This is a tale of two recipes. The first recipe is for pain d’epices, which is a honey-spice quick bread. And that is then sliced and slathered with mustard – and is put on top of the beef stew stew to thicken it.
But I digress, the first step is really to make the bread. It’s a simple honey-spice bread. The recipe talks about different honeys creating different flavors. I had a jar of very-flavorful Manuka honey, and used that, supplementing with a bit of mesquite blossom honey. The unusual piece about this bread is that the honey is heated with water, salt and brown sugar, then 1 cup of flour is added and the mixture cooled. Then the remainder of the ingredients (including a healthy amount of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves) are combined and baked into a loaf. The recipe says it’s better over time. What I can tell you is that it was delicious when I made it, for sure. It did get a little dryer, but is a really nice tea bread on its own.
The stew itself is fairly straightforward. At least to begin with. The beef is browned – really to caramelize the surface. This is done in a few stages in a large pan. Once that’s done, the vegetables and quite a large amount (2 c!) of bacon are sautéed as well.
The pan then gets deglazed with water, scraping up the browned bits. And the amber ale added. The beef, along with the bacon and onions are added back. Adding thyme, bay leaves cloves and salt, this is all allowed to simmer for an hour or so.
Finally, the semi-crazy part (for my western sensibility). 4 slices of the spice bread are lightly coated with dijon mustard and then laid on top of the stew. Covered and allowed to simmer for another couple of hours (with a stir or two along the way), the stew gets thickened and flavored with all of the spices from the bread. (and of course, why would I take a photo of the most unusual part of the recipe?). The result is an aromatic and flavorful stew with a bit of an unusual flavor combination.
I served it with a mash of cauliflower and potatoes, some more Belgian lager and of course, some bread – both a crusty loaf and the spice bread.
I have to say, this was a popular dish. Different for sure, but warming and tasty. Everyone enjoyed the spices in the dish, and the texture of the meat and sauce appealed. With the somewhat lighter mash to go with, it really was a great combination.
I’m not certain that this will replace my “go-to daube” a la Dorie Greenspan, but it was very good, and I wouldn’t mind having it again. Thought the added step of the bread might make it tricky for someone with my lack of meal planning.
I know there are others that have made this dish and posted about it. You can find their links at Cook the Book Fridays!