Baeckeoffe is a dish from Alsace in France, close to the border with Germany.In the Alsatian dialect, Baeckeoffe means “baker’s oven”. It is a mix of sliced potatoes, sliced onions, cubed mutton, beef and pork which have been marinated overnight in Alsatian white wine and juniper berries and slow cooked in a sealed ceramic casserole dish. Leeks, thyme, parsley, garlic, carrots and marjoram are other ingredients often added to give flavour and colour.
The Baeckeoffe was inspired by the Hamin, a traditional Herbraic dish for Shabbat. Because of the spiritual prohibition of using the fire from Friday night to Saturday night, the Jews had to prepare the food for Saturday on Friday afternoon, and then would give the dish to the baker, who would keep it warm in his oven until Saturday lunchtime. Non Jews gradually tried this dish and it eventually became one of the most traditional Alsatian dishes.
The French, being practical, followed the Jewish tradition, so one story goes that the women would prepare this dish on Saturday evening and leave it with their local baker to cook in his gradually cooling oven on Sunday while they attended the interminable Lutheran church services that were once so typical. In this version, the baker would take a “rope” of dough and line the rim of a large, heavy ceramic casserole, then place the lid upon it for an extremely tight seal. This kept the moisture in the container. On the way back from church, the women would pick up their casserole and a loaf of bread. This provided a meal to the Alsatians that respected the strict Lutheran rules of the Sabbath. Part of the ritual of eating this version of the dish is to break the crust formed by the rope of dough.
Another version of the story of the origin of this dish is that women in France would do laundry on Mondays and so not have time to cook. They would drop the pots off at the baker on Monday morning and do the laundry, then when they picked up their children after school, they would also pick up the pot at the baker and carry it home with them. This version of the story may be closer to reality as bakers were often closed on Sundays!
2 onions, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped (make sure you use the whole leek)
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 bay leaves
A pinch of finely chopped fresh thyme
A large pinch of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 bottle of Riesling
500g of shin of beef, cut into bite-sized chunks
500g pork shoulder, cut into bite-sized chunks
500g lamb shoulder, cut into bite-sized chunks
A pinch of sea salt and freshly milled black pepper ( to taste)
A glug of extra-virgin olive oil
2 kg of potatoes peeled and finely sliced
Seasoning ( salt and freshly milled black pepper
This dish requires you to start preparing it 24 hours before you need to cook it. So place all the ingredients in the biggest freezer bag you can find and seal it tightly. You may need two.
Place in the fridge overnight so the flavours have time to combine.
When you are ready to cook, remove from the fridge and bring up to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 180°/Gas mark 4
Using a piece of kitchen paper, rub the olive oil all over the bottom of a large casserole.
Peel the potatoes using a mandolin/ or food processor, slice the potatoes thinly and season well with salt and pepper.
Cover the bottom of the casserole with half of the potatoes.
Using a slotted spoon separate the meat from the marinade, reserving both.
Spread the meats and vegetables on top of the potatoes and then layer with the remaining potatoes.
Carefully pour the reserved marinade over the potatoes ensuring they are just covered, add additional wine if needed.
Cover the casserole and bring the stew to a gentle simmer on the stove top.
Place the Baeckeoffe in the oven and bake until the meats are very tender, about 4 hours. Serve, directly from the casserole dish into soup plates.