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Travel France from your kitchen: Carbonnade beer stew recipe

For the latest recipe in our lockdown regional cooking series, we head north to Lille for a beer-lovers take on beef stew

The carbonnade Flamande is a favourite in the northern Hauts-de-France region thanks to its main ingredient: beer. A kind of meat stew, it is made with beef and onions in a sauce of beer thickened with bread, or gingerbread to offset the sharpness of the beer. 

Flavoured with bay leaves, traditionally it does not contain any other vegetables apart from onions, and is served with chips cooked in beef dripping. A hearty, filling and decidedly unhealthy dish, carbonnade Flamande is an historic signature food of the north as beer used to be cheaper than wine there. 

Serves 6


6 slices of gingerbread (pain d'épices)
40g butter
1.5 kilos of silverside or topside (ask for gîte de boeuf)
700g of chopped onions
25g brown sugar
30g plain flour
1 litre of beer (a pale ale works well, avoid a bitter-tasting beer)
3-4 bay leaves
10g vinegar
salt and pepper


Cut the beef up and fry the pieces, a few at a time, in butter.

Lift out and set aside, then fry the chopped onions.

When soft, add the flour and the sugar. Let it caramelise and then deglaze the pan with the beer.

Bring to the boil, stirring all the time.

Then turn down the heat, add the fried beef, bay leaves, vinegar, and seasoning, and leave to simmer for 45 minutes. Spread the slices of gingerbread with mustard, add them to the carbonnade and continue cooking for 90 minutes, or until the meat is soft.

Serve with chips or pasta - and enjoy the post-meal nap!

Tomorrow we'll be staying in the north for a classic Parisian dessert recipe which also lists alcohol as a key ingredient. Points for guessing what it might be! 

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