13 September 2013

Late Summer Stew

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler.  Use late summer vegetables from the garden for this warming and nourishing stew.


Lamb and Broad Bean Stew (if you are Fefe)

Lamb and Fava Bean Stew (if you are caribougrrl)

450g (more or less) lamb, cubed
salt and pepper to season
2 tbsp olive oil
4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4-6 sprigs thyme
2 onions, quartered then sliced
7 carrots, sliced crosswise
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups chicken stock (see below)
3 tbsp minced garlic
100g shelled fava beans

Plan a couple days in advance if you need to get the end of last year's lamb out of the freezer to make room for the new stuff.  Thaw and cube; bones in or out, whichever you prefer.

Season cubed lamb with salt & pepper.  In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan heat olive oil and sear lamb until browned on all sides, then remove and set aside. You don't want the lamb crowded in the saucepan or it will not brown well; do this in batches if necessary.

Add peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and onion to hot oil and sautee until onion is translucent and slightly browned.  Add carrots and continue to sautee until carrots begin to soften.  Add garlic and stir to combine.

Add lamb and chicken stock to pot.  Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.  That's about the right amount of time for cleaning and freezing the berries you undoubtedly picked earlier in the day.  Check the stew once in a while and give it a stir; add more stock or water if necessary.  

Add the parsley and fava beans and cook for an additional 8 minutes (or until broad beans are cooked).

Serve with boiled new potatoes and steamed yellow wax beans (or whatever other veg is coming out of your garden).  Season to taste with Worcestershire sauce.


Simple Chicken Stock (Really)

fresh or frozen chicken backs and wing tips*
2 large onions, peeled (optional), topped and tailed
1-2 carrots, peeled (optional, but if not peeled, scrubbed free of dirt)
a few peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme**
1 sprig parsley**

*or the carcass of a roast, or some chicken necks, or other parts trimmed from chicken when prepping for other meals... we usually have a bag in the freezer where we keep the back and wing tips (spatchcocked chicken is a staple during bbq season) until we're ready to make stock
**vary your seasonings according to what you have and how you might use the stock, if you don't know how you will use it, err toward very basic (peppercorn and bay leaf only)... you can add flavour later, but you can't remove what's there

Place chicken peices in a large saucepan or stock pot or dutch oven.  Add enough water to cover.  Add vegetables and seasonings.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for a couple of hours.  That's enough time to play a round or two of a German board game.

Let the stock cool to room temperature, strain through a sieve into a large bowl and cool completely in the refrigerator.  Scrape surface fat off the cold stock.  If you are not using the stock right away, portion into useful sized freezer safe containers (1 or 2 cup volumes), and freeze until needed.


If you don't normally make your on stock, you should start to.  I know that makes me sound like someone without kids (true) or much of a social life (also true), but homemade stock makes all the difference in the world. And it's easier than you think, it practically cooks itself.  More importantly, you don't have to wait until you need it to make it: stock freezes very well and won't be harmed if you have to thaw it by putting it in a saucepan and heating it up from frozen.  Plus, what else are you doing on Sunday afternoon?

Okay, it doesn't have to be a Sunday, but whenever you have a few minutes to fill a pot with water and roughly cut up some vegetables, followed by an hour or two where you are puttering around the house and can check on the pot once in a while.  Like a Thursday night after dinner when you're poking around the internet reading food blogs, hanging around in case your hypothetical children need help with their hypothetical homework.  Or in the wee hours of the morning if you're an early riser and the weather's too nasty for a long dog walk.

I know you can buy pre-made broth or stock in tins and tetra-packs.  You can even buy them in the organic section.  Or you can substitute water.  But don't.  Water doesn't give you the layered-flavour richeness of broth.  And even if you can find a commercial broth that you can honestly read the ingredient list and sodium content and be happy purchasing, that broth someone else made won't fill your house with the smell of nuturing, hand-crafted coziness.

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