Simple Eats – Rustic Vegetable Stew
Yet another cold and rainy day, just the right weather for some hot stew!
Too lazy to go to the market to get fresh produce so I’d just have to make do with whatever is in the fridge!
3 stalks of celery diced
1 large carrot diced
1 large yellow or red onion diced
1 large potato or 2 smaller ones diced
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 sweet potato diced (optional)
1 medium cauliflower cut into small florets (optional)
3-4 shitake mushrooms diced (optional)
2 tablespoons of olive oil (no need extra virgin)
70 ml of Nestle cream or 150 ml of full-cream milk (yes! full-cream! I insist!)
sufficient water to just cover the vegetables
half a cube of chicken stock essence
a pinch of salt
a generous dash of black pepper
1 – 2 Bay leaves
– Dice all the vegetables into 1 cm cubes
– To a pot, add olive oil and throw in diced onions and garlic. Add a pinch of salt at this moment. This would help the onion to lose some water which would in turn prevent the garlic and onion from browning. What we want is to braise the onion and garlic and not to saute them. All this has to be done over low heat of course.
– When the onions are nice and soft, add in the rest of the diced vegetables (except mushrooms and cauliflower) and cube of chicken stock essence. Bottled concentrate may also be used.
– Stir slowly to ensure all the vegetables get rather even cooking.
– After about 2-3 minutes, add in cream/full-cream milk, followed by water. The amount of water added depends on the depth and shape of the pot as well as whether cream or milk was added. Water is added just to cover the vegetable sufficiently to ensure that everything is completely submerged.
– Bring the water to a boil and add bay leaves and black pepper. Caulflower, mushrooms and other non-root vegetables may be added at this moment.
– Cover the pot with a lid and continue to simmer for another 20-30 mins over low heat, stiring the contents periodically.
– Taste the soup and add more salt if required. My previous attempts included the addition of sugar, but since sweet potatoes were added, sugar is omitted.
– For more robust flavours, prepare the stew a few hours in advance and allow it to sit for the taste to mature. Heat up the stew prior to serving.
– Stir in a corn starch mixture with 1 tablespoon of corn flour and 3 tablespoons of water and add gradually with constant stirring until the desired consistency is achieved. Do this slowly as the soup would have been quite “starchy” from the addition of all the carbohydrates.
– Serve with rice, noodles or toasted baguette or any other crusty bread.
There is no fixed recipe for a rustic vegetable stew like this. Basically most root vegetables may be used. Peas, sugar snaps, corn kernels, turnip, leek, kidney beans etc. are also excellent choices as well, depending on one’s likes and most importantly, what’s available in the fridge! Green leafy vegetables are generally avoided as they tend to turn yellow from prolonged heating. Roots give it an “down-to-earth” texture which is very comforting.
Omit the cream and add some Japanese curry cubes and one would immediately be able to savour some delicious Japanese curry that would go beautifully with starchy short-grained rice. I know I’d said this but I’m gonna say it again, the key is really to allow the stew/curry to sit for sometime for the flavours to mature.
Omit the cream, as well as the corn starch at the end, and add small chunks of meat like chicken, ham, sausages etc and you’ll get instant farmer’s soup! Short pasta like macaroni elbows, fusilli goes particularly well with this concoction. Elevate the flavours by adding a dash of herbs before serving.
Follow the recipe and add some spices i.e. dried ginger, cumin, coriander, tumeric, cinnamon all a teaspoon each with the onions and garlic initially, change cream to coconut milk and one would get an instant southern indian vegetable masala. Add a teaspoon of , chilli powder or paprika if you want it to be more fiery. This goes really well with parantha (prata), naan, chappati or any indian flatbreads.
The main thing is to be creative and have fun!