Showing posts with label Zuurvlees (Dutch Sour Beef Stew). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zuurvlees (Dutch Sour Beef Stew). Show all posts


One of the drawbacks of living abroad is missing out on favorite foods. Sometimes it's not the food itself as much as the memory or the experience of eating it, and with whom. One such foods is "friet zuurvlees", a portion of french fries covered in a thick, sweet and slightly tangy beef stew. As soon as the smell hits me, I am transported back to two different places in time: one place is my grandma Pauline's small kitchen in Blerick, and the many, many times we sat at her table and ate this dish. The other place is, oddly enough, the Waterlooplein flea market in Amsterdam, where on Saturday mornings my friend Andy and I would often hit the patatkraam, a small stand that sold sodas, ice creams and french fries, to get a portion of zuurvlees with our fries.
Finding zuurvlees in Amsterdam is a treat in itself, as the tangy, sweet and tender beef stew is a traditional dish from the south of the Netherlands, more specifically from the province of Limburg. Traditionally made with horse meat, the current versions more than often uses beef instead.

Any southern frietkraam worth its name will offer "friet zuurvlees", preferably a homemade zuurvlees. Especially the city of Maastricht is famous for it, so as soon as the opportunity arose I took off to the Markt where I was told I could get a fantastic sample of my favorite food. Well.......not so much. The sauce was thin and riddled with dark specs, which I have yet to identify, and the flavor was off: not sour, not just tasted like a canned, watered-down version of the real stuff.

So, I figured it was time to hit the pots and pans again and make grandma Pauline's zuurvlees: nice chunky pieces of beef, and a thick gravy that clings to every golden french fry on my plate. Yum!!

2 lb (1 kg) beef chuck roast, cubed
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup (125 ml) white or red wine vinegar, or red wine
2 cups (500 ml) water
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
2 cloves, whole
2 tablespoons (30 grams) butter
1 tablespoon appelstroop
2 slices ontbijtkoek

Put the beef in a non-reactive bowl, place the slices of onion on top and cover with the vinegar or wine and the water. Add two bay leaves, the peppercorns and the two whole cloves, cover and marinate for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. Make sure to stir the meat once or twice during this time so that all pieces have an opportunity to marinate.

Separate the meat from the marinade, and remove and discard the peppercorns. Pat the beef chunks dry with a towel, and salt and pepper them. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and brown the meat. Drain the onions and brown with the meat, then add the marinade. Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the meat is tender, a good hour or two.

Now stir in the appelstroop, break the ontbijtkoek in pieces and add it to the sauce. Slowly simmer until the ontbijtkoek has dissolved. Taste, and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Serve hot over a plate of homemade patat and enjoy!