In my part of the far north of France, the Flemish influence is strong. You’ll spot it in the architecture in towns like Saint-Omer and Arras. And you’ll notice it in the traditional estaminets, inns, where the menu will often feature carbonade flamande. The recipe is from neighbouring Belgium (formerly Flanders) and takes its name from meat simmered over charcoal fires, a favourite dish of miners of the north. It’s rich, rustic and robust. And utterly scrumptious. It’s the sort of comfort food that puts a smile on your face.
Carbonade Flamande for 4
2 onions (finely chopped)
1 kg beef (2.2 lbs) (braising steak is perfect) (in equal pieces)
3 tablespoons flour
300ml/0.7fl oz Bottle dark beer (or blonde beer for a less strong taste)
1.5 litres beef stock (2.5 pints)
Big dash of red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic
2 carrots (in rings)
Salt and pepper
Slices of gingerbread
Sauté the onions in butter then remove and keep to one side.
Cut the meat into small cubes, dip into seasoned flour and sauté the pieces in butter until browned all over. Add the vinegar and cook for two minutes, stirring. Return the onions to the pan with the meat, and pour the beer in. Stir and bring to the boil.
Add the beef broth, and sugar and bring to the boil.
Add the carrots and herbs. Slather mustard (Dijon works really well) over the gingerbread and cover the stew (mustard side down). Pop a lid on the pan and cook for around two hours on a low heat until the sauce is thick. If you want to make your own gingerbread – here’s a recipe from a Michelin starred chef
Some say it’s best when reheated the next day.
It’s traditional to serve carbonade Flamande with chips (fries) in the north of France. But it also goes really well with new potatoes, pasta and grilled gingerbread croutons…
More rustic dishes from France that are hard to resist
Tartiflette – a taste French Alps classic
Daube Nicoise – the taste of southern France
Reblochon pie – super easy to make and so delicious
Flammekueche – tarte flambée seriously moreish