Friday, May 28, 2010

Flemish Beef Stew with Beer (Vlaamse Stoverij)

Flemish beef stew, as the name suggests, is a traditional beef stew from Flanders, the northern Dutch-speaking region of Belgium. It is called Vlaamse Stoverij or Vlaamse Stoofkarbonaden in Dutch. This is as Flemish as you can get. Most good Flemish restaurants should have it on their menu. The ingredients are pretty simple too. I used a Belgian beer called Maredsous 10 Triple for this dish but if you don't have Belgian beer, you can always replace it with a good brown beer, or whatever beer you have, although it is highly recommended that you use a Belgian beer because Belgian beers are the best beers in the world, no kidding! Try to use a rich, dark and slightly bitter beer cos the success of this dish pretty much depends on the beer you use. As for red currant jelly (rode bessengelei), it is a jelly-like jam sold in Belgium which is made from red currant or red berries. I suppose you can replace it with a similar jam such as strawberry, blueberry or blackberry jam (though I have not tried them before, you be my guinea pig ok?). If you don't want to open a big bottle of jam and later leave it untouched, just use brown sugar instead, then I won't be blamed. :)

I cooked this stew over a low fire for 2 hours, and at the end of it, the 330ml of beer had simply evaporated or was fully absorbed by the stew meat. (So you don't have to worry about getting drunk! There was 10% alcohol in the maredsous beer and I was still sober after the meal ;p ) Then I added the red currant jelly and cider vinegar and let it cook for another 5 min. The end result was simply yummilicious...You don't have to book a flight to Belgium to enjoy this dish, you can simply try the recipe at home!

(Recipe adapted from "Everybody eats well in Belgium" by Ruth Van Waerebeek, I reduced the proportions by half to make a stew for 3 persons)

Flemish Beef Stew with Beer (Vlaamse Stoverij)

600g stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 bottle (330ml) Belgian beer
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp red currant jelly (or brown sugar)
0.5-1 tbsp cider or red wine vinegar

1. Season the beef cubes with the salt and pepper and coat them with flour. Shake off any excess.

2. Prepare 1 large non-stick skillet/wok and 1 Dutch oven. (I used a large non-stick cooking pot with a heavy bottom, in place of Dutch oven). The skillet/wok is for browning the beef cubes and onions, which will be transfered to the
Dutch oven/cooking pot for stewing.

3. Melt 2 tbsp of the butter in the skillet/wok over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the beef cubes and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Work in batches so as not to crowd the beef cubes. Transfer the beef cubes to the Dutch oven/cooking pot.

4. Add the remaining 1 tbsp butter to the
skillet/wok and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and cook stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10-15 minutes. If necessary, raise the heat toward the end of the cooking time. It is important to brown the meat and the onions evenly to give the stew its deep brown color. The trick is to stir the onions just enough to avoid burning the but not so often as to interrupt the browning process. Combine the onions with the meat in the Dutch oven/cooking pot.

5. Deglaze the skillet/wok with the beer, scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits. Pour the beer (from the skillet/wok) over the meat (in the Dutch oven/cooking pot) and bring to a boil. (Don't be alarmed when the it foams a lot.) Add the thyme and bay leaves.

6. Simmer, covered, over low heat until the meat is very tender, 1.5 to 2 hours. Before serving, stir in the red currant jelly (rode bessengelei) and vinegar; simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.

Note :  
This dish is best made a day before as the flavour improves over time. You may serve it with bread, rice or frites (belgian fries).

(Last Updated on 8 Sep 2011: See also Vlaamse Stoverij met Westmalle Tripel.)

Smakelijk eten!

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