21 October 2013

OF CARBONNADE FLAMANDE AND OTHER BELGIAN DELIGHTS

CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Carbonnade Flamande is a classic Belgian casserole, traditionally made with beef, onions and herbs, stewed in Trappist beer. Trappist beer is brewed by Trappist Monks (an order of the Roman-Catholic Cistercian Order). According to one of their rules 'ora et labora' ('pray and work') that states that Trappist Monks have to spend a good part of their day doing manual labour to provide for their own living, as well as to help others, the beer has to be brewed, or brewing has to be supervised, by the Trappist Monks themselves within their Trappist Monasteries, or in breweries in close vicinity to the Monasteries. Amongst several other goods, they also produce a variety of Trappist Cheeses, one of them being  Chimay 'Grand Classique', a fantastic, semi-soft, buttery cheese with a flavour of yeast or bread crust.
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
I have never been a big fan of beer, but with all the great beers in the world, I am sure this is due to my ignorance (and maybe my fear of a beer-belly... but seriously, have you ever heard of a wine-belly? Or a Champagne-belly?) But I do very much like Trappist beers. The famous Belgian Chimay 'Capsule Bleu' (= Blue Chimay with the blue bottle cap) for example, used in this recipe, with it's beautiful dark colour and rose-flowery, spicy, caramel taste is a real treat. 

CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
But not only is it nice to drink, it also lends a unique flavour to this dish. Due to the long cooking process, it blends so well with all the other flavours and spices. So judging by my own taste-buds, I think appreciating the beer in general is not necessarily a pre-requisite for liking this dish.
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Carbonnade Flamande is one of our favourite cold season Sunday lunch/comfort foods. I like to prepare it on Saturday evening, leave it in the oven at low temperature until bedtime, and then the flavours have hours to infuse overnight, perfect and ready for Sunday lunch.  For the same reason it's great for dinner parties and stay-over guests, as you can prepare it completely in advance, but resting assured, like with any stew, that it will only get better as it ages or is re-heated. We have served it for example as New Year's brunch once, and, judging by the faces and the empty dishes, everyone liked it. Provided it is kept at low temperature, in order not to toughen the meat, even during re-heating, it seems almost fail-save to me, and turned out great every time we made it. 
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Admittedly, I have never eaten a Carbonnade Flamande other than this one. Not sure why I never ordered it in a restaurant. And if this is not enough to make you suspicious, the recipe I have always used I found on a UK Web site :-)  But looking at other recipes I think it's pretty authentic. In any case, it is really delicious... you just have to trust me on that one...  ;-)


Recipe based on: 'Carbonnade Flamande', BBC GoodFood
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Serves 4: 

1.2 kg Carbonnade (stewing beef, lean rump)
400ml Blue Chimay (or another Trappist ale)
3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
salt
freshly milled black pepper
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
250g pancetta
2 carrots
2 onions
1 leek
1 Tbsp tomato purée
350ml beef stock
1 bouquet garni (a small bunch of thyme, parsley stalks, a bay leave and app. 6 pepper corns tied in muslin)
a handful of parsley
optional: boiled salt potatoes as side dish


Marinate the beef over night (or for as long as possible). This will help to soften the meat, but also penetrate the meat with flavour: to do so, put the beer in a large bowl. Peel and lightly crush the garlic with the palm of your hand and add together with the 2 bay leaves to the bowl. 
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Cut the beef into 4 cm cubes,  add to the beer and stir well so that the beef is coated and submerged in the marinade. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight. Stir once during this time if possible. 
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
The next day, drain the beef from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Thoroughly dry the meat with kitchen paper. Put the flour in a large bowl, and season it with 1 tsp salt and freshly milled black pepper. Add the meat to the flour and toss to cover evenly. 
CARBONNADE FLAMANDECARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over high heat in a large, ovenproof casserole until hot. Shake any excess flour off the meat, then fry it in badges in the hot oil for app. 5 minutes per batch, stirring occasionally, until rich golden brown all over. This will add flavour to the dish. Remove to a plate. Fry the remaining meat, adding a little more oil between batches as necessary, but always making sure that the oil is hot before adding the next batch. Don't worry about any brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. They will all come off later when the liquid is added, but really add flavour of the dish. 
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Lower the heat to medium and fry the pancetta for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden. Scoop the pancetta out with a slotted spoon and set aside with the beef. 
CARBONNADE FLAMANDECARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Preheat the oven to 150C/fan 130C/300F/gas 3. Peel the vegetable, then slice the carrots and leeks and dice the onions. Add them to the pan and fry until they start to brown, stirring occasionally, for app. 12 minutes. 
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Add the tomato purée and continue to cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
CARBONNADE FLAMANDECARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Add the beef back to the casserole, followed by the reserved marinade. The original recipe does not say whether to leave the garlic and bay leave inside and the last couple of times I removed them. Bring to a simmer, scraping any sticky bits off the bottom of the pan and stirring them under. Add the beef stock and the bouquet garni. 
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
The bouquet garni can be made from a couple of sprigs of parsley (without leaves), some thyme sprigs, 1 bay leave and 6 pepper corns. Wrap in gauze and tie together with a kitchen string. In case you don't have gauze, you can also just tie up the herbs on their own with the kitchen string, and then put the pepper corns into a tea egg if at hand and add both to the casserole. 
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Season the Carbonnade with salt and freshly milled black pepper and bring to the boil, then remove immediately from the heat. Cover with a lid and leave to cook in the oven for 2 hours, stirring once halfway through. Through the low temperature the meat will cook slowly and the meat fibres have time to relax resulting in tender meat. 
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
After 2 hours check with a fork if the beef is tender. Depending on the beef used, cooking times may vary, so if necessary just leave in the oven a little longer. Tip: when the Carbonnade is cooked it may be cooled and frozen for up to 1 month. To re-heat, add 100ml beef stock to the sauce.
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE
Once the beef is tender, scatter over the chopped parsley (or a couple of thyme leaves for decoration) and serve in the casserole. Goes well with boiled salt potatoes, mash or jacket potatoes, and buttered greens.
CARBONNADE FLAMANDE


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CARBONNADE FLAMANDE 



CARBONNADE FLAMANDECARBONNADE FLAMANDECARBONNADE FLAMANDE

Serves 4: 

1.2 kg Carbonnade (stewing beef, lean rump)
400ml Blue Chimay (or another Trappist ale)
3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
salt
freshly milled black pepper
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
250g pancetta
2 carrots
2 onions
1 leek
1 Tbsp tomato purée
350ml beef stock
1 bouquet garni (a small bunch of thyme, parsley stalks, a bay leave and app. 6 pepper corns tied in muslin)
a handful of parsley
optional: boiled salt potatoes as side dish

Marinate the beef over night (or for as long as possible). This will help to soften the meat, but also penetrate the meat with flavour: to do so, put the beer in a large bowl. Peel and lightly crush the garlic with the palm of your hand and add together with the 2 bay leaves to the bowl. Cut the beef into 4 cm cubes,  add to the beer and stir well so that the beef is coated and submerged in the marinade. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight. Stir once during this time if possible. The next day, drain the beef from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Thoroughly dry the meat with kitchen paper. Put the flour in a large bowl, and season it with 1 tsp salt and freshly milled black pepper. Add the meat to the flour and toss to cover evenly. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over high heat in a large, ovenproof casserole until hot. Shake any excess flour off the meat, then fry it in badges in the hot oil for app. 5 minutes per batch, stirring occasionally, until rich golden brown all over. This will add flavour to the dish. Remove to a plate. Fry the remaining meat, adding a little more oil between batches as necessary, but always making sure that the oil is hot before adding the next batch. Don't worry about any brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. They will all come off later when the liquid is added, but really add flavour of the dish. Lower the heat to medium and fry the pancetta for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden. Scoop the pancetta out with a slotted spoon and set aside with the beef. Preheat the oven to 150C/fan 130C/300F/gas 3. Peel the vegetable, then slice the carrots and leeks and dice the onions. Add them to the pan and fry until they start to brown, stirring occasionally, for app. 12 minutes. Add the tomato purée and continue to cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the beef back to the casserole, followed by the reserved marinade. The original recipe does not say whether to leave the garlic and bay leave inside and the last couple of times I removed them. Bring to a simmer, scraping any sticky bits off the bottom of the pan and stirring them under. Add the beef stock and the bouquet garni. The bouquet garni can be made from a couple of sprigs of parsley (without leaves), some thyme sprigs, 1 bay leave and 6 pepper corns. Wrap in gauze and tie together with a kitchen string. In case you don't have gauze, you can also just tie up the herbs on their own with the kitchen string, and then put the pepper corns into a tea egg if at hand and add both to the casserole. Season the Carbonnade with salt and freshly milled black pepper and bring to the boil, then remove immediately from the heat. Cover with a lid and leave to cook in the oven for 2 hours, stirring once halfway through. Through the low temperature the meat will cook slowly and the meat fibres have time to relax resulting in tender meat. After 2 hours check with a fork if the beef is tender. Depending on the beef used, cooking times may vary, so if necessary just leave in the oven a little longer. Tip: when the Carbonnade is cooked it may be cooled and frozen for up to 1 month. To re-heat, add 100ml beef stock to the sauce.Once the beef is tender, scatter over the chopped parsley (or a couple of thyme leaves for decoration) and serve in the casserole. Goes well with boiled salt potatoes, mash or jacket potatoes, and buttered greens.
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