After our recent trip to Brussels I sampled a few traditional Belgian meals (it’s not all waffles and chocolate, you know) I was reminded of a dish I used to make a lot more often: Carbonade. This was one that I’d always bring out on freezing, frosty nights, especially if I had a small crowd to please. Somehow, I’d managed to forget all about it, but it was time to bring it out again.
Until the Brussels trip, I had no idea how authentic my recipe was. The version I tried there was a beef one and was served with crusty bread, while my version uses pork and mushrooms and has a rarebit-style topping which I definitely need to start using for more stew-style dishes because it is delicious. So, maybe it’s not quite what would be recognised by a Belgian as a true carbonade, but the slowly cooked rich stew of meat, onions and beer, is still recognisable as being of the same theme.
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 175 g button mushrooms, quartered
- 500g boneless pork, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
- 300 ml light ale (I actually ended up using Hob Goblin this time – almost anything works)
- 300 ml chicken stock
- 2 tsp soft light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp French mustard
- 50 g cheddar cheese
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- French bread, thickly sliced
- salt and pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C
- Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a deep based frying pan. Add the onions and mushrooms and fry over a low heat for 5 minutes, or until softened. Remove from the pan and set aside
- Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the pork and fry over a medium heat until browned on all sides.
- Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Add the ale and the stock. Bring to the boil and then transfer the mixture into a deep ovenproof dish. Stir in the onions and mushrooms, as well as the sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Cover, and cook in the oven for 1 3/4 hours, checking and stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking or burning.
- Mix together the butter, mustard, cheese and parsley in a bowl. Spread thickly over the slices of French bread. Remove the casserole from the oven and arrange the bread slices, cheese side up, on top of the casserole, pressing the slices down into the gravy.
- Return the casserole to the oven and cook, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes. The bread topping should be crisp and golden. Serve immediately.
This recipe easily doubles up to feed more people and if you need more rarebit slices than your surface area allows you can always toast them under the grill – there will be plenty of sauce from the stew that will need mopping up with them.
If you’re planning to double up to eat across more than one day, though, do the slices fresh for the second day. Otherwise, they’ll go a bit chewy.