Winter warmers

Beef Flemish Style

Beef cooked in good brown ale is a specialty of the Flemish region. It is one my first Cordon Bleu experiments and it has never gone wrong. I have tried it with several variations – added mushrooms or vegetables and used it for deep pot pies by filling the stew in deep pie dishes covered wit puff pastry squares and finishing off in the oven.


1kg lean chucksteak or beef cheek
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp unsalted butter
2 onions (sliced)
1 cup of button mushrooms (optional)
2 large carrot finely diced (optional)
½ cup finely diced celeriac (optional)
1 tblsp flour
2 cloves garlic
½ tsp sea salt
300ml hot water
300ml brown ale
bouquet garni
freshly ground pepper
pinch of grated nutmeg
pinch of sugar
1 tsp red wine vinegar

Utensils: casserole dish with lid; tongs; mortar and pestle; wooden spoon for stirring.
Time: Preparation: 30 minutes; cooking: up to four hours


  1. Make sure the meat is at room temperature. Heat oven to 120°C. Cut meat in cubes, removing fat. Heat oil in casserole and when hot, drop in the butter.
  2. Add enough meat to cover bottom of casserole and brown on both sides. Remove and add remaining meat to brown. Do not add too many pieces at the time – that will cause the meat to stew and the juices will run, preventing the colour of the dish to be rich and brown.
  3. Remove meat and set aside, lower heat, add onions and cook until brown. Add any optional vegetables or mushrooms now and cook for another two minutes.
  4. Stir in flour. There should be enough fat to absorb it. If you think there is too much fat pour some off first. Add garlic crushed in mortar with 1/2 teaspoon salt and return meat to casserole. Pour in water and brown ale, add herbs, pepper, nutmeg, sugar and vinegar. Stir well to loosen any sediment from the meat and vegetables at the bottom of the casserole.
  5. Cover tightly and cook in oven for three to four hours. Remove bouquet garni before serving. Serve with potato purée and braised red cabbage (see below).
braised red cabbage

This is a Cordon Bleu recipe which I have often used and it goes very well with Beef Flemish Style or other braised meat dishes or roasts. I prepared it for my sister-in-law in Norway to have with a lamb roast and she loved it.

1 red cabbage (about 750g-1kg)
1 onion
150mg butter
2 cooking apples, peeled and sliced
2-3 tblsp red wine vinegar
1 rounded tblsp sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bayleaf
150mg beurre manié or kneaded butter

Utensils: vegetable knife; cutting board; big pot; apple corer; small bowl for beurre manie; oven casserole with lid; wooden spoon
Time: 2 hours.


  1. Remove outer leaves, wash and quarter cabbage. Cut out stalk and shred finely. Put into large pan of boiling water, cook for 1 minute only, drain well.
  2. Slice onion and sauté in butter until soft. Core, peel and slice apples and add to onion. Continue cooking 2-3 minutes.
  3. Layer an ovenproof dish with red cabbage and the onion and apple mixture and sprinkle with vinegar, 2-3 tablespoons water, sugar and seasoning. Finish off with bayleaf on top. Cover with buttered greaseproof paper and cook in oven for 1½ to 2 hours at 160°C. Stir from time to time and add a little extra water or stock if needed.
  4. When very tender, prepare beurre manié by mixing equal quantity softened butter to flour into a paste and stir into cabbage, a teaspoon at the time, enough to bind cabbage. This dish is best prepared the day before and reheated.
Potato purée

Potato purée is smoother than mashed potatoes. Rather than using the potato masher, use a stick blender when adding the butter and then leave until needed. Just before serving add the cream plus flavours of your choice and reheat in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

½kg King Edward or other potatoes suitable for mashing.
50g butter
½ cup cream
1 tblsp milk (optional)
1 clove of garlic (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 tblsp freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
freshly ground white pepper to taste
sea salt to taste
Utensils: potato peeler; sharp paring or vegetable knife for cutting up potatoes; saucepan with lid; slick blender; microwave-safe bowl.
Time: 30 minutes


  1. Peel and cut potatoes in even size pieces if very large. Rinse well and put in pot with cold, salted water and bring to boil. Boil until very tender – about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain and return potatoes to stove and cook further with lid on to dry them while shaking the pot. Turn off heat and add butter. Crush with potato masher or stick blender until smooth. Put in glass or plastic bowl, cover and leave in fridge until needed.
  3. Just before serving, add grated garlic and/or Parmesan, pour in cream and milk and add bay leaf. Put in microwave for two minutes. Remove bay leaf, season, stir vigorously with a fork and serve.
rEturn to Recipes from the road

The best slow cooked meal must be Osso Buco. I had heard people raving about marrow and could not understand the attraction until I had it myself. Osso Buco – literally bone with a hole – is a specialty from Milan of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth. The modern version has tomatoes, traditionally it did not. I prefer it with tomatoes and a proper Osso Buco has to be garnished with gremolata – a mixture of chopped parsley, grated lemon zest and chopped garlic – served with risotto alla Milanese.

1.3 kg knuckles of veal cut in 4cm thick cross pieces
2 tblsp olive oil
25g butter
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
2 wine glasses dry white wine
250g tomatoes or ½ can of crushed tomatoes
1 dessert spoon tomato purée
150ml jellied chicken stock
pinch of powdered cayenne pepper
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 rounded tablespoons parsley
grated rind of one lemon

Utensils: flameproof casserole with lid; cutting board; vegetable knife; tongs; wooden spoon for stirring
Time: preparation – 30mins; cooking – 4hrs


  1. Bring the meat to room temperature. Cut the sinew surrounding the meat in three or four places to prevent the meat edges from “curling up” so the meat pieces remain flat when browning.
  2. Heat a big casserole, add oil and when hot, drop in butter. When the butter foams, start browning the Osso Buco two to three at the time, lifting them out and set aside when brown, taking care they do not stew.
  3. Add onion and carrot to casserole, cover and cook on steady heat without stirring for about 2-3 minutes. Return the meat to casserole, make sure bones are upright so the marrow does not fall out during cooking.
  4. Pour wine over the meat and reduce to half. Scald and squeeze tomatoes to remove any seeds, skin and chop the flesh or used canned crushed tomatoes and add to casserole with tomato purée. Stir in garlic, stock and cayenne. Season well with salt to taste. Cover and braise in oven on 120°C for four hours.
  5. Make the gremolata: mix garlic with parsley and grated lemon rind. Plate the Osso Buco with gremolate sprinkled on top. Serve with risotto Milanese (see below).
risotto milanese

Cooking a risotto to perfection is another useful skill in the kitchen that will add a variety of dishes to your cooking repertoire. Risotto Milanese is a good base for adding other ingredients like chicken or mushrooms and serve as a meal. A risotto is best cooked on top of the stove with stock added gradually as the rice thickens. You can put your own stamp on your risotto by experimenting with different ingredients and herbs.

2 tblsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1 pinch saffron, soaked in 2 tblsp hot water for 30 mins
1 glass white wine
5 cups strongly flavoured chicken stock
sea salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2-3 tblsp freshly grated Parmesan

Utensils: vegetable knife; garlic press; casserole with lid; saucepan; wooden spoon; ladle
Time: 30 minutes


  1. Heat stock in a saucepan let it simmer gently. In a separate pot, heat oil. Sauté onion and garlic in the oil on medium heat for four to five minutes, add rice and stir until rice looks chalky.
  2. Add wine and saffron with its liquid and stir until absorbed. Add a ladle of simmering stock and stir until the stock is absorbed. Repeat with more ladles until there is only half a cup of stock left. The risotto should be creamy and the grains tender but not mushy.
  3. Turn off heat and cover. Leave on stove for five or up to 30 minutes on top of the stove.
  4. Just before serving, bring remaining stock to boil and stir into rice with a fork, adding parsley and Parmesan.
coq au vin

This is a classic French dish and not to difficult to cook but still impressive enough for dinner parties. When using a good wine all you need to serve with it is potato purée – anything else detracts from the dish.

1.5-2kg roasting chicken
100g speck
100g small spring onions
50g unsalted butter
300ml of good quality red wine
2 cloves garlic, crushed with ½ tsp salt
bouquet garni
115-300ml chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 tblsp chopped parsley
Utensils: Household twine for trussing; paring knife; saucepan; flameproof casserole with lid; tongs for turning chicken; chopping board; vegetable knife; wooden spoon for stirring.
Time: preparation – 30mins; cooking – 2hrs.


  1. Truss chicken to make it easy to handle when browning and jointing. Remove rind and the smoked brown parts from the speck and cut in 5mm thick strips, 4cm long. Blanch them with onions in a saucepan of cold water, bringing them to boil and draining them well.
  2. Brown chicken slowly in butter in the casserole and remove. Add onions and speck and while they are browning, remove twine and joint chicken in nine pieces (thighs, drumsticks, wings with a bit of breast meat, the two breast pieces and the rib cage). Replace the joints in the casserole, starting with the rib cage; then drum sticks, thigh pieces and wing pieces. The breast pieces should be on top.
  3. Pour the wine into a saucepan, set alight and pour over the chicken while still flaming. If you feel you can’t handle the flames just bring the wine to boil, let it reduce and then add to the chicken. Add the crushed garlic, bouquet garni, stock and seasoning.
  4. Cover casserole and cook slowly on a very low heat (the juices should barely bubble) on the top of the stove or in a preset oven at 120°C.
  5. After 1 ½ hour, remove chicken, remove the bouquet garni and taste the sauce for seasoning, adding salt if needed. If you want, you can thicken the sauce slightly by adding a little kneaded butter as needed from two teaspoons of softened butter mixed to a paste with two teaspoons flour.
  6. Return chicken to casserole and serve with parsley sprinkled on top and slices of crostini toast around the edge and potato purée on the side.
Chicken Cacciatore

Translated it means hunter’s chicken – a classic slow cooked Italian chicken casserole with the meat falling off the bone.

1.4kg chicken marylands
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp butter
1 onion, chopped
2 slices of spicy pancetta, roughly
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
200g button mushrooms
1 tblsp oregano, chopped
1 tblsp rosemary, chopped
Pinch of chili flakes
125ml dry white wine
2 cup sugo
1 bay leaf
1tblsp balsamic vinegar
150ml chicken stock
1 cup Kalamata olives
1 cup flat parsley, chopped

Utensils: cutting board; vegetable knife, casserole with lid; wooden spoon
Time: preparation – 20mins; cooking – 4hrs


  1. Cut marylands into thigh and drumsticks. Heat oil in casserole, drop in butter. Sauté chicken pieces until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add onion and pancetta to casserole and sauté on low heat for five minutes until onion is soft. Stir in garlic and anchovies. Add mushrooms.
  3. Add chicken to casserole, pour in wine and reduce liquid by one-third. Add sugo, vinegar, rosemary, chili, bay leaf and stock.
  4. Bring to boil and cover. Reduce heat to very low and simmer on top of stove or in oven on 120°C.
  5. After an hour, add olives and simmer for another 20 minutes.
  6. Remove chicken pieces and keep warm. Take out bay leaf and reduce sauce on high heat for 5 minutes. Return chicken to casserole and serve sprinkled with parsley.

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