Tag Archives: Soups and Stews

Winter Stews

In the cold days of winter there’s nothing more satisfying than coming home to a nice big bowl of stew – especially if your loved one has spent hours slaving over it.

Jet over Snowy Barn
Image by ChristopherSHarrison via Flickr

In this house we regularly make steak or chicken stew, and occasionally a pot of lamb stew shows up – mainly due to the price of lamb. The vegetable ingredients are usually just whatever happens to be to hand, which means that celery, onions, carrots, garlic & parsnips are guaranteed to be thrown in the pot.

I also love to throw a sweet potato or two into the mix as they tend to disintegrate during the cooking process, acting as a beautiful thickening agent while also adding tons of flavour.

Stews are really cheap to make, especially if you have a large pot and can make substantial quantities at once. In winter we regularly just leave the pot on the stove and eat from it for several days, but you can also choose to freeze it in portions.

Today’s stew recipe is one I cooked recently. If you prefer your food more savoury then sweet, then you might want to leave out the sweet potatoes, as the sweetcorn and leeks add plenty of sweetness to the overall dish.

Dice up your ingredients to the size you want them in the final dish – some people don’t like huge chunks of carrot. This stew is very versatile, you can use it as a pie mix and top with mashed potato or puff pasty, I’ve even used it in the past as a vol-au-vent filling (make sure to dice everything up really fine for this one). Enjoy!

Recipe: Basil and Tomato Soup

Great on a cold winters day

Ingredients;

1 anchovy
1 clove of garlic – very finely sliced
1 small onion – finely diced
1 large carrot chopped roughly
2 sticks of c
elery chopped roughly
500g of ripe tomatoes – cores removed and chopped roughly
3 large handfuls of fresh basil – leaves ripped up roughly, stalks kept and chopped finely
400g tin of plum tomatoes
1L chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Line

In a large saucepan, gently fry the anchovy and garlic until the anchovy breaks up and starts to vanish. Do not let the garlic burn, but a little bit of browning is okay.

Add the carrot, onion and celery and fry gently till soft – about 10-15 mins.

Add the fresh tomatoes and let them stew for about 5 mins while stirring slowly.

Next add the tinned tomatoes and stir.

Add the chicken stock – enough to cover the mix and bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 mins, stirring at 5 minute intervals.

Take this opportunity to tidy up, trust me it’s easier than having a messy kitchen to clean and tidy later!

Finally, add the basil leaves and chopped stalks and continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

At this point, allow it to cool for a few minutes and season well with salt and pepper.

Now, it can get messy if you’re not careful, grab a ladle and push it down into the soup gently so you fill it with liquid, but try not to get any of the solids in it, using this method remove (and keep) as much of the liquid as possible, this will allow you to control the ‘thickness’ of your soup in the next step.

Next pour the remaining ‘soup’ into a blender, avoid an enormous mess akin to a Freddy Krueger slashfest by NOT over filling the blender and also placing your hand on top of the blender when starting it. Blend it until it’s smooth and creamy looking and pour into a saucepan, keep doing this until all the soup has been blended and you should have a bowl of really, really thick soup. Now start stirring this and adding back in the liquid that you removed until you get the ‘thickness’ you want and you’re done. If you add all the liquid back and your soup is still too thick use some more stock to thin it a little more.

Simply heat the soup and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil or cream, a small sprig of basil and serve with some chunky ultra fresh bread or Crostini with pesto.

Soups, sauces and the freezer

SMEG #2

The next recipe will be coming up shortly and it’s a little twist on one of my all time favourite soups. My basil and tomato soup is one of those “accidents” that happen every so often, but the result was so good that I continue to use the “accidental” recipe. This recipe can be frozen and kept in the freezer ready to serve.

There’s not a lot else to say about this soup but I want to discuss the kitchen freezer a wee bit. It’s not just a place to make ice and store your processed food, it can also be used to store food you make yourself.

Most soups and sauces can be frozen and stored for weeks once they have been fully prepared. There are just two things to remember when freezing food.

If raw meat has defrosted don’t refreeze it unless it’s been cooked fully.

If cooked meat is defrosted don’t refreeze it, either eat it or bin it.

For soups and sauces we have found a great way of maximising the storage in your freezer. First you will need a flat surface in your freezer so this usually means re-organising it a bit, for me anyway. Then you will need some re-sealable freezer or sandwich bags.

Once your soup or sauce has been fully cooked and had time to cool completely, put some into a freezer bag and then half seal the top, lay it on a flat surface holding the still open end up, gently squeeze the bag until there is no air left inside and seal it fully. Then place it on the flat surface in your freezer to freeze. Naturally the thicker the soup or sauce the easier this bit is.

For soups we put two portions into a bag, that way there’s enough for Elly and myself, but if we have an extra mouth or two coming for lunch/dinner we can just pull out another bag.

The other great thing about freezing soups and sauces this way is that you can take them out of the freezer and put the bags in cold water to defrost the contents. This usually takes no more than 15 to 20 minutes. Then for soup, just heat it up and you’re ready to serve.