Cooking with Herbs – Actually it’s Heidi

Today is a pretty cool day.  I have a Guest Blogger.  It was hard to turn her down since she’s also my boss but she know a lot about growing and using herbs in recipes.  My boss, Heidi, spend a few years in Belgium before returning the US and hiring me.  Belgium is a great place for a herb garden because of the rich soil and weather conditions.  Heidi honed her skills with them and is sharing one of her favourite recipes in her post.  In addition to blog post Heidi help me create the Your Favourite Culinary Herb Poll.  Go there and pick you three favourites.

Heidi’s Post – Oh BTW I got to edit her writing for the first time since 2001.  So all the bold-ed caps and miss-spellings are mine. LOL

It’s pretty much impossible to be a FOP (Friend of Peter) without loving good food (both eating it and cooking it).  My thing is culinary herbs, growing them in my garden to use fresh or to dry.  Anyone else out there like to do that?  You can buy practically any fresh herb at the grocery store, of course, but there’s just something about cutting them and throwing them into whatever you happen to be cooking to make the dish seem more inspired. 

Heidi's ThymeWhat’s your favorite herb?  Mine is Thyme, because it’s so versatile, dries easily without losing flavor, and is pretty hard to kill.   Here’s my recipe for Belgian-style Beef Stew, with thyme and other fresh or dried herbs.  Belgian style, because it’s inspired by my husband’s heritage, and uses a variation of his grandmother’s recipe:

2 tablespoons oil (olive or canola), 2 cloves garlic, minced fine, 2 – 2 ½ pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes, Salt and pepper to taste (I use white pepper, Belgian style), 2 – 3 onions, chopped, 3 tablespoons flour, 2 cups beef stock, 1 cup red wine or dark beer, 1 – 2 bay leaves, 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme (experiment; I’ve also thrown in rosemary, substituted herbs de province, or made a bouquet garni of thyme, lavender and bay), 1 – 2 bay leaves, 4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces, 1 – 2 cups fresh or frozen, thawed peas, 1 slice white, egg, or potato bread, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 

1)      Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven to medium-high.  Add the meat chunks to the pan a few at a time (in batches) and brown them well.  Season with salt and pepper as it cooks.

2)      When the meat is brown, remove it with a slotted spoon.  After the meat is all browned, turn down the heat to medium, spoon off most of the fat in the pan, and add the onions and minced garlic.  Cook and stir until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the flour and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Add the stock and wine or beer, thyme, bay leaves, and any other herbs you’re using.  Return the meat to the pan, and bring it to a boil.  Turn heat to low, and cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.

3)      Uncover the pan.  It will be quite soupy.  Add the carrots, turn up the heat until it boils again, then lower the heat and cover and cook for about an hour, or until meat and vegetables are tender.  Taste for seasoning.  (I sometimes make it up to this point earlier in the day, then just turn off for a few hours, and reheat and continue later.)

4)      Spread the slice of bread generously with the mustard.  Place on top of the stew, mustard side down, and heat on low.  (The bread will dissolve slowly, and help thicken the stew).  Continue to cook and stir over low heat.  If it is too soupy, uncover and raise the heat to cook it down and thicken it.  Add the peas, and cook until they are heated through.

5)      Garnish with parsley.

6)      Notice that there are no potatoes in this stew … that’s because Belgian-style stew is traditionally served with a side order of Belgian fries instead.  (Don’t laugh … when was the last time you turned down fries?)  They’re Belgian Fries, by the way … not French fries.  Don’t make that mistake around a Belgian!   Maybe Peter will let me talk about them another time.  You can also serve the stew spooned over a scoop of homemade mashed potatoes instead.

7)      Enjoy!

Thanks Heidi.  Let us know what you readers think in the Reply Box and/or Comment Link.  Also let us know if want to know about Belgium Fries, the true originals.


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2 Responses to “Cooking with Herbs – Actually it’s Heidi”

  1. Ann Says:

    I love Belgian fries espesially with mayo.
    Now your making my mouth water

    • peterjustason Says:

      Heidi’s husband Paul makes great homemade Belgian Fries. He cooked them once for me at a celebration for their son’s Philip’s Marine Boot Camp completion. The fried were to die for. I hope Heidi volunteers to post about their recipe for them.

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