New Internationalist

Recipe of the week - Belgian Beer Stew

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The Adventurous Vegetarian

The Adventurous Vegetarian features 30 countries, 30 sumptuous menus and everything you need to give your friends and family a taste of how other vegetarians eat.

Working with many vegetarian groups and societies, author Jane Hughes has brought together favourite meals and fascinating stories from Belgium to China, Cuba to Palestine. 

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This week it's a hearty winter warmer, Belgian Beer Stew, developed with Tobias Leenaert, the Director of the Belgian vegetarian organization, EVA (Ethical Vegetarian Alternative).

Why not make it yourself and send us a photo on Facebook or Twitter

Belgian Beer Stew

Seitan is a surprisingly realistic meat substitute made from wheat gluten. It’s readily available in Belgian health-food shops but is not always easy to find in other countries, where you could use a more available meat substitute. There are several particularly Belgian ingredients in this dish. Tobias recommends the traditional Tierentyn mustard which is made in Ghent – if you can’t get any, use a good quality medium-strength variety. The gingerbread should really be a traditional Belgian peperkoek– but a good quality ginger cake will do. There is no substitute, however, for authentic brown Belgian beer in this recipe – Tobias mentions Gruut, which is from Ghent, Piedbeuf and Westmalle II. If you can’t get a sweet brown abdijbier(‘abbey beer’) like these, don’t make this dish – it wouldn’t be the same without it!

Belgian Beer Stew

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions
1 pound / 450 g seitan
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp mixed dried herbs
1 slice bread
2 tbsp mustard
1⅔ cups / 400 ml vegetable stock
1 pint / ½ litre Belgian brown beer
2 slices of gingerbread
Brown sugar to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
If you’re using fresh, unflavoured seitan, cut it into chunks and fry it gently in a little oil for a few minutes, to firm it up and give it more flavor. Chop the onions and, in a large, deep saucepan, fry them in the olive oil until soft and translucent.

Stir in the seitan, dried herbs and bay leaves, then pour in the vegetable stock. Spread the mustard onto the bread and add this to the mixture. As it disintegrates it will help to thicken the stew. Simmer the stew on a very low heat for an hour – you can also do this the day before you want to eat the stew, as letting the ingredients blend overnight improves the flavor. 

Add the beer and crumbled gingerbread and simmer, uncovered, until the cake melts into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper – add a little brown sugar if you like a sweeter taste.

The stew is traditionally served with fries, apple sauce, mayonnaise and a simple green salad. Tobias writes: ‘This is a vegan version of a traditional recipe from Ghent, but there are many varieties in Belgium. In the east of the country, they don’t use the gingerbread and instead mix in a couple of spoons of apple syrup (applemelasses). Sometimes the stew is made with chunks of carrot and mushrooms – add them to the pot after you have fried the onions. In the region around Brussels, half the brown beer is replaced with Kriekbier, the Lambic beer with sour cherries.’

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