbs. The vegetables in any Philippine wet market are second-to-none. So, without further adieu, it’s on to the first in my series of Peasant Food in the Provinces. If anyone has any special requests for future efforts then get in touch in the comments.

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Ingredients:
1 kilo of sliced beef shanks, bone in
1 glass of red wine
1 beef stock cube
1 large brown onion
6 good sized cloves of garlic.
2 bay leaves
A selection of herbs (in my case I had fresh sage and rosemary as well as dried thyme)
3 large carrots
3 sticks of celery
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil (can be substituted for local vegetable oil if necessary)

Method:
Combine the red wine with the herbs and crushed garlic, top up with a little water until the meat is fully covered.

Marinate the beef shanks in this mix overnight in the fridge.

Remove the shanks from the marinade and put the mixture aside, we’ll be using this later.

Chop the onion, crush the garlic and fry them in olive oil until all translucent. Add sliced celery and carrots. There is no need to cook the carrots all the way through just give them a couple of minutes. Once done, set aside. Add a little more olive oil to the pan and brown the shanks.

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Once you’ve browned the shank slices on both sides, transfer to the pressure cooker.

Combine the stock cube with 1 litre of boiling water. Add to the reserved marinade and put in the pan that you browned the meat in. Scrape the pan while bringing the mixture to the boil.

Add the liquid to the pressure cooker, seal it and bring it up to pressure. Cook at high pressure for 30-45 minutes.

You can do it without a pressure cooker but my experience of the locally available beef is that it needs to be cooked for a very, very long time unless you use one.

We served ours with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli but you could just as easily put it over rice or even serve it with pasta.

The end result was extremely good. It is something I’ll certainly do again.

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If you’re out in the provinces and not sure where to find cooking equipment like pressure cookers and the like, I’ve seen them for sale in most main towns. I ordered mine online, check this post for information on how I did that and what else you can get delivered to your door.