This month's Go Ahead Honey outing is all about stew - ably hosted by Laura of Mouthgasmic. You can find all the details here, if you would like to take part.
Stew is a dish that couldn't be more apt for this chill weather and cold economic climate as it represents the very best of peasant food; cheap, hearty and warming. It's all about the slow melding together of vegetables and meat, or fish or beans, a little preparation and an unhurried wait. Cooking anything slowly brings inherent sweetness from root vegetables and alliums and softens even the hardest working cut of meat. A long slow simmer can melt the toughest sinews, giving stew a velvet body and rich savoury taste.
In the winter, when sunshine is scarce, bodies are swaddled in layers of clothing and souls ache for the onset of spring - a stew can bring much needed comfort. The sweetness of those long simmered vegetables feeds more than just the belly, it feeds the spleen, an organ whose energy wanes in the chill of winter, leading to feelings of loneliness, dissatisfaction and need for comfort. Folk often hit the chocolate box or biscuit tin when these feelings arise, but a stew will soothe that ache far more effectively, with no regrettable side effects.
Orange vegetables, alliums, beef or lamb and warm spices are the most nourishing stew ingredients for the spleen and have a warming effect on the body. I love Persian food and Iranian cooks aim to balance how warming or cooling the ingredients for their dishes are - considering food to be medicine. Warming is what we need in winter! Persian stews are often simply scented with cinnamon or saffron, then simmered slowly, slowly without stirring or fuss, allowing the flavours to meet over time. So I chose beef, carrots, leek and cinnamon for a stew to nourish and warm, a meal to beef up the spleen and swell the heart just long enough for spring to arrive, when we can shed those heavy layers and feel the sun on our faces.
Cinnamon Scented Beef Dumpling Stew
1lb 4oz Organic Beef Mince (I use Dexter for it's rich flavour)
1 Medium Red Onion, peeled and grated
1oz Ground Almonds
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
2 Large Pinches Sea Salt
1 Dessertspoon of Goose fat, Beef fat or Butter - or vegetable oil
Make the dumplings first. Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and squish together with your hands until everything is thoroughly mixed. Form the mixture into balls about the size of a small golfball - about 3-4cm diameter.
Heat the fat gently in a large heavy bottomed pan - one large enough to take all the dumplings in a single layer. Place all the dumplings in the pan - carefully! - and cook for a couple of minutes on a medium heat. Turn each dumpling over using a dessertspoon, carefully loosening them in case they have stuck to the bottom, cook for another couple of minutes and then remove to a plate. Keep the pan with fat and brown bits in it for the next bit.
2 Fat Leeks
1lb 4oz Organic Carrots
3/4 Pint Water or Beef Stock
3 Bay Leaves
Cut off the leeks at the point where they start to turn a deeper green - leaving you with the white and pale green part. Use the darker green part for another meal - don't discard it. Chop the leek into 1cm coins. You shouldn't need to worry about grit in this part of the leek, but check the green bits anyway and rinse again if necessary. Put the dumpling pan back on a gentle heat and add the leeks. Place a lid on the pan and sweat for at least ten minutes very gently, stirring carefully every now and then. If anything threatens to burn add a couple of spoonfuls of water to the pan.
Peel and slice the carrots thickly, diagonally across, into long oval shapes. Toss them into the pan and stir to mix. Throw in bay leaves and water or stock.
Carefully place the dumplings on top of the vegetables in a single layer and place the lid back on. Bring to the boil and then turn down to the gentlest simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Do not stir or disturb the pan during this time.
To serve, remove some of the dumplings and dish up vegetables, adding dumplings on top and sprinkle with fresh coriander and parsley. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and black pepper.
Serve with live yogurt and a large green salad.
check out Laura's blog Mouthgasmic at the end of the month for a round up of all the delicious stews that have been contributed. Please join in and share a stew - there are still a couple of winter months to go and a lot of stew to be eaten!
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