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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