I was taught to cook this classic Belgium dish, Beef carbonnade à la flamande to give it its full name, while I was at Polytechnic studying Home Economics in the 80’s and it’s another recipe that has stood the test of time. Even Jamie has a recipe for it in his book Minstry of foods. It’s the ale in it that gives this beef and onion stew its depth of flavour and I serve it as I was taught – topped with delicious mustard covered croûtes. A Flemish version of our own English, beef stew and dumplings!
Similar to most stews or casseroles you do have to think ahead of time as they require a long slow cook in order to cook the cheaper, tougher, cuts of beef into meltingly tender meat. The actual hands on preparation time is, however, pretty short. It also has an even better flavour if you make it the day before as with many stews, since this really gives it the time for the flavours to develope. If you have a slow cooker you could use this for the initial cooking, and then transfer to an oven for the final cooking with the croûtes on top.
Because of the cooking time I wouldn’t recommend making it in a smaller quantity especially as it improves on reheating. But if you are catering for a crowd (or plan ahead for future meals) then you can easily up the quantities to suit making it perfect for casual entertaining. It freezes well for up to 6 months (without the croûtes).
This recipe call for a bouquet garni. – A bouquet garni is French term meaning a bundle of herbs usual tied with string. Bay, thyme, sage and parsley are often used. The bouquet garni is then removed before serving. Make your own if you have fresh herbs or buy you can buy red bouquet garni which are held together in a teabag like sachet. Alternatively just add some chopped dried mixed herbs.
Step by step Beef Carbonnade
- 1 kg chuck or braising steak cut into chunks
- 1½ tbsp plain flour
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 75 g bacon lardons
- 75 g butter
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 4 large onions sliced
- 2 tsp dark brown sugar
- 500 ml brown ale
- 400 ml beef stock
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 bouquet garni
- to serve
- 12 slices french bread
- Dijon mustard
- Preheat the oven to 180 ℃/170℃ fan/gas mark 4. Place the meat on a plate and sprinkle with the flour and season with salt and pepper. Toss the meat in the flour to coat.
- Melt the butter with the oil in a frying pan and add the bacon. Cook until browned on all sides. Transfer to an ovenproof casserole dish using a slotted spoon.
- Add the onions to the pan and cook gently until softened and beginning to colour, then add to the casserole dish.
- Brown the meat on all sides and transfer to the casserole dish.
- Sprinkle any remaining flour into the pan. Add the sugar, ale and stock, stirring well to scrape up any juices that are sticking to the base of the pan. Bring to the boil then pour into the casserole dish.
- Stir to combine the ingredients, and add the bouquet garni. Cover and cook for 1 ½ hours or until the meat is tender.
- Remove the bouquet garni, taste and adjust the seasoning as required. Spread the french bread slices with a generous layer of mustard and place in a ring on top of the casserole. Cook uncovered for a further 15–20 minutes.
Freeze the carbonnade after cooking until tender and allowing to cool. Add the bread garnish when reheating. Freeze for up to 6 months.