The Perfect Winter Stew
There’s nothing more satisfying in winter than to sit down to a plate of hearty, steaming home-cooked stew.
The art of slow-cooking meat in a tasty broth has been practised for centuries, transforming what are often regarded as “cheaper” cuts of meat - such as short rib or blade - into melting cubes of tenderness.
Some modern-day cooks can feel intimidated at attempting to make their own stew, and choose instead to stick to a recipe that has been passed down through the family. However, making a nourishing pot of stew is really quite simple - and any fancy ingredients such as wine or soy sauce are merely optional additions that you can try once you have mastered the basics.
The beauty of making a pot of stew is that you can use a standard recipe (as described below) and substitute with any different cut of meat or protein, such as lamb, beef or even chicken pieces, to create interest for your family. And if you are feeding a large crowd it is perfectly acceptable to bulk up your stew with frozen vegetables or starchy vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips or carrots.
• The first step in creating the perfect stew is to brown your meat really well. The secret here is properly browning, and not stewing, your meat. In order to do this, you will need a splash of oil and a really hot pot.
• Make sure you do not put the lid on, as this will create condensation, and the excess moisture will cause your meat to stew and not brown.
• If need be, brown your meat in batches so as not to overcrowd the pot and cause the temperature to drop.
• Don’t be concerned if your meat sticks to the bottom of the pot as it these little browned morsels of meat that will help to create to create a rich, roasty flavour in your stew.
• Once your meat is browned, you can remove it from the pot using a slotted spoon and set it aside.
• The next step is to sauté your aromatic vegetables, adding a little extra splash of oil if need be, and slightly reducing the temperature to a medium heat. These vegetables can include finely diced onion, crushed garlic or ginger, leeks or celery, and finely diced peppers. The key here is allow them to cook until they have a slightly caramelised exterior, and to stir them frequently.
• Once the vegetables are nicely sautéed, you can return your browned meat or chicken to the pot, and then add any other vegetables, plus water. The amount of water you need to add will depend on the amount of protein you have, and how many other vegetables you are going to add to your stew.
• My general rule of thumb is to cover the vegetables with roughly two centimetres of liquid – you can always add more towards the end if you feel you do not have enough gravy. However, it is more difficult to try and reduce your liquid if you add too much, which could result in your vegetables becoming overcooked or mushy.
• Carrots and potatoes are the standard vegetables to add to a stew, but you can also try sweet potatoes, turnips, corn and butternut. If you choose to add vegetables that are faster cooking - such as green beans, baby marrows, peas , frozen vegetables or leafy greens - be sure only to add them to the pot about ten minutes before your stew is complete. This will ensure that they remain slightly crunchy and retain their bright colour.
• The next step would be to add your KNORR Stock Pot – here you have a choice of beef, chicken or vegetable flavour. The KNORR Stock Pot can be added directly to your pot, and does not have to be dissolved beforehand. It will melt quickly into your pot to create a gravy that is full in flavour, with a rich taste.
• Give your pot a good stir, then put the lid on and reduce the heat to a low simmer. If cooking a beef stew, allow your stew to simmer for approximately 45 minutes (but a tougher cut of meat will require slightly longer cooking time). A chicken stew can be simmered for approximately 35 minutes.
• The final step to creating a perfect stew is to thicken your gravy. Choose your favourite flavour of KNORR Soup to thicken your stew and add delicious flavour - such as KNORR Minestrone, Brown Onion or Rich Beef and Tomato Soup. Simply mix two tablespoons of soup powder with a little water to make a smooth paste, then stir this into your pot and allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes to thicken.
• Your perfect winter stew is now complete, and ready to serve with rice, pap or creamy mashed potato.
Here are a few of our favourite stew recipes for you to try this winter: