Carbonade Flamande or Belgian Beef and Beer Stew
As you may have read in my review of ‘The Taste of Belgium’, Belgium may be a small country but we have a large variety of food we like to cook! Back in 2015 Jeroen Meus, a Belgian TV chef, wanted to know what dishes were considered the most classic Flemish recipes. Among the top 10 were chicory in ham, Flemish asparagus, rabbit with prunes and meatloaf or meatballs with sour cherries.
But the undisputed number one turned out to be beer & beef stew with fries, or ‘Stoofvlees met frietjes’ in Dutch! To celebrate this national dish, Jeroen Meus declared march 1st ‘National Beef Stew & Fries day’. So I decided to make my own recipe and I’ve been using it ever since! What makes Belgian beef stew so different is that we use Belgian beer to flavour the stew. We usually serve this along with some delicious fries, but you can also serve it with potato croquettes.
It can be a bit harder to find some good Belgian beers here in Ireland. I’ve found mine in the past in Number 21 Off license and in Lidl and Aldi. Some websites also sell it online, but I’d recommend going to your local off-license. If they don’t have it, ask them if they can import a few bottles, they are usually quite happy to do it!
For your choice of beef I always recommend Irish beef as they have a lot of room to move and their food is usually at least 95% fresh Irish grass. For the best pieces I recommend going for shoulder, neck or chest stewing pieces. The local butcher is your best place to go, as they’ll be able to give you the best quality. Next up we use bread and mustard in the sauce as well. The bread thickens the sauce, so make sure to only use brown bread, white ones won’t have the same effect.
When it comes to the beer itself, it’s important to go for a dark/brown/abbey beer like Westmalle Trappist Double, Sint Bernardus Abt 12, Brown Leffe, Chimay, Petrus .. Some beers will give off a more sweet flavour, others a more bitter one. In general, Sint Bernardus Abt 12 is considered to be the best match.
One last interesting ingredient is Sirop de Liège, a syrup made from pears although the brand also has an apple version. It’s nearly impossible to find this in Ireland though. You can substitute it with honey or maple syrup to give it an extra hint of sweetness compared to the bitterness of the beer.
|1kg good quality stewing beef|
|2 bottles (33cl) of Belgian beer|
|2tablespoons Sirop de Liège (Pears), honey or maple syrup|
|3 bay leaves|
|4 cloves (this is not garlic!)|
|1teaspoon dried thyme|
|1 large slice of brown bread or 2 smaller slices|
|2 beef stock cubes|
|250ml water (at least)|
|salt & pepper|