I am convinced it had something to do with me totally being fed up with the snow and ice that had littered the streets with what seemed to be an eternity. Anyhow, it felt so good to dream that dream...
Call me a little impatient, but these last few days I have been checking the Dutch forecast website, eager to spot what might be a bit of a 'warm' day- or should I say a 'not freezing' day. Anything above 7C is good. You see, I am fortunate enough to have a garden that faces south and is very well protected from any wind. So 7C can easily feel like 15C, or maybe even like 18C if you're working up a sweat while doing the gardening.
Today was the day I was eagerly awaiting! The forecast promised anywhere between 6-9C, with sun! And it so happened that today was also my day off! I headed to the city for a cafe au lait and a walk around the market, happy as heck because I knew garden work awaited!
Three hours later, I had managed to do the weeding, trim anyhing that needed trimming, throw away dead geraniums to make room in the pots for new ones, rake anything that needed raking and sweep anything that needed sweeping. I was exhausted, but I was oh-so-grateful! And I even managed to plant tomatoes, radishes and salad! Too bad my compost ran out- otherwise I would've planted some more chillies.
As wonderful as it was, my little taste of spring suddenly came to an end when the sun decided to hide behind a thick layer of clouds. It didn't matter though. I finally had the opportunity to wear my gardening gloves again, feel the sun on my back and smell the scent of soil mixed with a hint of lavender!
Besides, I also knew there was more warmth awaiting indoors because on the stove, I had the most magnificent stew, gently bubbling away!
Here's to more spring dreams, and here's the recipe!
Flemish Beef Stew
Note: Browning the meat in batches and not crowding the pan ensures that your beef will not lose any of its precious juices.
550g beef chuck, diced
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp mild olive oil
2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
salt and freshly-ground pepper
300ml cherry beer
250ml strong beef bouillon
1 bay leaf
1 ½ tsp thyme
1 tbsp cranberry jelly
Remove any excess moisture from the beef with strong paper towel and dredge the beef in the flour. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil and 10g of the butter in a large frying pan. Have a heavy-bottomed casserole waiting (here's where you'll actually cook the stew). Begin by browning the meat over a medium-high heat. Do this in batches (2-3 minutes per batch) and season each batch towards the end of the cooking time with a little salt and pepper. Add the browned pieces of meat to the casserole as you go. Once all of the meat is browned, lower the heat and add the rest of the oil and butter to the frying pan. Gently saute the onions for about 10 minutes. Add them to the casserole as well.
Turn up heat and deglaze your frying pan with the beer. Use a wooden spoon to scrape all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the bottom of your pan is clean, allow the beer to briefly come to the boil. Add the beer to the meat and onions. Also add the stock, the bay leaf and the thyme. Bring everything in the casserole to the boil and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer the stew (with the lid on the pan) for 2-3 hours. Add the cranberry jelly, turn up the heat a little and allow the stew to cook for a further 15 minutes with the lid slightly ajar. Serve with thick-cut chips and plenty of crusty bread to mop of the hearty juices.