There is something very satisfying about a winter stew or casserole. Use cheaper cuts of meat and let the slow cooker or the oven do the hard work for you.
Hints and Tips
Just a few hints and tips to get the perfect stew every time and some handy flavour combinations:
To thicken your stew you can reduce the stew on the hob (do this after the cooking time has elapsed and remove the meat and vegetable contents first and set aside on a plate or you will overcook everything) bubble away until the sauce has reduced down to the consistency you want and then return your meat etc to the sauce to serve
To give your stew depth of colour you can add tomato puree, red wine reduced down, add a nice dark beer such as stout or add a little bit of gravy browning.
When cutting meat for a stew or hot pot, cut any gristle or sinew away, keep the pieces the same size and they will cook evenly. You can always slow cook pieces as a whole – like lamb shoulder or a whole chicken – but the cooking times will be longer.
You can always remove the vegetables that you have cooked with your stew and replace with freshly cooked ones to keep the appearance bright and fresh. Don’t worry about waste, the vegetables that you are discarding will have imparted all their fantastic flavour into the stew.
The right cuts
Always try and use the right meat for the job! Use shin or skirt of beef, braising steak, pork or lamb shoulder and tougher cuts that will tenderise and release flavour during the cooking process.
Make sure you get your cooking times right, you don’t want hard chewy meat or something that has completely fallen apart.
Chose the right sides to go with your stew; creamy mash (root mash, celeriac and parsnip mash, cheesy mash or garlic mash!) boiled potatoes, cous cous, polenta, rice and pasta are all good. Greens and root vegetables are a must with a winter stew and a nice piece of crusty bread or a savoury scone goes down well too. Just stay away from salads, roast potatoes and chips!
Herbs and flavourings
When starting a hot pot use hard woody herbs to begin with such as rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and sage – they will cope with the cooking time and release loads of flavour.
Add your soft herbs at the end such as parsley, chervil, coriander, and basil as these will lose their flavour during the cooking and add freshness and colour at the end.
Always season as you go as this helps this to enhance the flavours and gives you a better idea as you go. Be careful not to over season at the start as you will end up with a salty or peppery stew at the end.
Gremolata is an Italian seasoning which can be sprinkled over a dish at the end to give freshness and zing. Its a mix of grated lemon rind, crushed garlic and finely chopped parsley all mixed together – goes particularly well with chicken or fish dishes.
Marinades serve two different functions: as a tenderizer and a flavour enhancer. You probably know that some tough cuts of meat benefit from the tenderising effect of marinating.
The cooking process itself turns connective tissues into gelatine to varying degrees. Depending on the cut and type of meat, it may need a little help!
Direct contact is important, score big pieces of meat so that the marinade penetrates, but smaller cuts are better suited to marinating.
However, if you marinade a big piece of meat you might end up with a mushy exterior and unaffected centre.
Chose wine, herbs, onions, spices and garlic amongst many others. The longer you marinade the more intense the flavours. I wouldn’t recommend marinating anything in wine for longer than 8 hours.
Rosemary, garlic, red wine, beer, bay, thyme, paprika and cep mushroom powder
Garlic, white wine, parsley, paprika, curry spices, thyme, coriander, basil, lemon and yoghurt and chilli
White meats – pork and veal
White wine, cider, sage, lemon, thyme, shallots and garlic
Red or white wine depending on the colour of the meat, rosemary, bay, thyme, cinnamon, star anise and garlic
Red wine, thyme, bay, rosemary, garlic, cinnamon, star anise, juniper berries
Lemon, lime, soft herbs, dry white wine, fennel, white wine vinegar, mild curry spices
As with all marinades you are trying to enhance the flavours, not disguise them.
Marinades can be wet or dry – dry marinades are for adding flavour rather than tenderising so can be used with more expensive cuts such as fillet steak, chicken breasts or pork loin.
Indian Spiced Lamb Shanks
This dish was hugely popular on our Grill menu last autumn and offers a twist on the classic Lamb shank recipes
4 Lamb shanks 2cm piece of ginger, grated
5 tbsp vegetable oil 2tsp ground coriander
7 black peppercorns, left whole 1 ½ tsp garam masala
3 black cardamom pods, left whole ½ tsp red chilli powder
5 green cardamom pods, left whole 2 tsp ground fennel seeds
4 cloves, left whole Salt to taste
1 cinnamon stick Tsp ground cumin
1 piece of mace 3 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 onion, finely chopped 200ml chicken stock
6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced ½ tin of tomatoes, blended to a pulp
Handful of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the black peppercorns, black and green cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and mace and fry for 1 – 2 minutes or until the spices are sizzling and fragrant
Add the chopped onion and fry for 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown
Add the lamb and brown all over to seal the meat. In a food processor blend the garlic and ginger plus one tablespoon of water to a fine paste
Add the garlic and ginger paste to the lamb mixture and then reduce the heat and continue to cook for 3 – 4 minutes stirring regularly
Stir in the powdered coriander, cumin, red chilli powder, fennel seeds, garam masala, salt, tomato pulp and yoghurt. Cover the pan with a lid, place in a low oven and cook until the meat is tender and the sauce has almost completely dried out.
Remove the meat (cover with foil) and add the chicken stock to the sauce, stir well and simmer for a further 7-8 minutes, stirring constantly, until the volume of the sauce has thickened.
Return the lamb to the pan and any resting juices and heat through. Stir in the chopped coriander just before serving
1 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
75g chorizo, sliced
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
250g long grain rice
400g tinned tomatoes
350ml chicken stock
Heat the oil in a large frying pan with a lid and brown the chicken for 5-8 minutes until golden and then set aside.
Tip in the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until soft, then add the pepper, garlic, chorizo and Cajun seasoning cooking for a further 5 minutes.
Stir in the rice; add the tomatoes and stock then return the chicken to the pan.
Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until the rice is tender
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 clove of garlic finely chopped or grated
Zest of one lemon
Mix all the ingredients together and use as a seasoning to sprinkle over stews and for marinating
Smoked haddock and leek soup
600g natural smoked haddock
150g streaky bacon, snipped
2 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
3 medium leeks, washed and sliced
2 bay leaves
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes
500ml fish or chicken stock
100ml single cream
2tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
Poach the haddock in the milk. Cover and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave undisturbed for about 5 minutes, until the haddock is just cooked. Lift the haddock from the milk, remove the skin and bones and flake. Reserve the milk for later.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the bacon until starting to brown. Add the celery, leeks, bay leaves, and potatoes and cook for a couple minutes. Pour in the stock and reserved milk. Bring to the simmer and cook 10 minutes.
Add the flaked haddock and cream. Season with pepper (it shouldn’t need salt) and stir in the parsley. Heat through gently, then serve with warm crusty bread.
A Spanish tapas classic
For the sauce
800g tinned tomatoes 1 large onion, finely chopped
6tbsp olive oil 1 green pepper, de seeded, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced 100ml dry white wine
1-2 red chillies 1tsp hot Spanish paprika
2 bay leaves ½ tsp mixed herbs
½ tsp caster sugar Sea salt and black pepper
For the potatoes
1.5kg waxy potatoes, peeled, cubed and lightly salted
1 litre sunflower oil
Smoked Spanish paprika
Heat ½ the oil and add the garlic, cook until golden and then add the chilli followed by the tomatoes and herbs. Simmer for 20 minutes so that the sauce reduces down and then remove from the heat.
In another pan, sauté the chopped onion and pepper in the rest of the oil for another 20 minutes until soft and slightly caramelised. Add the white wine and boil to take off the alcohol (one minute) and then add the tomato sauce and season with the sugar and paprika. Cook for 5 minutes but don’t let it get too thick. Set aside.
Heat the oil and blanch the potatoes until soft but not coloured. You don’t want the oil at frying temperature, just hot enough to cook the potatoes.
Remove from the oil and then transfer to a hot frying pan and fry the potatoes until golden. Drain on kitchen towel, tip into a large bowl, pour the sauce over the top and finish with smoked paprika.
Serve with a nice bacon chop, grilled chicken, a piece of fish or enjoy as it is!
This is a baked Mediterranean stew, perfect for vegetarians or as a side dish to any grilled meats
2 large red peppers 3 large potatoes
2 large green peppers 1 courgette
1 aubergine 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
Olive oil for frying Pint of passata
First of all slice up all the vegetables
After de-seeding the peppers slice them length ways, about ½ inch thick
Slice the aubergine and courgettes into rounds, just over an eighth thick
Peel potatoes and slice them into rounds, again just over an eighth thick
Heat a large heavy based pan and fry the garlic until soft and slightly golden
Fry the potatoes until they are golden brown and starting to get soft. In the last 30 seconds of frying add one third of the chopped garlic and keep the potatoes moving so that the garlic doesn’t burn.
Once the potatoes are done, place them in an oven proof dish in a layer. Add some more oil to the frying pan and cooked the aubergine and peppers together and as they are getting soft add the second third of the garlic during the end.
Arrange on top of the potatoes. Finally fry the pepper slices and add the last of the garlic as before. Place the softened peppers on potatoes and aubergines – this forms the top layer.
Now, if you want to make your own Tumbet sauce you can – you can but Passata is a good cheat and really just as good. So however you arrive at your tomato sauce, pour over the assembled vegetables.
Cook in a medium oven and bake until the layers are soft when pierced with a fork- it usually takes 45 minutes.
Top with any good melting cheese such as fontina or mozzarella, place under the grill until bubbling and then serve with crusty bread
Coconut and vanilla rice pudding
55g / 2oz short grain rice soaked in water for an hour
230ml / 8 fl oz coconut milk
110ml / 4 fl oz milk
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod, scraped
110ml / 4 fl oz cream
Freshly grated nutmeg, optional
Rinse the rice and place in a pan with the coconut milk, milk, sugar and vanilla stir over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally. When the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and leave to cool with the lid on.
When the mixture has cooled, stir in the cream. Re-heat if you want to serve it warm, alternatively sprinkle with brown sugar and grill.
Serve with fresh mango, a squeeze of lime or stir in mango coulis