6th December is the feast day of Saint Nicholas. In Flanders (Belgium) and the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas is called Sinterklaas. In Belgium, children up to 12 years of age receive their gifts in the morning of 6th December, while kids in the Netherlands get their gifts from the De Goede Sint (The Good Saint) the night before (5th December), on condition that they have been good all year. It is believed that The Good Saint keeps record of the good and naughty behaviours of the children.

Does he not sound familiar to us? 😉

Yup, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why… but hey no… it’s not Santa Claus, but Sinterklaas came to town! 

By the way, the name Santa Claus is derived from the older Dutch name Sinte Klaas, because Saint Nicholas is the patron Saint of children.

Santa Claus is also known in both Belgium and the Netherlands, but he is known as Kerstman or Christmas man, ie not a Saint but just a good and jolly fat man who brings lots and lots of presents to kids all over the world on Christmas Day.

Here’s an animated version when Sinterklaas (the Saint) meets Santa Claus (the jolly fat man)

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Oh by the way, I have been good all year, too … because Sinterklaas visited us at work!

Yesterday morning, I received the following message in my inbox ….

Dear colleague,

Last night Saint Nicholas secretly visited our HUB. He has brought some candies for you because you have been good.

Enjoy!

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Here’s what I got from De Goede Sint 😊

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A must-have gift from Sinterklaas is a type of gingerbread biscuit, called Speculoos, or is it Speculaas? Lekker

So is it Speculoos or Speculaas?

According to Google translator, Speculaas is Dutch for Gingerbread. Incidentally, Speculoos is detected as a French word and is used by Wikipedia as the source word to define “Speculoos” in English. The definition of Speculoos by Wikepedia differs to the “arguments” between the Flemish-speaking Belgium and the Dutch from the Netherlands. 

 Speculoos or Speculaas – both terms are correct, but it’s the ingredients that went in the product that made the difference. The Dutch – as we all know with the history of the Spice Trade in Asia between the 15th and 17th centuries – battled a bloody conflict with Spain and England to gain control of the spice trade after the Portuguese. Erm…. who do you think won? Well, the winner is judged by the usage and consumption of spices in today’s kitchen, of course! 😉

I daresay the Dutch are more daring with their spices than the Belgians. The Dutch named their gingerbread, Speculaas, which includes the following spices: cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and white pepper. On the other hand, the “shy-er” Belgians with their less daring palates can only take the cinnamon and a bit of ginger and caramalized sugar to form the crunchy biscuits they called, Speculoos. And there you have it, the difference between Speculoos and Speculaas

Stewed meat or stoofvlees is very popular or perhaps even the signature dish of Belgium. A classic Belgian meat stew is often cooked slowly over medium-low fire with a good glug of Belgian beer. I have cooked Flemish beef stew many times which I learnt from my late MIL. Over the years I have experimented cooking the dish by using different types of beer, which has got to be Belgian, of course😄 

Did you know that beers have colour? The colour is controlled by the malt that is used to brew it. Beer in Belgium varies from pale lager to lambic beer and Flemish red while generally beers are categorised as follows: White, blonde, amber, brown and black. The darker the colour, the bitter the taste. 

I have always used cubed beef stew meat, however, this time, I chose to use cubed Turkey meat by adding two very Belgian ingredients – speculoos and Maredsous 6 Blonde, an abbey beer. The number 6 represents the level of alcohol content, ie 6 %.

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Ingredients
(Adapted and improvised from a Colruyt recipe catalogue entitled Pork stew in Floreffe beer with my own method of preparation) 

• 1 kg pork stew (I used 2 kg cubed Turkey stew) 

• Onions, chopped (I used 4)
• Butter (to brown the meat) 

• Gingerbread cookies (I used 9 Speculoos cookies) 

• 1 Tbsp mustard (I used 2) 

• 1 Tbsp honey 

• 2 Tbsp flour or just enough to thicken the sauce 

• 33 cl Floreffe Blonde (I used 2 x 33cl Maredsous 6 Blonde) 

• 1 Tbsp vinegar (to taste) 

• Cloves (I used 6 cloves) 

• Thyme (I used a few sprigs of fresh thyme) 

• Bay leaf (I used 2) 

• Salt and pepper to taste

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Method (own)
1. Melt some butter to lightly brown the turkey meat. Sprinkle the flour and stir well.

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2. Add the chopped onions, cloves, mustard and honey.

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3. Crumble the Speculoos cookies. Stir well to combine the ingredients before pouring the beer along the edge of the stew. Throw in the fresh thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.

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4. Transfer the stew to the Slow Cooker. Switch the button to high for 1 hour and then to low for 2 hours. Thirty minutes before serving add the vinegar. You will know when the stew is ready when the sauce is no longer runny and the beer has completely evaporated and the sauce has slightly thickened. And the aroma! So Christmassy with the sweet smell of the spices whiffing passed my nostrils😜

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Note: To have even a richer tasting stew, let it cool before storing in the fridge until the next day. Heat the stew on auto for 45 minutes to 1 hour before serving. Add more vinegar if necessary.

Smakelijk!

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December may have 31 days, but to me, it’s the “shortest” month of the year due to the year end rush. And before we realised, it’s the New Year… Arghh!!!

Christmas is a time for giving and sharing. With Christmas in less than 3 weeks from now, I would like to share this recipe to the following Christmas themed blog-hop cooking challenges –

Janice Pattie’s Farmersgirl Kitchen’s December theme: Slow-Cooked Christmas

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Lavender and Lovage’s “Sugar & Spice (November and December Cooking with Herbs Challenge)”

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My Treasured Recipes #4 – Ho Ho Ho It’s Christmas (Dec 2014) hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

Cook and Celebrate: Christmas 2014 hosted by Yen from Eat your heart out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids

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Bangers & Mash’s December’s Spice Trail Cooking with All-spice (WITHDRAWN. For more information, see N.B)

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Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking

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Cook-Your-Books #19 hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours

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Happy St Nicholas’ Day! Hope you have been good😄 

Cheers! 

N.B. I would like to apologise to Vanesther of Bangers & Mash for incorrectly linking this post to her December’s Spice Trail – cooking with Allspice. I had mistaken allspice to mixed spice (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg). Allspice is a spice in its own right, completely different than mixed spice, which I must admit I did not use in this recipe. I have withdrawn my submission of this post to The Spice Trail Challenge for the month of December. Thanks, Vanesther, for pointing that out.

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Comments
  1. Nasifriet,
    Talking about stew, you know what, I just cooked chinese beef stew yesterday! I only know one way of cooking beef stew, which is the belgian way with abbey beer, so yesterday I decided I am gonna try the chinese way, haha. I am definitely gonna bookmark your recipe, becos I am curious how the flavour of stew meat with speculoos and beer would turn out to be! Btw we are also supporters of the recipes from the colruyt magazine. =)
    Regarding the difference between speculoos and speculaas, honestly I thought it is interchangeable, I never know that one is the french way of saying, and the other is the dutch way, and the fact that the dutch speculaas contains more spices than the belgian speculoos. Your post has really enlightened me =)

  2. Nasifriet says:

    Hi Miss B, you know the Speculoos from Hasselt? They only used Ceylonese Cinnamon and brown sugar. No other spices. Since we are so used to the Belgian Speculoos, I will experiment with the different spices that made up the Dutch Speculaas and make the cookies myself😉

    This Turkey stew with Speculoos is just slightly sweet, not too much because I have cut down the amount of honey. The beer also gives the balance of flavour and cuts down the sweetness further. It smells nice though, with the slight cinnamon and cloves aroma. I will make this stew with beef or pork next time.

    Btw, I have also cooked stew with Kriek and cherries. Very good👍. Well, there are so many different types of Belgian beers to choose from, right ? I’ve used Leffe as well and sometimes brown abbey beer which gives the stew an interesting and slightly bitter taste. Don’t forget to add bread with mustard and a touch of tanginess with confituur. Lekker! Erg lekker😄

  3. Now this is a really interesting recipe and I loved all the information about the various Christmas fellas. Will be bookmarking this to try over the Christmas holidays, thanks for joining me for the Slow Cooked Challenge.

  4. Nasifriet says:

    Thank YOU for hosting this challenge. I must say it’s comfort food, perfect during this cold season😊

    If you’re trying this recipe using beef or pork, I’d recommend you to stew the meat longer. Best to serve it the next day. It’s even more tastier. Trust me😉

  5. Love the Santa Claus/ Saint Nicholas history. It’s so interesting to see how we got to the jolly guy in the red suit. The candy looks divine so you must have been quite good this year! The turkey stew is intriguing. My husband loves stews but I get bored with beef pretty quickly so this would be a fun twist.

  6. Nasifriet says:

    Hi Katherine, good to read you. Yeah, I have been good this year. 😊. The gift from St Nick was really good, though I must say most of the candies were consumed by my boys. Ha ha …

    Like you, I got bored with stew using beef, hence, I was toying with the idea of using Turkey. I must say it worked perfect! Do give it a try one day.

  7. Beth F says:

    what a great post — I learned a lot. And I like everything about that stew … I’m going to have see what kind of cookies I can get here in the States to make this.

  8. Nasifriet says:

    Hi Beth, if you can’t find Speculoos or Speculaas, pleas use ginger biscuits/ cookies, the crunchy type, but you need to add some cinnamon powder. This stew has a mild cinnamon flavour which worked very well with honey and mustard. Please do not add water. Just use the beer to stew/ braise the meat. Lovely. Do let me know once you get there😉

    Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

  9. What an entertaining and informative post! I love the flavor combination in your stew… can practically smell it from here 🙂

  10. Nasifriet says:

    Thanks and thanks 😊. Me too! The mild taste of cinnamon from the Speculoos made this dish rather special. Will make this again using either pork or beef.. You should try it some time

  11. I like your festive idea of slow cooking turkey instead of cooking the traditional turkey or slow cooking pork… You are always very creative 😀

  12. Nasifriet says:

    Thanks, Zoe. Indeed something different for a change. There’re lots of ways we can transform the big bird into 😜

  13. What an interesting recipe and thanks for sharing your Christmas spirit.

    Happy cooking!
    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

  14. Nasifriet says:

    Thanks Shelleyrae. Nice to read you.😄

  15. You must have been good, to receive such sweet goodies! 🙂
    Cookies in a stew? wow, sounds so interesting and delicious!
    Your stew looks mighty good!
    Thanks for linking with CYB!

  16. Nasifriet says:

    Ha ha ha … Yeah, I’ve been really good 😊

    Those were special cookies, very Belgian dish. They love their stew and must be cooked with Belgian beer, of course😉

  17. dianaquek says:

    This is so so clever!! All cooked in a slow cooker too! LOVE!

  18. Nasifriet says:

    Thanks!
    LOVE it, too😊

  19. […] 41. Slow-Cooked Turkey Stew with Speculoos and Abbey Beer by Nasifriet […]

  20. […] at By the Way  shared some Christmas lore from Belgium along with this intriguing Slow Cooked Turkey Stew with Speculoos and Abbey Beer I really must make this, it sounds so […]

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