Recipe post: Winter Warmth in Stew Form

I don’t know from which city or country you are reading this, but here, lately it’s been VERY cold.

2014-01-25 11.29.32
Just another balmy January day in Eastern Ontario.

As in, -17C with wind chills of almost double that. Snowstorms and ice storms and public warming centres for the homeless or those without power; where whiteouts and zero visibility and multi-vehicle traffic accidents abound.  You would think that in our traditionally cold nation that we wouldn’t forget how to drive in these conditions when winter inevitably rolls around each year, but every day of winter I see and hear evidence to the contrary.

It’s days like this that I most want to snuggle deeper into the covers, pulling them over my head until I’m happily cocooned into a small bubble of warmth in the middle of my chilly room (the Hubster will *insist* on leaving the bedroom window open a crack “for ventilation”…brrr!), and only emerge when the call of nature becomes too insistent to ignore. These days positively beg for calling into work “well”, as in, “Well, it’s too damn cold to come to work today!”, then cuddle with a loved one, a furry feline and a fuzzy blanket, and watch a favourite movie together while sipping on a hot cup of tea.

I believe scientists have coined a term for this feeling; I believe it’s called HIBERNATION.

Well, not everyone is able to call in for an adult snow day — and good thing, too, or the forward march of progress would come to a screeching halt during every winter month! – so what can we do to emulate the happiness of the calm, warm, sleepy-lazy day even when we have to work and be…*shudder*… productive?

Well, food helps. Food that is hearty and flavourful and abundant and warms us right down to our cockles…wherever those may be. And what food is better known for giving us all of those things during these cold winter months than a hearty bowl of stew with some delicious, delicate dumplings on top?

“There is a charm in making a stew, to the unaccustomed cook, from the excitement of wondering what the result will be, and whether any flavour save that of onions will survive the competition in the mixture.”
– Annie Besant

Below are three different stew recipes I’ve developed; you will notice that these three recipes tend to use many of the same basic ingredients! You have your choice of beef, chicken, or a vegan vegetable stew, plus a simple BONUS recipe for making flavourful, tender dumplings which I could never get enough of when I was younger (remember, the trick to fluffy, light dumplings is NO PEEKING while they’re cooking!).

Sorry for no pictures of the three stew recipes below ATM; I promise to make these stews over the winter months and edit/upload pics to this blog post, but I wanted you to have these recipes sooner rather than later. Because I’m awesome like that.

Happy Stewing!

Homestyle Beef and Winter Vegetable Stew

  • 2½ lb. lean boneless stewing beef, ½” cubes
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 4 cups beef stock or 4 beef bouillon cubes with 4 cups boiling water
  • 4 white or yellow fleshed potatoes, diced
  • 4 onions, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • ¼ medium rutabaga (yellow turnip), diced
  • 3 parsnips, diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced OR 1 medium tin diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups white button mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and quartered
  • 1 cup peas, frozen
  • 1 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1 tsp marjoram, dried
  1. Dredge beef cubes with flour; coat on all sides, using up all of the flour. In a deep, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil and butter on medium; brown meat well on all sides, one layer at a time. Set aside cooked meat cubes until all are browned.
  2. Return all meat to saucepan; turn heat to medium-high. Add the beef stock, salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all browned bits from bottom of pan as the stock is coming up to heat (this is called deglazing the pan). Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered but stirring occasionally, until beef is tender, about 1½ hours.
  3. Add prepared vegetables and herbs, and cook, covered, at a moderate simmer, stirring occasionally. At 20 minutes, add frozen peas and taste, adding more seasoning or liquid if necessary.
  4. Stir stew one last time, then drop prepared dumplings onto surface of stew with a spoon, keeping them well-spaced apart (dumplings will swell during cooking). Cover pot tightly with lid and simmer for another 20 minutes. Do not open lid during this time or dumplings will become soggy and tough. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Savoury Chicken Stew

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts*, ½” cubes
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock or 4 chicken bouillon cubes with 4 cups boiling water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 medium white or yellow fleshed potatoes, diced
  • 1 leek, washed, green stalks removed and sliced thinly
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups mix of frozen vegetables (at least three of: peas, corn, cut green or wax beans, cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, etc.)
  • 1 tsp sage or poultry seasoning, ground
  • 1 tsp thyme, crushed
  • 1 tsp parsley, dried
  • 1 tsp paprika (hot or sweet, depending on preference)
  • 1/2 cup light cream or coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch

*Can replace with equal amount of turkey breast meat

  1. In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, then quickly cook in heated oil until browned on all sides. Remove browned chicken from heat and set aside, covered.
  2. Turn heat to medium-high and add chicken stock to pan; deglaze (scrape pan bottom) as the stock is coming up to heat. Once hot, add bay leaf, potatoes, leeks, celery, and carrots to stock, turn heat to medium-low and cook, covered, at a moderate simmer for 20 minutes. Add cooked chicken, frozen vegetables, and remaining seasonings.
  3. Blend cream and cornstarch together thoroughly and add to soup; stir, and simmer 5 more minutes or until thickened. Taste, adding more seasoning or liquid if necessary.
  4. Stir stew one last time and remove bay leaf, then gently drop dumplings onto surface of stew with a tablespoon, keeping them well-spaced (dumplings will swell during cooking). Cover pot tightly with lid and simmer for another 20 minutes. Do not open lid during this time or dumplings will become soggy and tough. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Hearty Vegan Vegetable Stew

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 medium white or yellow fleshed potatoes, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 6 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or 4 vegetable bouillon cubes with 4 cups boiling water
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup tinned diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups mixed frozen vegetables, such as peas, corn, green, wax, or lima beans, cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, etc.
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 tsp basil, dried
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, crushed and finely diced
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  1. Heat oil on medium heat in a large Dutch oven or heavy saucepan; add potatoes, onion, carrots and celery, and gently sauté, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, paprika and minced garlic and cook for a few minutes longer.
  2. Add stock and wine to pan and bring up to heat, scraping up any browned bits from the pan and mixing into the broth. Add tomatoes and cook, covered, at a moderate simmer for 20 minutes. Add frozen vegetables and dried herbs.
  3. Blend water and cornstarch together thoroughly; pour into soup, stir, and simmer gently for 5 more minutes or until thickened. Taste, adding more seasoning or liquid if necessary.
  4. Stir stew one last time, then drop dumplings onto surface of stew with a tablespoon, keeping them well-spaced apart (dumplings will swell during cooking). Cover pot tightly with lid and simmer for another 20 minutes. Do not open lid during this time or dumplings will become soggy and tough.

Makes 6 servings.

Stew Dumplings

  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely minced (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup 2% milk (use coconut milk for vegan dumplings)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, parsley, baking powder, and salt. With a fork, gradually stir in milk to form a moist and soft batter; it should be a little thicker than pancake batter and easily drop from the tip of a spoon. Add up to 2 tablespoons more milk if it is too thick; do not overwork batter. Cover and set aside until 20 minutes before stew is ready.

Drop batter in simmering liquid in 10 heaping tablespoonfuls, keeping them spaced apart (dumplings will swell as they cook). Cover, and simmer until dumplings are firm, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

As always, I welcome comments on my blog posts! Please toss me a line if you have any questions, suggestions, or…well…comments!  I will do my best to respond to each one.

-BHD

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