I love making the best of the winter months by cross country skiing and snowshoeing when the conditions are right. Nothing is better than to take a break around the campfire for a warm up and lunch.
This recipe, Belgian beef stew, is one of my favorites all winter long. It tastes better after a day and freezes well too. The ingredients are minimal but the trick to the flavour is to caramelize the onions and take your time in cooking them. Then cook the stew slowly—it’s not a recipe to rush. The flavours will come out over time. If you are reheating over the fire, add a little bit of beer if you need the extra liquid. At home, serve with fresh new potatoes. Out in the woods, a hunk of bread will do the job in taking care of the extra sauce.
Start off your lunch with a thermos of warm cider (add a shot of brandy if you are so inspired!)
Belgian beef and ale stew
2 lb. beef chuck, cut into 2″ x 1⁄2 cubes
1⁄4 cup flour, mix in 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp fresh pepper
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
4 slices bacon, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced lengthwise – it seems like a lot but they will melt down.
2 cups Belgian-style ale
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Mixture of fresh herbs or 1 tsp dried thyme and 1 tsp tarragon
(do not substitute dried parsley for fresh)
1 sprig thyme
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
1 sprig tarragon
1 bay leaf
In a medium sized bowl place the flour, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
In a heavy (I use cast iron) 6-qt. Dutch oven heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat.
Working in batches, add beef; cook, turning, until well browned, about 5-10 minutes.
Transfer to a plate; set aside.
Add bacon; cook until its fat renders, about 8 minutes.
Add oil or butter if needed, garlic and onions; cook until caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Add the sugar and cook about 5 minutes longer.
Add half the beer and the vinegar; cook, scraping bottom of pot, until slightly reduced, about 2-4 minutes.
Return the beef to pot with remaining beer, stock, fresh and dried herbs and salt and pepper to taste; boil.
Reduce heat to low; cook, covered, until beef is tender, about 1 ½ hours.
Serve with bread, preferably a sourdough loaf because the taste pairs so well with the strong ale used in the stew.
Sourdough bread recipe TK
Campfire “berry grunt”
This is basically a biscuit dough with fruit at the bottom – like a cobbler. It’s fun as a campfire dessert treat and travels well when already cooked. If cooking inside and then heating outside, cover with foil and add a little bit of water to keep the mixture moist.
2 lbs mixed berries such as blueberries, blackberries,
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons water – or white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For the dumplings
1 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda Coarse salt 2 tablespoons sugar 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1 teaspoon sugar Instructions
1. Cook berries with 1/4 cup sugar, the water, and lemon juice in a cast-iron skillet set over a campfire or on a medium grill, until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. 2. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons sugar. Add buttermilk and butter; stir until a moist dough forms. 3. Spoon 6 dollops of dough over fruit. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar over dough. 4. Cover skillet tightly with parchment-lined foil. Or in the oven, no foil is necessary. Cook until dumplings are set – about 20 minutes. 5. Serve in the pan with large spoons or in bowls. Ice cream on the side is a nice touch.
About Danielle French
I founded South Pond Farms in 2008. The property is on the Oak Ridges Moraine in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Mississauga. South Pond started as a small food delivery business making fresh prepared meals from ingredients in my garden. Together with my family, we restored the barn, the iconic heritage silo and the land to become a destination for authentic culinary experiences, weddings, celebrations, workshops. Inspired from the farm, I also create a line of culinary products and gifts.
In 2021, I was ready to move away from the farm. As much as I loved the land and the country, it was time to let someone else bring their passion to what we had created. My new home is in Peterborough, Ontario where I’m taking some time to write, contemplate next steps, train my dogs, blog about recipes and interesting explorations and unpack!