This traditional Belgian dish makes a very satisfying winter meal. It is good served with crispy baked potatoes and either green beans or broccoli.

To make this dish you will need either a flameproof casserole (e.g. le Creuset) or both a frying pan and an ovenproof casserole. It is easier in the flameproof version since then everything happens in one pot.

Recipe: Carbonnade

Summary: A warming winter beef casserole


  • 1lb/450g chuck/braising steak or shin of beef (see quick notes below)
  • 4 large onions
  • 1lb / 450g carrots
  • 2oz / 50g dairy-free spread
  • scant 4oz / 100g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 can Guinness/dark bitter
  • 2 tsp malt vinegar
  • 2 level tsps plain flour
  • a little cold water


  1. Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200°C/400°F.
  2. Peel the onions and slice into half moons.
  3. Melt the dairy-free spread and soften the onions in it for about 20 minutes over a low heat.
  4. Meanwhile, trim off any excess fat and chop the steak into roughly 1″/2.5cm cubes.
  5. When the onions are soft and golden add the steak, turn up the heat to medium and fry until the steak is all lightly browned.
  6. Peel and slice the carrots into rings not dice or batons.
  7. Add to the steak and onions, stir well to mix.
  8. Stir in the sugar.
  9. Add enough Guinness to cover the mixture.
  10. Bring to the boil, cover and put it in the oven.
  11. Cook for 10 minutes at Gas Mark 6/200°C/400°F, then turn the oven down to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°F for 45 minutes.
  12. After 45 minutes check the liquid levels in the casserole and stir gently. You may need to add a little more Guinness at this point.
  13. Turn the oven down to Gas Mark 3/170°C/325°F for the last 30 minutes. By this time the steak should be very tender. If necessary, this meal will cook for longer providing that the temperature of the oven is kept low and the liquid levels are checked from time to time.
  14. Just before serving, remove the casserole from the oven and place on the hob without turning on the heat.
  15. Mix the flour with the vinegar and enough cold water to form a free-running suspension. When the casserole has cooled slightly, add the flour and water mixture, stirring constantly. If you add the mixture directly the casserole has come out of the oven, the flour tends to cook as it hits the hot sauce, forming little lumps instead of blending in smoothly.
  16. Return to the boil and simmer, stirring gently for about 5 minutes to cook out the flour

Quick Notes

This is a dish that actually benefits from freezing and re-heating: it tastes even richer and more delicious afterwards. As a result, I always make more than I need for one meal in order to have some to freeze for a day when I don’t feel like cooking.

If using shin of beef I cook the dish at Gas Mark 3/170°C/325°F for about 3 hours. You need the slower, gentler cooking for this cut of meat, but the flavour is superb. If you feel that the carrot dissolves too much, you can always add some of it about half way through the cooking time. Check the guinness levels at intervals as before. If you are fairly generous with the liquid at the start and keep the temperature low, this becomes a dish which can be cooking itself quietly for hours while you are busy doing other things.

Preparation time (duration): 20 minutes

Cooking time (duration): about 2 hours for chuck/braising steak, about 3 hours for shin

Diet type: dairy-free

Number of servings (yield): 4 – 6

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: French

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