Bœuf Bourguignon sans the Vache Moo

I’m sure many a good Frenchman would roll their eyes heavenward at the thought of a vegetarian bourguignon and call out sacre bleu!  Well tough! Vive la difference is my motto. It’s a delicious Autumnal/Winter dish, oh and it comes in a rich red wine gravy.

Remember these fellows?  We picked Chestnuts in Autumn and we made a fabulous bœuf bourguignon, sans thebœuf. Well we made it again over New Year, and it really is time I got round to writing the recipe up. It’s another of “those” annual recipes, they get made a couple of times every year, and again the original idea and source have been lost on the mists of time.

The combination of chestnuts, shallots and mushrooms is a tasty one – different textures and flavours. The main flavour of this dish is the mushrooms, they are the key to this dish. Try and get really great mushrooms – I like to have a mixture – lots of whole or halved Chestnut mushrooms, maybe 2 large open field mushrooms, some standard button ones, and then if I can get them some forrestere or similar.

Without the butter, or using a substitute spread and alternative dairy-free pastry, this also makes a great Vegan dish. It’s also easy to make ahead of time, just add the pastry top when you want to start cooking.

What about the Vache moo? Well that dates back a few years, visiting our friends in Charente and their little boy and I sat down to read one of his books. A classic kids picture book, with lots of animals, and their names written down. There we were snuggled up on some cushions and he’s reading aloud the names of all the animals, when he comes to the page with a cow, when he turns around to me and says “Vache Moo!”. So it’s stuck, that’s the official name.

Vegetarian Bourguignon 

~ Serves 4

Ingredients ~

  • Chestnuts – approx. 20 to 30
  • Mushrooms – approx. 250g of chestnut, field, open, and any nice mushrooms you can get.
  • Shallots – approx. 8, peeled and if quite big halved
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
  • Herbs – a bouquet garni is perfect
  • Red wine – ¼  of a bottle approx
  • A squeeze of tomato puree
  • Seasonings like mushroom sauce, Maggi,
  • Cornflour/flour as a thickener
  • A sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed but kept chilled
  • Butter

Method ~

  • Heat a pan of water to a rolling boil
  • Score the chestnuts on the underside and add them to the water. Boil them for 10 to 20 minutes until you are able to start peeling the skins off. Take the pan off the heat. There is no really easy way to do this, I use a small sharp knife to get into the chestnuts. The aim is to keep them whole but a few will crumble.
  • In a large heavy frying pan add some olive oil and a knob of butter for shallow frying, when hot add the garlic and the shallots. The aim is to start cooking them, but gently and slowly, they don’t need to be browned. This takes about 10 minutes.
  • Take the mushrooms and start slicing and halving them – thickly, but leave some of the smaller mushrooms whole.
  • Add the herbs into the  pan with the garlic and shallots, give it a stir and then add the mushrooms
  • Cook the mushrooms for about 5 – 10 minutes, you want to try and release some of the moisture in the mushrooms.
  • Now add the red wine – probably ¼ to 1/3 of a bottle, bring the heat up and one tablespoon of tomato puree.
  • Cook the wine off a bit, now check for seasonings, I tend to add a dash of mushroom ketchup, and some Maggi seasoning, some black pepper, and maybe some salt.
  • In a cup mix up a tablespoon of cornflour and water, and then add this to the mushroom/wine mixture. Let it cook for a few minutes.
  • Check the seasonings, what does it need? You are looking for a rich wine gravy with plenty of flavour.
  • Transfer the mixture to a deep  oven dish
  • You should have enough liquid to cover most of the veggies, if not about 2/3rds is ok.
  • Roll the puff pastry over the top of the oven dish and then tidy the edges and cut a few holes in the pastry to let the steam out. If you prefer you can cut the pastry into smaller rounds with a pastry cutter and place them on top.
  • Cook in the oven for approx. 30 to 40 minutes until the pastry os cooked.

Alternatives – you can add par-boiled baby new poatoes into the dish, and if you have them some fresh chopped tomatoes (if you are clever and have canned or frozen some from summer).

I like this with a dish of steamed greens and carrots, or a good green salad.


    • The trick is to get plenty of flavour into the gravy, as there is no meat and no meat fats you need to look elsewhere, but good mushrooms are a must. Marmite has been know to be used as part of the gravy 🙂

  • Gorgeous – no more chestnuts here now but I could try and get some vac pack ones as I´m dying to try it. And yes, marmite would be good for added flavour 🙂 PS. My parents are in St Leonards this week and off for a curry at the Taj Mahal!

    • They still have chestnuts in the French supermarkets, I wonder when the official season is over!
      And fantastic, I hope they like the Taj Mahal, I also hope it’s open as I know they were going on holiday in January, oh and tell them to book if its in the evening, its a popular place 🙂

  • They are so beautiful dear Claire, I am talking about these photographs… But this is new for me, I should note the recipe, Thank you, with my love, nia

  • I must admit, Claire, that initially I was a doubter. Then, I read your recipe and thought about it while doing so. I bet this would work. Like you said in the comments, the trick would be to infuse the dish with the flavors that the beef would normally bring to the dish. A challenge, yes, but I love a challenge!Thanks for the inspiration!.

    • Yes, the trick is to get flavour into the dish, and great mushrooms certainly help, then there are the “cheats” we all use, whether it’s a veggie stock cube, marmite, worcestershire sauce etc, oh and butter 🙂

  • I’ve been out of town for awhile and just catching up with your posts. I’m glad that your wonky arm is not stopping you from having a nice time in the mountains. I don’t have the access to your lovely fresh chestnuts but I’m sure that your meal use absolutely delicious.

    • Lovely to see you Karen, I’ve been wondering where you were and was hoping all is good with you and that maybe you were just off on a lovely holiday somewhere 🙂 And thank you for your kind compliments. Claire

  • I recently made a mince (ground beef) bourguignon and think a veggie version is an outstanding idea although I have never topped a bourguignon with pastry before! Delightful idea.
    🙂 Mandy

  • The cow, the cow….I would love that in my front yard and, oh yes, the recipe could be a good one for my vegetarian friends with whom we share dinner each week. I’m wondering though, where in the world do I find chestnuts in Houston!

    • Isn’t it a treat! It stopped me in my tracks. It’s outside a restaurant in Morzine, which is near to us, and I couldn’t help but snap it.
      Hmmmmm, chestnuts in Houston? Do you get them in cans there? If not I guess you could switch them totally for another vegetable or nut, but that’s tricky as chestnuts have such a distinctive flavour and texture. Need to put my thinking cap on 🙂

  • Wow… how interesting and creative!! Sadly, I’m allergic to mushrooms but that didn’t stop me from reading and drooling over the entire recipe!!

    • Allergic to mushrooms! I think my partner would just curl up his toes and keel over! I have a fairly hefty allergy to all things dairy, fortunately not severe, but I have to be careful, so I know how tough it can be to “miss” out. Ice cream is a once a year treat for me, and then I pretty much instantly regret it, but while I’m eating that special holiday ice cream, I linger over it and thoroughlly savour it!

  • Chestnuts! I’ve been trying so hard to find good chestnuts (little bigger than what I find around here) but haven’t seen one like yours, Claire! I love chestnuts….so envious! I can imagine your bourguignon must be so delicious!

  • Did you know we French people never use ‘Sacré bleu’, it’s a pure English invention – albeit a sweet one!
    In the context of your article perhaps it should have been ‘Sacré bœuf’ 🙂
    Nice recipe, thank you

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