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For my first ever blog recipe I decided to cook a Beef Carbonnade. We’ve just returned from our honeymoon touring in the West Country in Lola, the VW and I’d eaten a lovely Carbonnade at the Staghunters Inn on Exmoor; it was perfect on a very cold, rainy night. As the mini Indian Summer seems to have deserted us I thought a warming stew would be a great idea for a night in in front of the X-Factor.

Carbonnade is a Flemish dish of beef (I used Chuck Steak, from the shoulder) but shin or skirt would also work well) cooked very slowly with beer and onions. A medieval dish, it was originally served with gingerbread; I decided to keep the subtle spices in the dish, but served ours with oversized cheesey baguette croutons instead.

The recipe I used is as follows (word of warning here, I’m not very good at recipes, tending to be a make-it-up-as-you-go-along kind of cook, but here goes…)

Beef Carbonnade – Serves 2

  • 1 pound of chuck steak (or any good stewing steak)
  • Flour for browning
  • 4 large shallots, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • A few good shakes of allspice
  • 1 bottle of dark ale (recipes traditionally use Belgian but I went for a Hobgoblin Ruby Ale (beer of Halloween!) to bring out the spicy flavours)
  • 1 Beef stock cube
  • Sprig of Thyme and a Bay Leaf
  • 1 baguette and a strong, nutty cheddar for the croutons

Firstly brown the floured steak in small batches, spread out in the pan, to make sure the steam released doesn’t stop the other pieces from colouring up nicely. Set each batch aside in the casserole afterwards.

Lully beefNext lightly brown the shallots with the sugar then use a little of the ale to deglaze the pan (give it a good scrape to get all the caramalised bits up) then add to the casserole. Add the rest of the ale, crumble in the stock cube, shake in the spices and add the herbs. YUM

After it has all come to a simmer, skim the scum that will have formed and turn the heat right down. I think putting it in a very low oven would be a better move at this point but we had cakes on the go. Let it stew for around 4 hours, or until the beef breaks up with a fork and the liquid has reduced by about a third.

Now for the cheesey croutons, lightly grill slices of baguette, place on the stew, add the cheese and grill some more. Eat with more ale whilst watching the X Factor and screaming at Louis (optional).

The Carbonnade was a little sweet for my liking (perhaps I was a bit heavy handed on the sugar) but Tommy (hubs) ate two servings and scraped the pan!

Also this week: Dino cake for our dear, very geeky friend Carl’s 25th, cycling on my new Pashley Sonnet Bliss, speedboating on the Thames for my bosses leaving party (don’t go!). A x