Carbonade flamande

Carbonnade – sometimes called Belgium’s answer to beef bourguignon – is a rich, simple stew of beef cooked in beer, with a little mustard and an ambiguous bread topping. Much, much more on the bread part later.

The etymology is probably via charbon, from meat cooked over a coal brazier, or perhaps the stewpot itself simmering over warm coals. Either way, it’s a Flemish classic that makes use of the sensational beer brewed in northern Belgium. At its very simplest, you can just dump a kilo of beef shin in a pot with some onions, herbs, and a bottle of oud bruin. But then you’d miss the (questionably authentic) mustard croutons, and those are sodding delicious.

An attempt at veggie carbonnade
An attempt at veggie carbonnade, and not a great one.

I’ve been making carbonnade for as long as I’ve been cooking, and its evolution in my repertoire is a mini history of me learning to cook. If I had a change log (sauce control?) it would be fascinating. Not least because I recently got all in a lather about the history of the dish, wondering exactly when people started topping it with mustard-slathered croutons?

It turns out, after asking on twitter, that I started adding them in around 2005, when the mother of a friend I was living with sent us a cache of Waitrose recipe cards, and I thought it seemed like a lark. You can find that recipe right here. I’ve drifted less than I thought.

(I really need to make this again and get good pictures.)

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Eating my way around the Cambridge Beer Festival (part 1)

The Cambridge Beer Festival is an institution. Forty-one years old this year, it’s the longest-running CAMRA festival, and the second or third largest, depending on how you count. It is also fantastic fun, which is why since 2007 I’ve been taking a week off to volunteer at it every year.

Volunteering has a number of benefits, not least getting to try a heck of a lot of beer for relatively little money. But one of the nicer perks is getting fed a couple of times a day, from a pretty decent range of food concessions.This year, Adam, a fellow foodie and member of the cellar crew, challenged me to eat at and review them all.


Here goes.

(there are beer recommendations at the bottom)

Continue reading Eating my way around the Cambridge Beer Festival (part 1)