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
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.