Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Saffron's back, baby! With Flemish Beef stew (grandmother's style)

I'm back! Finally, after almost two months of silence, Pass the saffron, please has jumped back into action! Now that I've settled into my new home and into my new life, I hope to be able to post regularly again, although you'll have to bear with me at some points... Law school will demand most of my time to be spent sitting behing books instead of standing behind pots and pans.

The first dish I'll be posting is my absolute favorite dish, Flemish Beef Stew ( Stoofvlees or Stoverij in Dutch or Carbonades à la Flamande in French). However, there are so many different variations to this dish as there are grandmothers I think. Every family's stew tastes a little bit different. The dish also varies according to the region or city you're in, for example, if you have stoofvlees in Leuven (Louvain), then the taste will be somewhat sweeter than in other cases due to the addition of speculaas (a typical Belgian cookie). Another famous variation to this dish is called Gentse Stoverij, which uses two different types of beer and more herbs (thyme, parsley, etc). However, the recipe I'll be posting is the one created and followed by my grandmother.

What do you need?

For two to three people:

1 kg of beef stew meat (don't use "good meat" i.e. steak etc, rather use the shoulder meat, or rib meat). Make sure it's not too lean, you want to have some fat in there as the taste will be much better and the meat won't turn out to be chewy.

1 medium sized onion

1 teaspoon of sharp mustard

potato flour

2 medium-sized bay leaves

1 tablespoon of vinegar (don't use wine vinegar!!)

Pepper & salt

1 clove

Freshly grated nutmeg

optional: slice of white bread

optional: trappist beer

Let's get cooking!

1. If the meat hasn't been diced, cut up the meat into cubes of about 3x3x3 cm. Then melt about a tablespoon of unsalted butter in a large frying pan. Once it's gone light brown and there's no more bubbles in melted butter, add the beef.

2. Brown the cubes of beef. Make sure all the sides are brown, if not, your stewed beef will be very chewy and tough.

3. Once you fried the beef, remove it from the frying pan and put it in a casserole. Add water to the frying pan, and make a sauce with the butter left in the pan. You will probably have to do this several times in order to get all the rests of butter left in the frying pan to dissolve. Add the sauce to the casserole, but only add enough to leave the tops of the meat sticking out. Add salt, pepper, bay leaves and nutmeg.

4. Add the whole onion to the beef. Stick a clove into the bottom of the onion. You can also cut up the onion into quarters and let it dissolve. Also, add the teaspoon of sharp mustard. You can also use a slice of white bread, spread the mustard onto the slice of bread. Put the slice on top of the meat, with the mustard side facing down. The bread will dissolve and thicken the sauce (most likely you won't need to add potato flour afterwards).

5. Put the casserole on a very low fire, and let it cook very slowly for at least an hour (it might take a good deal longer, or it might less time, it all depends on the meat). Every so often check on the meat, whether it's cooked well enough, and give the whole thing a good stir. 6. Take a few tablespoons of the sauce and mix it with the tablespoon of vinegar and about a teaspoon of potato flour. Stir and then add to the beef. This will thicken your sauce (watch out, don't use too much, the sauce shouldn't be too thick, it still has to be quite runny). Stir the stew to let the potato flour do its work.

6. Once it's ready, remove the whole onion and the two bay leaves.

Serve with fresh fries, fresh chopped Belgian endives and some "pickles" (similar to British picalilly, but not as sweet and more sour)!

Smakelijk!! Enjoy!

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