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Hearty Vegetable Stews

Is there a secret to cooking the perfect vegetable stew?

Autumn and Winter are where humble root vegetables really come to the forefront and they are perfect for creating stews, vegetable casseroles and one pot wonders. There is a misconception that vegetables do not require the long slow braises in which the aromas fill your kitchen and we heartily disagree!  

Slow cooking brings out a depth of flavour in food that is otherwise hard to achieve, as the cooking process breaks the plant cells down and allows the flavours to develop and combine. Stews are also a great way to use up veggies that have been sitting around in your fridge for a while.  

They don’t spoil very easily and so what if they are a little bit past their best.  You can remove any spoiled bits before cooking and no one will know any difference.  Love Food Hate Waste campaign is a charity that particularly champions this!

So is there a science to the ingredients?

All About...The Base 

Most vegetable casseroles start off with a base of chopped vegetables, onion, carrot and celery, all the same size and in equal quantities. In culinary terms this is referred to as Mirepoix and is considered essential in getting the flavour layers into your recipe which is extra important when using vegetables only.  These want to be gently sweated until translucent.

All About ...The Flavourings

Add the garlic, spices, mustards, vinegars, tomato puree or curry paste at this stage to create the type of cuisine you are aiming for.

All About...The Core

This is where you can go to town and use your favourite veggies, it will also help determine what style of cuisine you are cooking such as a hearty British Classic with root vegetables or a Mexican Style dish with peppers and sweet potato. 

Chunky or diced, you decide but try to keep them all a similar size so they cook evenly together.  Veggies that take longer to cook lend themselves perfectly to stews as they don’t break down easily in the sauce, this comes back to our lovely root vegetables again!

All About..The Liquid

Stock, wine, coconut milk or tomato sauce are all types of liquids that can be added to your dish.  You can do a 50/50 mix with water of denser liquids such as coconut milk.  Ideally you want to cover your veggies a good couple of inches over as it will reduce when cooking.

 

All About... The Protein

A vegetable casserole is great with all of the nutrients and fibre HOWEVER you do still need that all important protein element on a plant based diet and there are so many options here you can use.  

Beans, lentils, chickpeas work well in most casseroles but don’t forget peas and sweetcorn for an added hit!  Pearl barley is a favourite of ours and what about tofu.

Tofu, cubed and coated in cornflour and then fried in a seasoning before being added to your sauce is a great tummy filler not just for Asian cuisine either!.  We add the protein after our liquid, it’s reverse engineering the traditional way of cooking casseroles when meat is used.

 

All About...The Seasoning

Don't forget to season as you go and to taste..salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon are all good flavour enhancers.

 

All About ...The Garnish

This can elevate a dish from good to great as stews can sometimes look a bit brown..freshly chopped herbs, creme fraiche or toasted nuts all work well here.

 

All About Greens Store Cupboard Autumn Vegetable Casserole

This was cooked with what we had in the kitchen, super tasty and nutritious with the lovely black beans. This recipe uses all of the principles above so why not have a go or create your own!

1 x red onion, chopped

3 x carrots, chopped

1 x large courgette, chopped

3 x sticks celery, chopped

2 x garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp paprika

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 litre of vegetable stock

250g dried black beans cooked, or 2 x canned ready cooked black beans

Salt

White pepper

Method

  • Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in a large saucepan and gently sweat the onions for 8-10 minutes until translucent.
  • Add the carrots, courgette & celery and sweat gently until starting to soften for approximately 5 minutes.  Then add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Then add the paprika and turn up the heat, cook for a minute until aromas appear then add the tomato paste and mustard, cooking for another minute or two until all the vegetables are coated.
  • Add the vegetable stock, you may need extra depending on the size of your vegetables, you want to cover them all with a couple of inches over.
  • Add the black beans and season.  Cook for approximately 45 minutes until the vegetables are soft when pierced and the stock is a dense rich tomato colour.  
  • Check seasoning and garnish as desired.  We used creme fraiche, toasted walnuts and a little mustard cress.

 Top Tip 

Add mashed sweet potato topping onto any leftovers for a beanie shepherdess pie!

Click on the link below to our Cook Like a Pro Course for more delicious stew recipes.

Stews

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