Let’s start with a bit of terminology: a stew is not a soup. A stew is not an oven dish. And yet a stew can look a bit like a soup and a casserole. Let me explain; Both soups and stews rely on vegetables, meat, poultry or fish, and they are generally cooked in some sort of broth or liquid. But stews tend to be thicker, with larger cuts of meat, vegetables or poultry and less broth. The thicker it gets, the more stew-like it becomes. And, unlike a casserole, stews are generally made in soup pots.
Whatever you call them, these three stews provide comfort when the weather takes a turn for the worse in much of the country. As the temperature drops, we find ourselves craving heartier, warming foods. Stews are the perfect answer. And like soup, they almost always benefit from being made a day in advance and allowing the flavors to settle and emerge overnight.
These stews originate from three distinctly different parts of the world. For starters, there’s an Indian-inspired vegetarian stew that focuses on cauliflower, coconut milk, and spices. The stew is topped with spicy, crunchy roasted chickpeas. Then a Mexican inspired chicken and chili stew served with quick pickled red onions and warm tortillas. And finally a hearty French dish of short ribs stewed in red wine with carrots, leek and rosemary.
Indian spiced cauliflower stew with coconut milk and a spiced chickpea topping
This is a very satisfying vegetarian stew that can be served with white or brown rice. The stew is ready in less than 30 minutes and the crispy spiced chickpea topping adds another 10 minutes. It is one of the few stews best served within a few hours of preparation.
For 2 to 4 people.
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, sliced very thinly
1 medium yellow or red onion, chopped
2 spring onions, white and green parts, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger
dash of chili flakes or hot pepper sauce, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 fresh chile pepper, such as a jalapeno or serrano, cored, deseeded and chopped; you can leave the seeds in if you prefer a spicy stew
1 medium cauliflower, deseeded and divided into florets
One 13.5 ounce can of coconut milk
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped or parsley (for those who don’t like cilantro)
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the garlic, half the chopped and sliced ginger, onion and half the spring onions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Add the turmeric, cumin and ground ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Stir in the chilli flakes (or hot pepper sauce), salt, pepper and fresh chilli and cook for 1 minute.
Add the cauliflower florets and remaining fresh ginger; stir well to coat the cauliflower with all the spices. Season again with salt and pepper.
Turn the heat up to high and add the coconut milk and ½ cup cold water. Stir everything together and bring to a gentle boil; reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.
Taste for taste and add more salt, pepper and/or chili pepper.
Serve hot sprinkled with the remaining spring onions and garnish with the roasted chickpeas.
Roasted spiced chickpeas
These chickpeas are a delicious snack and a delicious, crunchy topping for the cauliflower stew.
Makes 1 cup.
1 cup chickpeas, from a 13.4-ounce can or box, drained, rinsed, and drained again
1 ½ tablespoon of olive oil
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle chili flakes, optional
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the chickpeas on a clean tea towel or paper towel and remove any moisture.
Place the chickpeas on a baking tray or baking tray and toss with the oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Spread them out in a single layer. Bake on the middle shelf for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and almost bursting through the skin. Remove and cool.
You can make the chickpeas 24 hours in advance. Cover in a tightly sealed container and store at room temperature.
Stew of short ribs with carrots, leeks and red wine
Short ribs have so much flavor to give, but you have to coax it with slow, steady cooking and really good aromatics. Here, short ribs are gently browned and then cooked with carrots, onion, garlic, leeks and rosemary, all slowly braised in red wine. I like to serve this short rib stew with mashed potatoes or puree of celeriac, rice or egg noodles. There’s plenty of delicious juice you’ll want to gulp down at the end, so some warm crusty bread would be in order too.
This stew really benefits from standing overnight. Short ribs can be quite fatty and if you refrigerate the stew for at least 3 to 4 hours, or rather overnight, the fat will rise to the surface and be easily spooned off. Then you simply heat the stew on the stove just before serving.
For 2 to 4 people.
2 pounds short ribs, ask your butcher to cut them in half
About ½ cup of flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoon of olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, white and green section halved lengthwise, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces; dark green tops discarded
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 cm pieces
1 ½ tablespoon fresh rosemary, or 1 ½ teaspoon dried and crumbled
3 cups of red wine, preferably dry
1 bay leaf
½ cup fresh chopped parsley, preferably Italian
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Sprinkle the flour, salt and pepper on a large plate and brush the ribs on all sides. Keep the flour.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the ribs in the hot oil for about 5 minutes, turning them back and forth to brown all over. Remove to paper towels to drain excess oil.
Turn the heat down to low and add the garlic, onion, leek, carrots and half the rosemary. Cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes. Sprinkle in 1 ½ tablespoons of the reserved flour and stir to coat all vegetables.
Turn the heat up to high and add the wine; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add bay leaf, browned ribs, salt, pepper and remaining rosemary.
Cover and place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. Roast for 1 hour, turn off the heat and leave the stew in the oven for another hour. Remove from oven and taste, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.
If you planned ahead, let the stew come to room temperature, then refrigerate it overnight. After 3 to 4 hours in the fridge, you can spoon off the layer of fat that has formed on top, leaving only a small amount (this adds flavor). Heat the stew over medium heat until bubbling and hot. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve warm.
Mexican chicken stew with chili peppers, tortillas, pickled onions and lime
The flavors in this stew are so complex that it tastes like it’s been simmering all day. But the fact is that this stew is put together in less than an hour. Chicken thighs and/or breasts are browned and mixed with sauteed onion, garlic, cumin, and ancho chili. A jar of salsa (mild or hot) is poured on top and the whole dish comes together with very little effort. The toppings are just as interesting as the stew: warm corn or flour tortillas, pickled red onions (heat vinegar, salt, sugar and water and pour over thin onion slices and 30 minutes later you have pickles), radish slices, sour cream or crema and lime wedges. The stew is ideal for a weeknight meal or can also be a festive weekend meal. The stew can be made up to 24 hours in advance.
For 2 to 4 people.
The chicken and chilli stew:
1 large or 2 medium dried ancho peppers
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large or 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Sprinkle chili flakes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 ½ pounds skin on chicken thighs
1 ½ cups salsa, mild, medium or spicy, salsa verde or red salsa
½ cup of cold water
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped with stems, or parsley (for those averse to cilantro)
Pickled Red Onion:
1 medium red onion
⅓ cup cider vinegar, plus 1 tbsp
⅓ cup of water
1 teaspoon kosher or canned salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
Grind black pepper
4 to 6 corn or flour tortillas
1 lime, cut into wedges
Sour cream or crema
Pumpkin seeds or pips
Hot pepper sauces
Prepare the ancho chili: In a dry skillet, toast the chili over medium heat for about 5 minutes, tossing it around. The skin should soften and swell slightly. Place in a bowl and pour hot (almost boiling) water over; Soak for 15 minutes. Remove from the water and cut off the stem, cut in half and remove the seeds. Cut the chili into small pieces and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over low heat. Stir in the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, chilli flakes and oregano and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the chopped chili and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer the onion/chili mixture to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Add the extra tablespoon of oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken, skin side down, and season well with salt and pepper. Brown on one side for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned, then carefully flip the chicken, season, and brown for another 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon the onion/chili mixture onto the chicken, add the salsa, water and half the coriander and bring to a gentle boil.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the casserole and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly.
Meanwhile, make the pickles: In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar, water, salt, sugar and pepper over high heat. Bring to a boil. Place the onion slices in a small non-reactive bowl and pour the hot vinegar mixture over them. Let cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. The onions take at least 30 minutes to pickle, but will keep for almost a week.
Place the tortillas in a clean tea towel and heat in a 300 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
Serve the hot stew with all the garnishes and the hot tortillas.