Thursday, June 03, 2004

Blogging for survival

Times are grim here in sunny Belgium, and that necessitates cooking survival food, such as this beautiful Stew which I have photographed for the world's viewing pleasure.

Here's me stew

Being in a revealing sort of mood, I now propose to unveil the recipe of this Special Stew while listening to The Ludwig Van Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata, Op. 106, as played by The Alfred Brendel. Before we begin, I want you to suspend all disbelief and imagine that I am World Famous Chef(ess) Kylie Kwong, of Kylie's Heart and Soul cooking show fame. If you can do this, then the next part will be a breeze.

Firstly, acquire your ingredients from the local Delhaize supermarkt. It helps if it's actually open, although that didn't stop mum on a Sunday last year. The soup turned out alright mind you, after getting some free advice from the local populace that happened to be hanging around the non-used food area outside Delhaize.

Anyway, you will need some beautiful stewing meat from a dead animal. 534g should be about right. You will also need beautiful onions and garlic - the latter in great enough quantities so that you don't have to go and see Van Helsing. Next the mushrooms and beautiful red capsicum or paprika, depending on where you live. Some tinned tomatoes or tomato puree, beautiful of course. A stock cube and some - ahem - beautiful stew mix that you find in aisle 2. This is known in the Trade as Cheating.

The final, and obviously critical ingredient, is a bottle of the finest Belgian beer. For this particular recipe I chose some Rodenbach, which has been aged for the last 6 weeks in my fridge.


Chop onions and garlic (beautifully) with a kitchen knife. Try not to cut your hand open this time. Then the meat, which can probably just be chopped in half as no-one will know. If you've got time, then chop the mushrooms in half and the capsicum or paprika into little bits.

While you are doing this - and this is proof that men can multitask - heat some water or oil in a big pot (like the one you see in the photo) with the heat on max. In order to clear space on the chopping board, you have to chuck everything in the pot as you go. Don't worry about browning the onions and the meat as it's a bloody waste of time and you'll only burn them.

By the time you've chopped up the beautiful mushrooms, almost everything, including the packet of stew mix, should be in or somewhere near the pot. But not the beer. You do this last, because that's what gives the Stew its authentic flavour. Timing and poise are everything.

Crack open the beer, pour half of it into the Stew which should now be bubbling away and will froth up when the beer goes in. You should drink the other half of the beer straight away or it will get warm. This helps the relaxation and gives you the necessary strength to continue.

Go away and leave the Stew for three quarters of an hour or longer if you've got something to do. This should be about the same time as it takes to listen to the entire Hammerklavier. Then stir it hard, getting all the bits that have vulcanised themselves to the bottom of the pot into the general flow of the Stew. Once this is done, your beautiful Stew is ready to ingest.

Serve with spuds and more beer. And here's a trick that I learned when I was young at my father's knee: Open the page of Larousse Gastronomique to 'Botulism' because you can never be too careful.

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