I had Flemish stew once, in Ghent, delicious it was. Nineteen year old me attempted to recreate it when I got home and failed spectacularly, I tried and failed at cooking a lot of things back then ...I still make cock ups now, though thankfully with less frequency. My first attempt at this famous Belgian stew was doomed when I decided that I would cook it for only 30 minutes. Predictably it was a rubbery, watery, tasteless mess.
Flemish stew needs a long cook over low heat, it needs a good beer, it needs good seasoning. So far so normal, but then it gets weird and you spread a slice of gingerbread with mustard and stir it in the stew in until it dissolves.
Not as odd as it sounds when you consider that good cooks regularly sneak a spoon or two of sugar into their stews to balance the flavour. The addition of gingerbread does the same thing, it's just as well as a pop of sugar you also get ginger and other spices.
Traditionally Flemish stew is served with Belgian fries. Are they like French fries? you ask. They are French fries, I reply. Or rather French fries are Belgian fries. It was the allied forces of world war I stationed in French speaking Belgian who tried them, liked them and coined the name by which we all know them.
- 900g braising beef steak, cubed
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 onions, peeled and finelly diced
- 2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 750ml beer, preferably Belgian
- 250ml water
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 25g gingerbread loaf sliced
- 1 tbsp mustard (Belgian or French)
- Salt and pepper to taste
NUTRITIONAL CONTENT PER PORTION
- Calories | 433
- Fat | 15.7g
Serves | 6
Prep Time | 10 minutes
Cooking Time | 3-4 hours
- In a large heavy based saucepan, brown the beef on all sides in the butter on medium high. Remove the beef and set aside for later, reserving the butter and juices in the pan.
- Add the onions to the pan and sauté until translucent. Stir in the sugar and cook until fully dissolved and beginning to caramelise.
- Return the meat to the pan and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the flour, then the red wine vinegar, cook for a minute stirring constantly.
- Stir in the beer and water, add the bay leaf and thyme, cover, bring to the boil and then simmer of low-medium for 3-4 hours until the meat is pull-apart-tender.
- Spread the slices of ginger bread with the mustard and place in the stew, return the lid and cook for a further ten minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and thyme and stir the stew until the bread has fully disintegrated and incorporated.
- Serve with chips and mustard.