A taste of Cortina: manzo brasato


Having touched on the subject of what the cast and crew ate while making the James Bond films with a post on the food served up during the filming of the car chase sequence in Thunderball, I thought I’d try to find out more about the catering for the other films. Turning first to For Your Eyes Only (1981), I contacted Robbin Young (the florist in the Cortina sequence) to ask what she and others ate during filming there. Robbin replied with a lovely message about her experience on location, mentioning that the food served at the local restaurants, where she dined with Roger Moore, typically had a strong Germanic influence; so, no pizza or spaghetti!

Robbin kindly sent me some links to some really useful websites that showcased the local dishes, such as spinach canederli and betroot casunziei. Here, however, I’m presenting a recipe for slow-cooked, braised beef. I don’t know whether any of the cast and crew in Cortina sampled the dish, but it is one of the architypal dishes of northern Italy and, as I discovered when looking through vintage menus from hotels and restaurants in Cortina, that braised beef, or manzo brasato, was served for lunch at the Cristallo Palace Hotel in Cortina some decades ago, possibly about the same time that the Bond cast and crew were in town. Of course, James Bond himself stays at the Miramonti Majestic Grand Hotel (which continues to celebrate its Bond connection), but the Cristallo Palace Hotel has made appearances on the silver screen as well, for example in The Pink Panther (1963).

The recipe below has been adapted from Elizabeth David’s recipe for the dish in her 1954 book, Italian Food, and a recipe presented on the Polenta Baccala website. Incidentally, the dish is not too dissimlar from Tafelspitz, which appears in John Gardner’s 1986 James Bond novel, Nobody Lives For Ever.

Serves 2-3

  • 800g-1kg joint of beef (I used topside)
  • 200ml Italian red wine
  • 1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
  • ½ stick of celery, thickly sliced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2-3 juniper berries
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp each of dried sage, parsley, and rosemary, or whatever herbs are to hand (1 tbsp each if using fresh)
  • Generous pinch each of salt and black pepper
  • 1-2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Place the beef in a large bowl. Pour the wine over the beef and put the remaining ingredients except the flour and oil into the bowl. Swirl everything around and coat the beef well. Cover the bowl and leave the beef to marinate for at least four hours but preferably overnight, turning the meat occasionally.

Remove the beef from the bowl, scraping off any herbs or vegetables adhering to it, transfer it to a plate and coat the beef with flour. Heat the oil in a casserole over a medium flame. Brown the meat in the casserole, turning the beef to sear all the surfaces. Transfer the meat again to the plate.

Pour the liquid and vegetables into the casserole and scrape the base of the casserole to release any meat pieces. Bring the liquid to the boil, return the beef to the casserole, cover the pot with a lid, and turn the heat to the lowest setting. Cook for 2½ to 3 hours, checking every now and again to ensure that the liquid has not boiled dry. (Add water if necessary, but I found that the original amount of liquid is sufficient for the duration of the cooking.)

Once cooked, remove the beef to a chopping or carving board. Pour the liquid and all the vegetables into a blender and processs until smooth. (If you have no food processor, mash or whisk the liquid by hand.) Pour the liquid – now gravy or sauce – back into the casserole and heat through. The sauce should be rich and thick, but if it is too thin, allow the sauce to reduce over the heat and stir in a large knob of butter.

Carve the beef, drizzle the sauce generously over the slices, and serve with polenta or mashed potatoes and peas or green beans, and accompany with a glass of the same wine from which the marinade was created.

James Bond food manzo brasato

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