Moving to Belgium a few years ago, I had not even imagined what a delightful culinary world waits ahead. Yes, it starts with pralines, waffles and frietjes, but there is so much more. The Flemish region has many traditional dishes handed down from generation to generation and offered in restaurants with loving pride. Rabbit with Plums, Ham & Chicory Rolls and Beef Stew are among the top list of my many favourites.
There are many varieties to the Flemish Stew. Cooked with beer or wine, mustered or cloves, veal or beef… all flavours – a true sensation. I am using veal today instead of beef. It is paler and more tender. It cooks quicker and has a lighter taste compared to beef. Adding a tablespoon of tomato puree, a tablespoon of mustard and plenty of dark beer swirls all flavours into a magic mix. Combined with plenty of beef stock, bay leaves and thyme, my stew is ready to slowly simmer in the oven for a couple of hours. But we are not finished yet. The beer and the mustard create a deep and bitter flavour. Once ready, I add a tablespoon of honey and all tastes completely transform into utter deliciousness.
This is the magic of the Flemish Stew – deep and delicious meat soften to perfection in dark beer. The result is an amazing flavour combination of bitter-sweet perfection! A pack of frittjes and lunch is ready to serve.
- Olive oil for frying
- 250g bacon
- 2 onions, sliced
- 1kg Veal, cut into chunks
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 x 330ml bottle Belgian beer (Dark Leffe)
- 500ml beef stock
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- Fresh parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp honey
- Fries, to serve
1. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C. Heat a splash of olive oil in a Dutch Oven casserole (with a lid) and fry the bacon for a few minutes until starting to crisp and release their oil. Add the sliced onions and stir to coat, then fry gently for 10 minutes until softened.
2. Meanwhile, heat a splash more oil in a large frying pan. Working in batches, brown the veal all over, then set aside on a plate. Stir the flour into the onions, then add the veal and any juices, the tomato purée, mustard, beer, 500ml stock, bay leave and thyme. Bring up to a simmer, then cover with the lid and cook in the oven for 2½ hours until the meat is tender.
3. Remove the bay leaves and thyme and add 1 tablespoon of honey. Mix well.
4. Serve with fries or potato puree for mopping up the gravy.