With the harbinger of winter just around the corner and the cold temperatures penetrating through the multitude of layers worn, there is nothing more comforting and satisfying than coming home to the aroma of a homemade nourishing and hearty stew. For many of us, the aromatic scent of a stew triggers memories of our childhood. After having endured a long day at school, there was nothing better than coming home to mamma’s home cooking. The smell alone instilled a feeling of love and warmth.
At this time of the year, there is a wide selection of colorful root vegetables to choose from. There are rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes and many varieties of potatoes. I just recently bought purple potatoes at the farmer’s market. Not only is the skin a deep purple hue but the potato itself is aubergine in color. I immediately imagined what a lovely color to add to a robust stew. There are no rules on what you can put into a stew. Use your imagination and have fun with it!
As far as the protein is concerned, any stew meat will work just fine. Grass-fed beef, bison or lamb are good choices. If you are vegan or vegetarian, do not despair , you can substitute seitan which is wheat gluten or tempeh which is a fermented soy product. Both of these products will add the texture of meat.
Most stews start off with a base of garlic, onion, carrot and celery which is the classic mirepoix. The ratio is usually two parts onion to one part carrot and celery. It is not only a good idea to have vegetable and protein cut into equal sizes for uniform cooking but it also is aesthetically more appealing to the eye.
It is important to add liquid to the pot which will ultimately give a creaminess to the stew. It is crucial to cover the chunks of vegetables and protein, stirring occasionally and partially covering with a lid. If the liquid has been absorbed and the vegetables are still hard, you will need to add additional liquid. If, on the other hand, you add too much liquid, you will wind up with a soup instead of a stew. For the liquid, you may use either a vegetable or meat based stock to achieve the flavor you are seeking. The advantage of using stock in place of water will provide you with additional nutrients.
As for flavoring, you have a lot of leeway. If you prefer a stew with a hint of tomato, add a Tablespoon or two of tomato paste. If you, like me, prefer a subtle smoky flavor, add a pinch or two of smoked paprika. The addition of red wine gives the stew a more robust and rich flavor. The following herbs also enhance the flavor: fresh thyme and/or fresh minced flat leaf parsley. During the cooking process, you may wish to add a bay leaf or two. Don’t forget to add sea salt to taste. This is the basic recipe. Feel free to make adjustments to suit your own taste. In addition, this stew is appropriate for many of the healing dietary protocols with some basic modifications.
Ilia Regini is a certified healing through food specialist/health supportive chef/culinary instructor/writer/blogger and speaker. Healthy Nourished Body offers chef services, cooking lessons, healthy kitchen makeovers and customized menu planning for healing through food dietary protocols. www.healthynourishedbody.com www.facebook.com/wellnourishedbody63 e:[email protected]