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Did I Use The Wrong Beef For Carbonnade a La Flamande?

Asked by Tobytoes. Answered on 17th May 2011

Full question

I have been so looking forward to making Carbonnade a La Flamande (Kitchen, p330) but it seems to have gone horribly wrong! I have followed the recipe to the letter but firstly it is swimming in liquid and secondly incredibly bitter. Any suggestions how I can remedy it? I used Leffe - was this a poor choice? I can't say I'm that au fait with my beers. I would really appreciate your help!

Carbonnade a La Flamande
Photo by Lis Parsons
Carbonnade a La Flamande
By Nigella
  • 14
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Our answer

For Carbonnade a La Flamande dark beers such as the one you have used would be normal, as the stew should have a mixture of sweetness and bitterness. It may be that the beer is a little too bitter for your own taste in which case you could stir in some extra brown sugar at the end. If you make it again you could try a milder pale ale, such as London Pride or even a sweet (milk) stout such as Mackesons but you may still find you need to add some extra sugar at the end.

There is a generous amount of sauce in the stew (you can see this in the photograph on p331). If it is too much for you then you can strain out the sauce, put it in a large pan and boil it to reduce it by 1/3 to 1/2. Add the meat back to the reduced liquid and check the seasoning (if you want to add extra sugar to counteract the bitterness of the beer then do this after you have reduced the sauce). If you just want to thicken the sauce then use a French technique called beurre manie (kneaded butter). Mash together equal quantities of soft butter and plain (all-purpose) flour with a fork to make a smooth, thick paste - we suggest you try 30g of each (2 tablespoons of each). Heat the stew to simmering point then whisk in the beurre manie a little at a time (about a teaspoonful each time). Let the beurre manie dissolve and the stew will thicken slightly. Add enough of the beurre manie to give the thickness you require. Once you have achieved your preferred thickness let the stew simmer for 5 minutes so that the flour has time to cook through.

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