This weekend we made a blitz trip to Brussels. We wanted to see the Moomin exhibition in the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée - a lovely Art Nouveau building. Brussels itself was a bit disappointing, though. It looked a bit faded and since I heard so much about the Art Nouveau tours and the wonderful architecture I was stunned to find tons of new, high, ugly buildings when we were driving to the museum. If anyone has better experiences with Brussels and tips on which areas to visit, I would love to hear them.
The weekend started with a visit to my parents in the very south of the Netherlands, near both the Belgian and German border. It still feels like home. Completely unexpected one of my dear childhood friends was visiting her parents as well, she now lives in the US so she was the last person I expected there! She called because she thought she saw us drive by and we had a nice long talk which made the weekend extra nostalgic.
For dinner on friday evening my mother made home made fries (cut by hand, so they are not as thin as French Fries) with a traditional sweet and sour meat stew called Zuurvlees. My grandmother makes the best version and she handed it down to my mother, so I am giving you a true family recipe.
Zuurvlees is traditionally made with horsemeat, I remember eating it with horsemeat when I was a small child - I loved it, even though I also love horses. The last fifteen years my parents or my grandmother have not made it with horsemeat anymore, as it is a bit controversial and not sold everywhere. It tastes just as wonderful with beef.
500 g beef flank steak cut in small chunks
4 big onions, peeled and sliced
3 bay leaves
3 cloves (I always put the cloves and the bay leaves in a folded paper coffee filter so you can easily take it out again)
sweet paprika powder, salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
a splash of sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
2 cups of water
1 cup vinegar
two or three tablespoons of apple butter for taste, thickening and colour, if you can’t find apple butter use some slices of crumbled soft gingerbread instead
sugar to taste
1 stock cube
1. Brown the meat well in a little bit of oil or butter, season it with salt, freshly ground pepper and paprika powder to taste.
2. Add the sliced onions and cook until soft.
3. Add the water, vinegar, the package with the cloves and bay leaves, the crumbled stock cube and kecap manis. Let it simmer for 2 hours or more, stirring occasionally and scooping off the foam.
4.When the meat is done, add the apple butter and / or the crumbled gingerbread slices and stir until combined. It should be a thick and velvety dark brown sauce. Taste to determine if it needs more seasoning, vinegar or applebutter and adjust to taste accordingly.
This is traditionally eaten with home made fries and a dollop of mayonaise. It also tastes delicious with the, also extremely Dutch, Hotchpotch (Hutspot in Dutch) a dish of boiled and mashed potatoes, carrots and (in my family baked) onions. I often eat it with bucatini pasta, stirred with a little bit of butter and grated nutmeg, delicious nostalgic comfort food!