This is THE Dish. The king of hearts of all the dishes from my homeland: Flemish stew. Or as we call it in Belgium: “carbonnade flamande”.
This wonderful beef stew is rich and comforting, sticks to ribs (and the hips) and makes you cry out “I ate too much” but you’ll be happily licking off your plate, and mischievously dunk some left over fries in the dark sticky sauce.
This recipe comes from my mom and I haven’t changed anything about it.
It is perfect just as it is.
There are several ways of making Flemish stew. I think in Belgium each region or family has their own take. First of all there are all kinds of Belgian beers you can use. Some use simple lagers, others will reach for heavy beers like the “Duvel”, we on the other hand prefer Gueuze. Secondly, to thicken the stew, some people might use flour or corn starch. Others will spread mustard on a slice of bread and dump it in the stew (my grand-mother). However my mom prefers to crumble up a few slices of spice bread (Pain d’Epices) into it at the end.
Serve this stew with fries (see Roast Chicken recipe for proper fries), mayonnaise and a proper Belgian beer. *
Ingredients: (Serves 4)
- 1kg of diced stewing beef
- 3 tbsps of sunflower oil
- 4 onions sliced
- 2 tbsps of brown sugar
- 3 tbsps of white wine vinegar
- 1 beef stock cube
- 75cl of gueuze beer *
- 3,5 slices of spice bread**
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat your (cast iron) casserole on the hob until very hot, add half of the sunflower oil, and in this carefully place the pieces of beef. Don’t overcrowd the bottom; it might take you a couple of batches to brown the meat all over.
- Once all the meat is browned and transferred to a separate bowl, add the remaining oil with the onions in the casserole and cook until caramelized and tender. They will loosen up all the burnt bits of meat left in the pan.
- Once the onions are ready, add the sugar, stock cube and vinegar and transfer back in the pieces of beef (along with any juices).
- Top up with the beer until the meat is covered. (Add a little of water if necessary). Add some salt and pepper (but not too much, you’ll finish the seasoning at the end of the cooking).
- Cover and let simmer on the lowest heat for at least 2 hours or until the beef comes apart. Check and stir regularly, add a bit of water if it starts to stick at the bottom of the casserole.
- Crumble the slices of spice bread and stir into the stew. Allow to cook another 10 minutes for the bread to dissolve and to thicken the sauce. If it is still a bit runny, add a couple more slices of the spice bread.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning.
*I love and adore Nigella, but she broke my heart when suggesting serving her version with pasta. Just don’t. Please. It’s either fries, croquettes or mash if need be. If you like to make it a bit healthier, serve some boiled fine green beans with it.
**For anyone living outside of Belgium or France, getting hold of Pain d’epices might be a costly affair so I have included a recipe by the very talented and inspirational Mimi Thorisson.