Cooking With The Flemish
Homemade Raisin Bread
When I was growing up we always had homemade bread..... everyday! Not only did my mother bake bread, but so did my father. He and his three brothers all learned to bake in Belgium when his mother started a home bakery after my grandfather could no longer work due to his asthma. Mama made white bread while Pa made whole wheat or raisin bread. In fact, I can hardly believe we were so foolish but my brothers and I, not appreciating how fortunate we were, would sometimes wish we would have some of that 'so soft' commercial Wonder Bread.
As the years went by, my father baked less often and Mama baked most of the bread. Raisin Bread or "Krentenbrood" as we called it (erroneously since it was always raisins not currantswhich were used) usually baked on Saturday and often part of the dough was rolled out, spread with butter and sprinkled with a little sugar and cinnamon. It was then rolled up like a jelly-roll sliced in 1 inch slices and placed side by side in a pan and baked. Result, the most delicious cinnamon rolls. Homemade soup was also a daily occurrence at our house, not a full meal but a first course. However, there were many Saturday nights that all I wanted was a bowl of soup and several cinnamon rolls. The following is my mother's recipe for Raisin Bread:
11 cups of sifted flour 5 eggs
1/4 cup shortening 2 cakes of yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water and 1 tsp sugar
1 cup of sugar 1 pkg of Raisins
1 tsp salt 1 1/4 cup of warm milk (not hot)
Start with 6 cups of flour. Add the sugar, salt, raisins, warm milk, yeast mixture and eggs. Mix well and gradually add the rest of the flour. Knead well until the dough is elastic and no longer sticky. Put the dough into a clean, slightly greased bowl, cover with a clean cotton towel and put in a warm but not drafty place to rise, double in bulk. Additional covering may be used if necessary. When double in bulk, turn out on a lightly floured board and punch down. Knead again and form into loaves. Put in lightly greased bread pans, cover and let rise again for about 20 minutes. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 15 minutes. For a glossy crust, brush the tops with softened butter before baking. This recipe makes about 3 medium loaves or 2 loaves and a pan of cinnamon rolls.This recipe without the raisins also makes lovely egg bread.(1)
Carbonnade: Beef and Beer Stew
Vlaams Stoverij, Flemish Stew, Les Carbonades Flamandes
• 3 1/2 lbs chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 4 Tbsp butter
• 3 medium yellow onions sliced about 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)
• 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 cups chicken or beef broth
• 1 1/2 cups (12 oz bottle) Belgian beer
• 4 sprigs fresh thyme
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
• 1 Tbsp brown sugar
Pat beef dry with paper towels, then season well with pepper and salt. On the top of the stove, heat 2 Tbsp of butter in a large heavy bottomed dutch oven over medium-high heat. Work in batches to brown meat. Transfer browned meat to a separate bowl.
Add 2 Tbsp butter to the Dutch oven and reduce heat to medium. Add the onions and 1/2 tsp salt; cook the onions till they are browned about 15 minutes. Add flour and stir until onions are evenly coated and flour is lightly browned about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping pan bottom to loosen brown bits. Stir in beer, thyme, bay leaf and browned beef with all meat juices and salt and pepper to taste.
Increase heat to medium high and bring to a full simmer. Reduce heat to low, partly cover, let cook 2 to 3 hours until beef is fork tender. Throughout this cooking time check and stir occasionally, scraping up anything that sticks to the bottom of pan, About 1/2 hr. before finish, add the mustard and the sugar. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Serve over potatoes or noodles.
Beef stew cooked in beer has long been a part of the culinary heritage of Belgium. It is still one of the most popular stews in Flanders. Through the ages the recipe has varied. Every mother or grandmother passes on her 'secret' recipe. My Grandmother added mushrooms. Try to use a good Belgian beer in the preparation of your Flemish stew. Then serve that beer with your stew!!! This stew is even better the next day. I love reheating in the microwave, it is so easy and no messy pans to clean on the reheating.(2)
Red cabbage the Flemish way
(Rode Koon Op Zyn Vlaams)
I love red cabbage as a vegetable with most meat. My grandmother usually made red cabbage with pork chops or a pork roast. Now, my mother in law Etienne's mom (Maria) made red cabbage with rabbit. So here below is what I make when I have the time. When I don't have a lot of time (almost home made) I use a jar of red cabbage (Aunt Nellie's) and adjust it with the addition of apples and maybe an onion or a little onion powder. Always checking for the correct sweetness. Remember a good Flemish cook always tastes to check the flavor. So now here is the longer version!
1 red cabbage chopped.
1 large onion, chopped.
3 large apples peeled and sliced.
2 tablespoons of butter or shortening
1/4 cup sugar (white, brown or light brown) what you have on hand.
1/3 cup of vinegar
Pepper and Salt (again to your taste)
Water enough to cook and keep cabbage moist,
About 11/2 cups to start
Use a large pan big enough for all the cabbage, onions and apples to fit in. In that large pan melt the
butter and saute the onions. Now add the chopped cabbage and salt and pepper, to your taste, stir well and add the water. Let the water come up to a boil then turn down to a low simmer with the cover on. Cook slowly, adding water and stirring as needed, for about 30 minutes. Add the apples, vinegar and sugar. Cover and cook slowly for a good hour checking and stirring and adding water if need be.
This recipe is too much for just Etienne and I, so I divide it up into containers and freeze it. Then it's ready when we want to enjoy it! Judy Elskens Ed.(3)
When browning any meat always be sure that the meat is perfectly dry (paper towel works well) and that the fat is hot.
To keep brown sugar from drying out, store in a plastic bag, then store that in a coffee can with a lid that snaps on.
When peeling potatoes ahead of time, cover with cold water add a few drops of vinegar and refrigerate. They will last for three or four days.
Please share your Flemish, Belgian recipes with us using the form above.
Tell us what you remember about how good the recipes were. Who taught you to make the recipe.
1) American Heritage Magazine, August 2005, Volume XXIII Issue 2, Page 38
2) American Heritage Magazine, August 2011, Volume XXIX Issue 3, Page 80,81
3) American Heritage Magazine, February 2007, Volume XXV Issue 1, Page 17