I always get extremely excited whenever I get to know a blogger who’s been blogging for as long as I have (since 2010), so when Alison from CheeseWeb.eu asked if I’d like to feature one of her recipes on my blog, I jumped at the opportunity! Having established her blog no less than fifteen years ago (!), I actually think Alison may be one of the longest-established members of the blogging community worldwide. For this reason, I’m truly honoured to feature her on my blog, along with her scrumptious recipe for traditional Belgian Stoofvlees, also known as Carbonnade à la Flamande, or Carbonnade.
This is the tenth post in my Eat Like a Local guest post series (can you believe I’ve hit double numbers already?!) Read on to discover more about Alison and her recipe for Stoofvlees, or Carbonnade à la Flamande. This traditional Flemish stew is a classic Belgian dish of beef stewed in beer, served in a bread and mustard sauce. It’s slow-cooked for hours and hours, until the meat just falls apart. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard…
- 1 Alison – Belgium
- 2 Stoofvlees or Carbonnade à la Flamande (Flemish stew)
- 3 Carbonnade à la Flamande/Stoofvlees (Flemish stew)
Alison – Belgium
Tell us about yourself
I’m Alison, from New Brunswick on Canada’s gorgeous east coast. After living in Belgium with my husband and menagerie of cats for 11 years, I now live (mostly) full-time in our RV, a Bigfoot motorhome called Yeti.
I’m a journalist and photographer by training but I’ve been running my primary website, CheeseWeb.eu, for over 15 years (way before blogs were a thing!)
We write about slow travel and understanding destinations through cultural travel. Of course, a large part of what makes up culture is food, and we love to try new things. We love to travel, eat, read, hike and we’re always looking for new, off-the-beaten-path adventures. We spent this summer driving from NB to Newfoundland via the Labrador Highway, where we put over 9000km on our RV!
My husband, Andrew is a tech guru, so we decided to put our skills together four years ago to found RockFort Media. Together, we help small businesses and entrepreneurs to tell their stories online. We build, host, and maintain websites, create and manage content, and offer social media consulting. Our clients are diverse and from a variety different backgrounds, so I find I am always learning something new about entirely random topics. It makes going to work every day fascinating.
When did you begin blogging, and why did you decide to start a blog?
I began blogging when we first moved to Belgium in 2004. At the time, it was simply a way to stay in touch with friends and family back in Canada.
I discovered there was very little information, in English, about things to do in the country. At that time, even the local tourism websites were only in Dutch and French. As I was writing about the places we visited, I soon found myself with an audience of expats eager to find things to do.
After three years, I decided to treat CheeseWeb like a business and grew it to be the largest English language website dedicated to travel in Belgium. As time went on, we found ourselves travelling beyond the borders of Belgium, so we decided to re-target CheeseWeb to focus on slow travel.
In 2015, we came back to Canada and we’ve been applying our slow travel philosophy to north America ever since. We have regular contributors in Belgium, Germany, the US and here in Canada, in addition to ourselves, so we’re always adding to our travel bucket list!
What is the best experience you have had as a blogger?
I’ve had so many amazing experiences that came about because of our website that it’s impossible to choose just one, although hot-air ballooning over the castles of the Dordogne in France was pretty special!
For me, the best thing has been being able to build the life we love – one of travel, constant learning, spending time together, and having the flexibility to be there for our families when they need us. It’s been mountains of hard work, but it has also been immensely rewarding.
What advice would you give to new bloggers who are just starting out?
If you’re trying to build a business from your blog, you must invest in yourself. Too many bloggers take the DIY approach, and their blog suffers for it. Don’t be afraid to pay for training to learn things from experts. If there’s something you don’t know how to do, or don’t enjoy doing, outsource it to someone who does.
Stoofvlees or Carbonnade à la Flamande (Flemish stew)
So, why does this dish have two different names? Well, as Alison explains, because Belgium is half-French and half-Flemish (a dialect of Dutch), everything has two official names. In French, this dish is called Carbonnade à la Flamande (Flemish stew) and in Flemish, it’s known as Stoofvlees (literally ‘stew meat’). Alison’s take on this classic dish can be found below.
Carbonnade à la Flamande/Stoofvlees (Flemish stew)
Carbonnade à la Flamande or Stoofvlees consists of beef stewed in beer (Belgian, of course) with a sauce thickened with bread and mustard. It's simmered on low heat for hours until the meat melts in your mouth.
Every family has their own recipe; some people add mushrooms or onions, or other vegetables. But everyone agrees – it is best served over Belgian frites (French fries, which were invented and perfected in Belgium).
Carbonnade is the perfect dish for a cold winter day. It’s extremely filling and it’s effortless to make – once everything is in the pot, it just simmers away.
- 500 g stewing beef (the more marbled, the better as it will break down better) diced
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 bottle dark Belgian beer (I've also used Guinness in a pinch)
- 2 slices bread (stale is fine, but remove any thick crusts or it will make the sauce lumpy)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- Dijon mustard (I love tarragon mustard for this recipe) to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- oil or butter for browning the meat
In a [Ad]Dutch oven, brown the beef on all sides in oil or butter, then set the meat aside.
Slowly fry the onion in the remaining oil/butter until soft and golden.
Return the browned beef to the pan and pour in the beer.
Add the thyme, bay, salt, and pepper.
Spread mustard on one side of each slice of bread and add to the top of the beer/meat mixture, mustard side-down.
Turn down the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the stew simmer until the meat is soft - usually 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally and add water or stock if the sauce gets too thick.
Serve over fries or mashed potatoes.
What’s your favourite Belgian food, and will you be trying out Alison’s recipe for Stoofvlees/Carbonnade à la flamande?