I first came across this hearty traditional Flemish dish in the hot summer months in Lille in the north of France, but it would make the perfect winter warmer for the gray, damp days we’re having here in England at the moment.
Carbonnade Flamande (Beef and beer stew)
1. Season the beef with a little salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large dutch oven (a covered earthenware or cast-iron container for cooking casseroles) over medium-high heat until hot and almost smoking. Brown the beef well for about 3 minutes on each side. Put to one side.
2. Add 2 tablespoons butter to dutch oven and reduce heat to medium.
3. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook for about 15 minutes, until onions are browned.
4. Add flour and evenly coat the onions in flour. Cook for about 2 minutes, until flour is lightly browned.
5. Add stock (and loosen any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan). Then stir in beer, thyme, bay, browned beef with any of the accumulated juices, and salt and pepper to taste.
6. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a full simmer.
7. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and leave it cooking for about 2 hours..
Cook in the oven at 150°c / Gas 2 for 2 hours.
8. Stir occasionally, scraping up anything that is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
9. Add the mustard and brown sugar, plus slat and pepper if required. Cook for a further 30 minutes until beef tender.
10. Remove the thyme and bay leaf and serve.
Served traditionally with French fries and salad as I had it Lille (but it would also go very well with mashed, baked or new potatoes and some seasonal vegetables).
Better still, let it cool, uncovered, before covering and refrigerating for the next day. It will taste even better and can be made up to 2 days in advance! The cooled stew can also be frozen, in airtight container, for up to 3 months. It should be defrosted overnight before reheating. To reheat, put the stew back the dutch dish and reheat slowly in a preheated oven at 150ºC/gas mark 2 for 1 hour, until piping hot.