Flemish Beef and Beer Stew

It’s amazing how the places you visit just once, leave an indelible mark on you. From my last trip to Belgium, I packed a little bit of Bruges back home. Did you know Bruges is the chocolate capital of the world? Beer, comic books and fries are the first loves of a true-bred Belgian. And they go crazy over Mussels and…fries.
But, what you must try out as a first timer, is their Beef and Beer Stew. Accompanied with of course…the F R I E S 🙂
I was itching to try it out at home, and so I did. This of course, is a Googled recipe, but with a little twist of my own.
It poured last evening…thunderstorms, lightning and all. There couldn’t be a better way to keep warm and cooped up at home.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: Around 3 hours
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1 kg stew beef (shoulder meat preferable)
2 large onions, roughly sliced
500 ml of dark beer
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 cloves
1 clove of garlic, minced
The recipe said 2 laurel leaves. I couldn’t find them in the supermarket. So I added 2 bay leaves.
3-4 sprigs of rosemary
2-3 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp of flour to thicken the gravy
A splash of balsamic vinegar
3 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps butter
Salt & pepper for seasoning

Method:
1. Take a small piece of cheese cloth and tie the rosemary, thyme & cloves in it. You’ll want to be able to remove it from the stew easily later on. If you don’t have one, that’s okay too. Picking out the sprigs later, isn’t that big of a deal.

2. Cut the meat in roughly 1-inch or bite-size cubes. Season with salt and pepper and leave aside.

3. In a large non-stick pan, heat the olive oil and brown the meat over medium heat. It’s best to do this in batches, as you don’t want to overcrowd the meat. Overcrowding means the meat won’t brown, it’ll rather steam and you don’t want this. You want a nice crispy brown edge on each piece of meat. Set each batch of meat aside. Don’t be alarmed by the brownish ‘crud’ that forms on the bottom of your pan, and definitely don’t try to get rid of it… This is where a lot of the flavor forms.

4. When all meat is browned, turn up the heat a bit and pour a splash or two of the beer in the pan. Save the rest for later. Scrape the bottom of your pan to loosen the browned bits the meat formed.

5. When most of the bits are loosened and starting to dissolve in the beer, add butter, sliced onions and minced garlic, and continue to cook on medium until the onions are translucent.

6. Add the remainder of the beer, browned beef, cheese cloth with herbs and the sugar, and cook over low heat for 2-3 hours until the beef is fork-tender. Add a teaspoon of flour to thicken the gravy.

7. Keep the lid off of your pot. Once you have reached the desired thickness of the sauce, only then place the lid on the pot.

8. When the stew is ready, remove the cheese cloth wrapped herbs and bay leaves, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and stir.

9. Serve hot with sides of hash browns, french fries, buttery potato mash or baked potato wedges. Potato is such a versatile veggie, no.

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Pasta Verduras – Pasta in Veggies, Wine And Tomato Sauce

Every dish has a story to tell. Like my Pasta Verduras. The idea was to rustle up a quick stew for Sunday lunch. Pasta just came waddling around for a stroll. But, glancing at this inviting, aromatic stew bursting with colors, the pasta decided to take a dip. So, that’s that 🙂
It’s a one-pot recipe that’ll make for a quick, hearty lunch and also a comforting dinner.
All you need to do is get chopping 🙂

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
2 red peppers, deseeded and diced
2 yellow peppers, deseeded and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium size red onions, finely chopped
1 medium aubergine, cut into big chunks
1 medium broccoli, roughly chopped
1 large courgettes, diced
1/2 cup green peas
2 tbsp, garlic, grated. I use lots of it. I’m a huge garlic fan 🙂
1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, pureed
3 tbsp, tomato ketchup or sauce
1/2 cup any red wine. I used Port Wine
400 gm macaroni, penne or spaghetti pasta
A cup of grated parmesan cheese. Save a little for garnishing.
Chopped coriander for garnishing
2 tsp lemon juice
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Method:
1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent.
2. Toss in all the chopped peppers. Put the lid on and cook on medium, till soft.
3. Now add carrots and courgettes and cook.
4. Once the carrots are soft, add peas, aubergine, tomatoes, broccoli and cook with lid on.
5. Add the tomato puree, sause and the seasoning and cook on medium for another 3-4 of minutes.
6. Lastly add the slosh of wine and lemon juice and stir. Let it simmer on low for 5 minutes. Do the taste test and add more seasoning if needed.
7. Add the grated parmesan, stir and let it cook on low for a minute. Save some of it for plating.
8. Meanwhile, put a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions. When cooked, drain in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water.
9. Now pop the pasta and cooking water into the stew, add the chopped coriander and give a good toss.
10. Serve hot with a garnish of coriander, gorgeous long ribbons of grated parmesan and a poached egg mounted on the top, its sun-kissed yolk streaming down.
I like it medium-poached.

Good and nutritious food isn’t always the outcome of lengthy, rigorous cooking. It can also be like that story, short and simple; yet it leaves an indelible effect on you that lasts forever…