Beef prepared à la bourguignonne is best started overnight to maximise the rich flavour of the beef and red wine. It's worth using a good-quality red in the dish—you'll appreciate the superior flavour.
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 kg lean beef stewing steak, trimmed of all excess fat and cubed
2½ cups (625 ml) red wine
3 garlic cloves, bruised
40 g butter
300 g shallots or pickling onions
2 rindless short-cut bacon rashers, cut into strips
200 g button mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons plain flour
¾ cup (175 ml) water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
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Using a piece of kitchen string, tie together the thyme, bay leaves and parsley into a bouquet garni. Place into a non-metallic bowl with the beef, wine and garlic cloves. Marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Remove the meat from the marinade with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate, then strain the liquid, reserving the marinade.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Heat a large flameproof casserole dish over medium heat with 20 g of the butter. Cook the shallots or onions and bacon for 5–6 minutes until the bacon is crisp and the shallots or onions lightly browned, then add the mushrooms and cook for a further 2–3 minutes. Remove from the dish and set aside. Add the remaining butter to the dish and cook the chopped onion and carrots for 1–2 minutes until softened.
Increase the heat to high, add the strained meat and cook for about 3 minutes until the meat is well browned. Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour, tossing well to coat. Add the reserved marinade along with the bouquet garni and water. Bring the mixture to the boil, mixing well.
Place the lid on the dish and place into the oven. Cook for about 1¼ hours, stirring from time to time.
Return the bacon, mushrooms and shallots or onions to the casserole dish, and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the meat is very tender. Before serving, discard the bouquet garni and season to taste if you like. Serve garnished with chopped fresh thyme.