I bet that if you'd ask a sample of Flemish people what their national dish might be, a significant majority would answer "frietjes met stoofvleessaus" which translates to "french fries with beef stew". Actually, we don't call them french fries because it's OUR fries and the French think they invented everything (Belgians have a bit of an inferiority complex regarding their neighbours). And your beef stew isn't exactly the same as our national pride stoofvleessaus. Stoofvleessaus is a slow simmered dish of beef cooked in beer, seasoned with a defining mix of herbs. I cooked it from scratch this afternoon after tasting my sister's amazing rendition two weeks ago, and I took pictures to guide you along!
What you'll need:
This is basically what I used to cook a generous portion for two persons. 700 grams of beef (since we're cooking a stew, don't bother with nice parts, pick something chewy and tough like a part of the chuck), two onions, dark beer and the good kind of mustard (granular). Also used but not pictured: a slice of bread, a bit of brown sugar (to taste), bayleaf and stoofvleessaus herbs (you can buy it prepackaged or google the components to mix it up yourself).
What you need to do:
Heat up some butter + oil (to keep the butter from burning) in a heavy skillet, preferably one without a non-stick coating (anti-aanbaklaag) because you need to get some color on that beef. It won't brown properly in one of those pans.
Toss in half of the meat. You want to cook the meat with dry heat rather than wet heat (stir fry rather than boiling) because wet heat makes your meat chewy. Let it get some color and then transfer in a bigger pot where you'll be making your stew. Repeat with the second batch of meat.
Get the onions in there to soak up the juices left behind by the meat. Another plus is that these onions will make it a lot easier to clean your skillet afterwards, it removes all of the burned residu. Transfer the onions to the pot with the cooked meat.
Open up a beer, take it over here and play a videogame. Or no, just pour it into the pot! There should be just enough for the liquid to cover up most of the meat. If you need more, pop open another bottle or use some stock.
Turn up the heat and bring that shiz to a boil! Don't put a lid on it, the alcohol needs to evaporate.
This is the time to add the bayleaf, the sugar and the other herbs.
Put the slice of bread in the pan and if the sauce has reduced to your liking, cover it up with a lid. Turn the heat down as low as possible without turning it off completely, and let your concoction stew for about an hour and a half. Don't forget to check now and then to make sure shit ain't burning! Mine was cooked a bit too long and thus a bit too reduced, but still very very yummy.
Fries, fresh tomato slices (I season them with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper) and some salad. SO good and very authentic yo. Bon appetit!