Carbonnade Flamande - T&G style

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Instagram is responsible for a lot of unsavoury things. Take the proliferation of avocado on toast, shakshuka and beetroot brownies, covered in gold dust, on there. What's that all about? Why are there so many accounts devoted to these three dishes? Sure, given that they are all commonly vegetarian, or vegan, you might be able to appreciate our ire . But really, what is so popular about smooshed green pulp on teeth-grinding granary; eggs, poached hard in tomatoes and topped with soapy coriander; and earthy, sappy slabs of purple fudge, that will have you shrieking the next morning. Do you know? Because here at T&G, we just can't get our heads around it. And we never will.

OK, on reflection, there is an easy answer here. Vivid colours and canny presentation maketh the image in the world of food Instagram. Combine a drizzle of something here and there, adjust with a filter, and boom, you can have your audience eating out straight of your hands. It will be stone-cold by the time you upload but hey, it will look good.

Take all of that and what we know about the dynamics of food photography on social meeja, selling Carbonnade Flamande is a tough one. As it is a rather beige dish. But you know what? The beauty of beige food is that it tastes quite wonderful.

Think curries, stews and ragus for instance. They are all inherently brown and yet seldomly, do they ever let you down. We must stop with the rhyming couplets here but you get the point, yes? Even the transformation of red meat on searing, to create that oh-so-important crust borne out of the Maillard reaction - where proteins and sugars break down and caramelise - inherently results in a deep dark brown. Brown smells good. Brown tastes good. Brown is good. Full stop.

And perhaps, we should simply rely on the fact that Carbonnade Flamande, with its roots in Flemish history, is made using beer. Another fine ingredient that comes in a variety of shades of brown.

This has been served up in the majestic squares and backstreets of the towns and cities in Belgium and northern France for centuries now, and the approach is quite straightforward. You just need some decent stewing steak, such as chuck. Add some onions and bacon lardons, and a decent dark ale, such as a Leffe Brune - and off you go.

The twist in this recipe is the application of our Beef Bones Gravy - made from bones, vegetables, spices and water. This is the key part in our opinion, to deliver an extra rich hit to your taste buds and flood your whole being with an honest feeling of warmth, satisfaction and comfort.

You don't get that with avocado on toast. It's far too green see.

Needs more brown.

  1. First, marinate the diced chuck steak by placing into a bowl and pour the beer over. Cover with cling film and leave overnight in the fridge.
  2. Next day, heat your oven to 140℃ and drain off the meat, using a sieve and another bowl to collect the beer.
  3. Place a casserole pot onto the hob, over a medium to high heat, add the dripping and thoroughly brown the chuck steak all over. You may have to do this in batches.
  4. Once done, place the beef onto a plate and then add the pancetta and fry briskly till crisp, before adding the onions. Turn the heat down to a medium and stir the onions through until they are soft (take your time with this!)
  5. Pop the beef back on top of the onion and pancetta and add the flour, stirring to combine.
  6. Next add and stir through the beer and bouquet garni, followed by the Beef Bones Gravy and brown sugar, and then taste for seasoning.
  7. Bring up to just under the boil, then cover the casserole with a lid and put into the oven.
  8. Cook for 2 hours or until the chuck is tender and the sauce has thickened up nicely.
  9. For best results, cool down and leave again overnight in the fridge before reheating.
  10. Otherwise, serve with mash, carrots and perhaps a sprinkling of chopped parsley for a dash of green*. Some hunks of bread for mopping up won't go amiss too.
Work time: 1 hour
Total time: 15 hours
US | Metric
diced chuck steak
1 kg
beef dripping
50 g
pancetta, diced
250 g
banana shallots, peeled and sliced
bouquet garni of thyme, parsley and bay
Leffe brune (or a similar dark ale)
400 ml
beef bones gravy
250 ml
plain flour
50 g
brown sugar
25 g
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to season