My maternal grand-mother, Mamie Odette, was born in Molière-sur-Cèze north of Alès in the Gard in the heart of Provence, in 1900. Her father was the guard at the railway crossing and she married a tax collector who was a fine gourmet. She had to learn to cook well, you guessed he was a loving but demanding husband. In any case, because he was a lot older, she was widowed fairly young and never re-married. About once a month, she would invite one of her grand-children for lunch on Thursday since there was no school that afternoon. The treat was not only the great lunch, but the fact that the other siblings were not included and you would be treated like a princess. Daube was one her signature dishes and she loved making it as it reminded her of her youth.
My recipe is slightly changed as I find it is better to make the Daube in the pressure cooker, but Mamie did not have one. Start two days in advance by covering one kg of beef stew chunks with red wine in a bowl with two cloves, the zest of the quarter of an orange, thyme, one bayleaf, 2 cloves garlic. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, gently brown the beef, after you strained it, in a large frying pan saving the wine. In the pressure cooker, (or a cast iron cocotte), gently fry 4 slices of bacon sliced lardon size, and one sliced onion, on low heat with some duck fat or olive oil. Add the beef, the wine from the marinade, the orange peel, one more cup of wine and one cup water or broth. Simmer one hour on low.
Add 6 carrots, 6 sticks celery, 6 sprigs of parsley, one onion, all sliced, and 3 tbsp tomato paste or 3 peeled tomatoes cut in quarters. Simmer another hour and add 30 small black pitted olives. Stir. Cool. Refrigerate another night. Before serving, if the gravy is too thin, take out a cup of liquid, add a tsp of flour, stir, and incorporate back, then re-heat. Add fresh ground pepper and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Here is a big dinner for five.
The olives: Olives from Provence are best, but small Kalamata preserved in brine do well, just rinse them so you can’t taste the brine. Canned black olives are not suitable, better use green olives in that case.
The pressure cooker: I find it works well because it shuts tight and speeds things up. this said a Le Creuset cast-iron pot is fine too, but increase the time by half and check for liquids once in a while.
Daube is served with boiled or mashed potatoes or noodles.
At Mamie Odette’s house, inside the kitchen cabinet door, there was this “Pense-bête” or “Aide-mémoire”, so you could make a grocery list. It was pre-war and you can see that a lot of items, such as petrol and black soap, are no longer grocery list favorites.