This old-fashioned Dutch beef and onion stew is slowly braised in butter, stock and spices until the meat actually falls apart into threads and indeed, draadjesvlees means "thready meat". It tastes a lot better than it sounds and is the kind of homely winter food that you prepare on weekends: the meat in the pot may take hours, but you don't have to do much to it, which leaves you free to fold the laundry or potter about the house. This kind of hearty winter family meal sits well with traditional accompaniments such as mashed potato, green beans, red cabbage, apple sauce or boiled potatoes rolled in some butter and finely chopped parsley.
- 2 lb./1 kg. beef (for stewing)
- 3.5 tbsp./50 g. butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 large onions (finely chopped)
- 3 1/4 cups/750 ml. stock (beef or chicken)
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 tsp. juniper berries
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 cloves
- 2 tbsp. vinegar
Pat the meat dry with clean kitchen paper and cut into medium chunks. Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven and brown the meat. Season with salt & pepper. Add the chopped onions and allow to caramelize.
Pour the stock into the Dutch oven. Now add the spices and vinegar and bring to the boil. Once the stew comes to a boil, reduce the temperature to low, cover the Dutch oven with a lid and allow to simmer for at least 3 to 4 hours. Check every so often and add more water if required. If the stew's too thin when you're ready to serve, remove the meat and reduce the liquid over a medium heat, replacing the meat at the end to warm through.
The dish is ready when the meat starts to disintegrate into threads and the liquid has reduced down to a thick gravy. Remove bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and whatever cloves and juniper berries you can find. Serve with boiled potatoes, red cabbage and apples or poached pears and apple sauce.
Like most stews, draadjesvlees tastes even better the next day, making it an excellent make-ahead family meal.