Gas­tro Gays


400-500g beef (chuck, shin or brisket, veni­son is also great) 125g pancetta or ba­con lar­dons

2 tbsp flour, sea­soned well 2 onions, skinned and halved

4 cloves of garlic, skinned and bruised

2 bay leaves A bot­tle of rich, dark Bel­gian or

English ale (500ml or so) 500ml beef stock (or veg­etable) 2 tbsp strong mus­tard 1 tsp All­spice (op­tional) 1 tbsp Worces­ter­shire sauce Frozen peas or a tin of but­ter

beans Fresh herbs (rose­mary, thyme,

dried is fine) Pota­toes, po­lenta or pasta

to serve

One of the best meals we’ve ever shared was in a tiny, unas­sum­ing bistro called Le Petit Boxeur, hid­den down a side street in Brussels: which we af­fec­tion­ately call ’our Paris’. The Bel­gian cap­i­tal has all the charm and ro­man­ti­cism of its French coun­ter­part, but is a lit­tle more undis­cov­ered, less touristy and eas­ier to nav­i­gate.

Tra­di­tional French bistro food is homely and com­fort­ing, and com­fort food makes us ex­tremely happy. Bistro-style dishes can be ro­man­tic but still ca­sual, so it’s the per­fect food to make some­one you love happy. This recipe is adapted from one of the sig­na­ture dishes at that restau­rant, Car­bon­nade de Boeuf; rich, slow­cooked, melt­ingly ten­der beef braised in beer and stock.

This is sim­ple to recre­ate at home, and when served with but­tery mash or rich po­lenta you’ve of­fi­cially reached food heaven, well done, and with such min­i­mal work! You should cel­e­brate that achieve­ment with a large glass of red wine…

Could serve four, but try get­ting past a greedy two first.

This isn’t a long process, but it takes a lit­tle time in small stages. But if you’ve ever had a chewy, tough, wa­tery stew, you’ll gladly give this all the time it re­quires. Firstly, coat your meat chunks in the sea­soned flour while a pan, with a lit­tle oil in it, is heat­ing up to medium-high. Then, dust off and brown the meat on all sides be­fore re­mov­ing to a bowl.

In a large, heavy-based pan, cook the lar­dons on medium-to-low for a good ten min­utes as they re­lease their fat and crisp, then add the garlic and onion, fol­lowed by the herbs, spices and bay leaves. Then rein­tro­duce the meat, pour in the stock and beer – along with the mus­tard and Worces­ter­shire – and bring to a boil.

Heat off, and clamp a lid on, then pop into a pre-heated oven at 140°C and cook for three to four hours un­til the meat is so ten­der, it can be bro­ken up ef­fort­lessly w ith a spoon. Re­move from the oven and put back on the stove on a high heat. Chuck in the beans or peas and cook for the last 10 min­utes while the sauce re­duces.

Serve with your choice of com­fort­ing carb. Hap­pi­ness on a plate.

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