Recipe: Pressure Cooker Belgian Beer Beef Stew (Carbonnade)

I cooked more elaborate meals and was more experimental and adventurous in my culinary endeavours during the year I was on maternity leave, than I ever have been in my life.

There’s one simple reason for this – I was bored! Intellectual power that would otherwise be used in work or study had no other outlet, and so I spent all this intellectual power in meal-planning, curating the perfect shopping list, and cooking.

Now that I’ve been back at work for over a year, I think we’ve probably eaten the same seven meals every week – I no longer have the time to spend on planning and cooking new dishes.

Yet there are some recipes trialled during my year of maternity leave that were real successes which have been added to my standard repertoire. Case in point – this Belgian Beer Beef Stew, which I believe is more commonly known as carbonnade.

It is very meat-heavy so rather than eating it by itself, I do tend to make a big batch and serve it up with a lot of green veggies on the side. Great served on top of some buttered pasta as well!

Note – this recipe is for a Phillips All-In-One Pressure and Slow Cooker.


All the ingredients (spot the baby in the background of the photo!)
  • Approximately 1kg of beef chuck steak (I got mine marked down – freshness doesn’t matter so much in this dish because you cook it for so long!)
  • 1/4 cup of plain flour
  • About 100gm of butter
  • About six rashers of bacon (I use short-cut – you can use whatever cut you prefer)
  • A whole head of garlic
  • Two onions – I used red onions for the sweetness
  • One bottle of Belgian beer (I used Hoegaarden)
  • One cup of stock (I used chicken because that’s what I had – but beef would suit best)
  • Two tablespoons of dark brown sugar
  • One lemon
  • Two dried bay leaves
  • Fresh parsley


Dice up the beef into small chunks – about 5cm cubes work well. Coat the beef in the plain flour.

While you’re doing this, heat up a drizzle of olive oil in the Phillips All-In-One Pressure Cooker on the High Saute/Sear mode.

Sear and seal the beef in the cooker, then remove from the pot.

Add the butter into the pot, keep it on the High Saute/Sear mode. Add in the bacon (diced), garlic (diced), and onions (sliced) and cook until softened and smoky. Add half the bottle of beer, and keep cooking on High Saute/Sear mode until it reduces by half.

Return the beef to the pot, with the other half bottle of beer, stock, juice from one lemon, brown sugar, bay leaves, and parsley. Add pepper and salt to taste. Let the liquid reduce to half again, then put the cooker in Manual Pressure Cooker mode for half an hour, and put the lid on.

Once the pressure cooker has finished, release the steam and open the lid. If the mix is still too liquidy, put the cooker back on Saute/Sear mode to reduce it down. Importantly – add more salt and pepper to taste as appropriate!

Serve as you wish – I served it here with some buttered pasta underneath to soak up the delicious stew juices, and with some green beans. You might also like to serve it on a bed of rice with steamed broccoli, or even just with some fresh crusty bread and a side salad.


Travel Tales: Hong Kong and China, April 2018

I’m writing this blog recap over one year after the event, and after another family holiday to Hong Kong! Forgive me if details of precisely where and what we ate are patchy at best, or if recollections of our itinerary are somewhat inconsistent.

Alright, preamble over.

Hubby, Matilda and I, along with my father and stepmother, took a two week trip back to Hong Kong and China in April 2018, with the express purpose of showing off the baby to my extended family. I was only halfway through my maternity leave at that point, and Matilda was just five months old and still exclusively breastfeeding.

Tip to future parents – it’s so much easier to travel with a baby when you don’t have to worry about bottles, sterilising, pumping, formula, baby-appropriate solids, etc.

We started off with a visit to Cixi, my mother’s village in Zhejiang province in China. The visit was always going to be fraught with emotion – not only were my grandparents going to be meeting their first great-grandchild, but they would also be meeting my stepmother for the first time.

To my surprise, it went better than expected. Though there’s some language barriers as my stepmother doesn’t speak their particular dialect of Chinese, my grandmother had purchased some gold jewellery to gift to my stepmother as a wedding gift and to welcome her to our family. I know this act of kindness and inclusion would have been difficult given the emotions attached to the situation.

It certainly helped however, that we had a baby to defuse the situation! As the first great-grandchild, Matilda was doted upon by my entire extended family. From my aunts and uncles, to my grandparents and many great-aunts and great-uncles, Matilda was cooed and clucked over, usually with the comment “Lucky her father is mixed race, they are the most beautiful, so she will grow up beautiful”.

(Unfortunately, my Chinese isn’t quite good enough for me to try to articulate my feminist child-rearing approach of emphasising brains and character over beauty – anyone know how to say feminist in Chinese?!)

It was also our first visit back ‘home’ where we had easy access to a vehicle, whereas previously we had been very reliant on public transportation to get around. As a result, my uncle insisted on driving us to these different locations to see cherry blossoms, to view an old town, to see a lake, to see a reservoir…all the while punctuating each visit with “I bet you don’t see these amazing views in Australia!” I’ve mentioned it before, but life in regional China can be quite insular. World views are dictated by media produced by the Chinese Communist Party.

Our week in Hong Kong was marked by food, food and more food. An eggette a day was my motto, and I tried eggettes (egg waffles) from multiple different stores. My pick? Mammy Pancake, which has multiple locations and more importantly – multiple flavours! Their signature cheese eggette is just beyond!

Other food highlights include regular tofu pudding (tau fu fa) and yum cha, takeaway pork buns at Tim Ho Wan, our fancy meal at Bo Innovation, Tenren Tea’s oolong tea soft serve, and a meal at a Harry Potter-themed cafe where my not-so-hidden fangirl lost. her. shit.

We caught up with family regularly for meals (mainly yum cha!), and my cousin also accompanied us on a day trip on the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, and a visit to the Big Buddha, Po Lin Monastery and the traditional Tai O Fishing Village. I don’t think I’ve done that day trip since I was a toddler myself, so it was actually nice to do something a little touristy!

A reflection – I had concerns that travelling with my dad and stepmum would end up being suffocating, as travelling with family can often be if everyone has different ideas about what they want to do. In the end, it wasn’t at all – their presence actually just made things a lot easier for us as they could look after Matilda for three hours while we went for a fancy birthday lunch, or help to share the burden of carrying her on the days we went out without the pram. We spent a few days apart doing different activities and just meeting up for breakfast and dinner which also worked.

Would I travel with them again? Yeah, probably. They have a good sense of when to give us space, and when to pitch in and help, which I think a lot of families don’t necessarily get right. I can definitely see us doing something like a trip to Singapore and Malaysia together in the future – and while they entertain Matilda in the evening and take her somewhere small and local for dinner, K and I could go and have a fancy date night meal at a hatted restaurant like Waku Ghin or similar.

Since this 2018 trip, K and I have been back to Hong Kong with Matilda for a short stay tacked onto a longer trip to Taiwan. Things are very different in Hong Kong now, as most of you are probably aware through the news.

It makes me wonder about what the future will look like. I am still a Hong Kong citizen, who holds a Hong Kong ID card alongside strong views about the importance of democracy and accountable leadership. My family left Hong Kong in 1990 because of concerns of what Hong Kong would become under Chinese rule after 1997. I hold those same concerns now.

Bo Innovation, Hong Kong, April 2018

Everyone take note – the greatest gift anyone can give the parents of a four-month-old child is time to themselves. My dad and stepmum gave us the gift of three hours to ourselves on our trip to Hong Kong in April 2018, when K and I took time to go and have a fancy lunch at Bo Innovation to mark his birthday.

It had been some time since we had had a meal at a fancy restaurant like this (probably not since Nora), so it was a real treat! It was also probably the longest I’d spent away from Matilda since she was born, so there was significant separation anxiety on my part. “Is she okay? Do you think she’s hungry? Is she missing me? What if she doesn’t nap?” Not quite the same kid-free conversations we would have over fancy meals in the past!

So, my top three highlights from Bo Innovation:

  1. The table set-up, with slide-out cutlery drawers, just like in traditional Hong Kong-style diners (cha chaan teng)
  2. The appetiser starter – a classic eggette, but extra crisp and fresh with fragrant spring onion
  3. Xiao Long Bao, molecular gastronomy style.

The whole meal really, was such an homage to classic Hong Kong flavours, dishes and culinary traditions that it really made me feel quite nostalgic. This is the food of my childhood, but up-scale and turned into an experience, rather than just everyday home-style comfort food. I would definitely recommend that anyone visiting Hong Kong with an interest in re-imagined Cantonese cuisine visit Bo Innovation.

It’s not somewhere I would take my 80-year-old uncle who refused to let me take him to high tea because “a cup of tea and an egg tart for $15HKD at the local diner will do me fine”, but for those 1.5 generation kids like myself yearning to celebrate a tenacious link to their cultural background? Bo Innovation is perfection.