This sour beef stew is an extremely local dish. It is only made in a very small part of the world; the very south of The Netherlands. This tiny region spans just 20km in diameter and has a population comparable to that of QLD’s Gold Coast, yet boasts a cuisine all its own. So to me this is an ‘extremely local’ dish.
Zuurvlees is the Dutch name for this dish, which translates literally as ‘sour meat’. That doesn’t sound very appealing, I know, so I’ve named it sour beef stew instead. Despite the name, it is (in my humble opinion) the best thing you will ever taste!
This sour beef stew is a very special dish and close to my heart. I have so many fond memories of my family at the dinner table eating “zuurvlees”, with the traditional accompaniments of potato croquettes and this red cabbage with apple recipe.
This dish is special to me because we only eat it on annual occasions like birthdays or Christmas (this dish is a traditional Christmas staple in the South of The Netherlands). Even then it was only made if we requested it far enough in advance, as this dish is simple to make but takes a long time to marinate and cook. That’s why we only make it on special occasions.
It is also special to me because my mother taught me how to make it, and it is one of the few recipes that is exclusively hers. That’s also why I dare not change anything about this recipe: I even use the powdered jus packets, which I normally never ever use. But she put those in, so in they go!
Although this sour beef stew takes a long time to make, I think it is worth every minute. It is also very easy to make more in one go and freeze the leftovers for another time. So I always make a double batch and freeze the rest in airtight containers for up to 8 months.
Two items used in this recipe are typically Dutch; the ontbijtkoek (breakfast cake, if you translate it literally) and the pear & apple ‘stroop’. Dutch pear and apple ‘stroop’ tastes like a combination of sweet and tart. I can’t make the stroop myself, but you can replace it with something like molasses, date syrup or creamed honey and balsamic crema in a ratio of 1:1.
I can, however, help you with the Dutch ontbijtkoek. I have included a very quick and easy recipe for it (also vegan and gluten-free), which you can find here. So you can make it yourself if you cannot find it to purchase in your area, and you can eat those leftovers after you have made this sour beef stew with it, as it’s very yummy on it’s own too. If you do not want to make your own Ontbijtkoek, you can substitute soft gingerbread. It will taste a little different, but it will still be very good.
But enough talking about it, let’s go into the kitchen and make this super local dish!
Sour Beef Stew
- Cutting board
- Bowls or containers with lids
- Big pan
- Colander or sieve
- 1½ KG Beef suitable for a long-cook stew. Such as blade steak, flat iron steak, prime rib or chuck roast (I used chuck roast)
- 2-3 Whole cloves
- 2-3 Bay leaves
- 1 Onion
- 1-2 TBspn Butter
- 1-2 Packets Powdered jus/gravy
- 1½-2 Thick slices of the Dutch Ontbijkoek (or soft gingerbread)
- 1½-2½ TBspn Dutch pear and apple 'stroop' (or date syrup/molasses/creamed honey mixed together with balsamic crema in a ratio of 1:1)
- Cut up your choice of beef into cubes of about 2 by 2 cm and put those cubes into bowls or containers
- Add 2 to 3 whole cloves and 2 to 3 bay leaves
- Make the marinade by mixing plain vinegar with water in a ratio of 40:60 (so 40% vinegar and 60% water). Make enough to cover the beef cubes with the vinegar-water mixture
- Cover everything with a lid and place it in a cool and dark spot like a cellar or the fridge for 24 hours (the beef will turn grey. Don't be alarmed, this is normal)
- You can stir this 2 or 3 times while marinating, if you remember. It will make a difference, but it is not necessary
- Sieve the the beef and discard the vinegar and the spices. Pat dry with a kitchen towel
- Put some butter in a big pan and fry the beef for a minute. This will start the browning process and release the moisture
- Boil water and add to the beef until it is just covered
- Add 2 tbspn of fresh vinegar and cook for 2 hours with the lid on, stirring occasionally to prevent from burning
- Check after 2 hours if the beef is starting to break down. If not, continue cooking and check every 15 minutes to see if the beef is starting to break down
- When the beef is starting to come apart, remove cooking liquid until there is half the amount left in the pan that you started with. Set the cooking liquid aside
- Dice up an onion and add to the pan. Add the pear and apple stroop or the syrup and balsamic crema mixture. Crumble up the slices ontbijtkoek or gingerbread and add that to the pan too
- Take a ladle of the cooking liquid you removed earlier and stir that together with the powdered jus until dissolved and add that to the pan of beef. Stir everything well and continue to cook until everything is well incorporated and a stew consistency has formed
- Taste and add salt until you are happy with the taste. Also add in anything other that it may need. Does it need more vinegar/ontbijtkoek/apple stroop? Taste and add in what you think it needs more of
- When you are happy with the taste scoop it onto a plate and serve with traditional potato croquettes and red cabbage with apples or make it your own. Enjoy!