Recipe: Witches’ stew alias Belgian “stoofvlees”

A yummy beef stew

A yummy beef stew

There isn’t a country in the world that hasn’t got its own beef stew. From the farmers to the soldiers, it was the dish. Simple and easy to prepare, not at all time consuming as the stew simmers away on its own. In this time of Halloween we can see the witch standing beside her cauldron on top of the wood fire or stove… so why not go for this old fashioned but very tasty recipe this time of year. You’ll have a grand dish, just that bit different of what you’re used to!

Coming from Belgium I want to share our popular beef stew called “stoofvlees”, made at home, sold in the chips shops as whole stew or just the gravy on top of the French fries, often accompanied with mayo of course.

This recipe give away, is based on the way it’s been made in our family. This beef stew is always a success, winter or summer, daily dish or at a party and can be eaten with whatever you want to add: mash, rice. But as I said before: on top of your chips yummy!

I prefer to use a pressure cooker, it guarantees the meat to be soft and juicy, but still leaves you some chunks and above all, saves a lot of time. In winter I sometimes make it on top of our wood stove, the whole house is filled with its aroma then!

There is no real veggie alternative (sadly enough), although seitan comes close to replace the beef.

You will need:

  • 1kg quality beef, chopped up by your butcher before your eyes in big chunks about 4cm by 5 cm (you choose the meat otherwise you’ll end up with quite some greasy chunks)
  • 4 big onions
  • pepper ( I use black but any will do), salt (I use pink Himalaya salt)
  • soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 1 or 2 bottles of dark abbey beer of the best reputation and quality (my husband says Stout or Guinness but that is not really what we use, then again we have loads of different excellent abbey beers)
  • beef stock (or 3 cubes of beef stock and water to cover the meat in the pot)
  • 2 slices of bread
  • mustard
  • maizena / cornflower

What to do:

  1. Pepper and salt the meat well and fry them in a hot pan, till they’re seared on every side. Take your time for this (seared not burned!). You can add a bit of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce to your taste, but this is optional.
  2. In your pressure cooker, fry the onions then put the meat on top.
  3. Add pepper and salt.
  4. Empty a bottle of the very best dark abbey beer you know or can find, better even two.
  5. Cover the meat completely with beef stock, even a bit more (clean your frying pan with a bit of it and add whatever is left of the juice to the rest of the stock, you need enough fluid to make the meat soft). If you don’t have the real thing, use 4 cubes of stock and add water. The sauce in this dish can be abundant, it’s not meant to be a beef with only a bit of sauce! Lots of gravy!
  6. Spread two slices of bread abundantly with two soup spoons of mustard (don’t hold back), and put them on top of it all (side with the mustard down on the sauce, it will bind already your sauce and will give it that extra touch).
  7. I let my stew boil till the whistle of the pressure cooker whistles, then let it simmer on a low fire for about an hour. If you don’t use a pressure cooker, let it boil, then make sure it simmers softly for about 2 hours (the texture of the meat will tell you when it’s done). The meat chunks should start to fall apart.
  8. Allow the stew to set, give it some rest (It’s like a good curry, leave it a day and it becomes even more delicious!)
  9. Taste and add more pepper or salt to your liking!

When you want to serve, heat it up a bit and if sauce seems too runny, bind with maizena or cornflower mixed in a bit of water when it starts to bubble.

Try it with a good portion of French fries, put the stew on top of it (yep a soggy dish then), add a spoon of mayonnaise at the side and you’ll become a real Belgian.

You’ll have enough for 4 persons, even a nice leftover, which can be frozen or kept for the next day!

Hope you’ll enjoy cooking and eating my witches’ stew




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