There was a point today when I decided that it was just too cold to leave the house—and that point was about five yards outside of my front door. Errands be damned, I retreated back indoors and realized that I should probably put all of this cold-induced time at home to good use. So I made a big pot of stew.
This would serve two purposes: dinner (obviously) and to warm up my drafty kitchen with the heat from the oven.
"I chose the Pork and Cider variation, intrigued by the combination of hard cider, fatty pork, and lots of aromatic sage."
The basic recipe is much simpler than many stews I've made before, as it calls for no browning, searing, deglazing or roux, and all of the reducing and braising can be down either in the oven or on the stovetop. It's really just a matter of very minimal chopping and then everything gets thrown into the pot.
I chose the Pork and Cider variation, intrigued by the combination of hard cider, fatty pork, and lots of aromatic sage. The pork stew meat I used had lots of fatty pieces of pork belly thrown in there, so the stew came out of the oven with lots of porky flavor along with great sour apple notes from the cider.
And as planned, my kitchen was warm and toasty not only while the stew was cooking but for several hours after. Dinner served and mission accomplished.
- For each stew you will need:
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 medium onions
- 2 carrots
- Olive oil
- 1 heaped tablespoon all-purpose flour
- One 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Then choose one of the following:
- Beef and Ale (3 hours)
- 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
- 1 pound diced beef stewing meat
- 2 cups brown ale, Guinness or stout
- Pork and Cider (2 1/2 hours)
- 3 sprigs fresh sage
- 1 pound diced stewing pork, preferably free-range or organic
- 2 cups medium-dry hard cider
- Chicken and White Wine (1 1/2 hours)
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 cups white wine
- Lamb and Red Wine (2 1/2 hours)
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 pound diced stewing lamb
- 2 cups red wine
If using the oven to cook your stew, preheat to 350°F.
Trim the ends off your celery and roughly chop the stalks. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel the carrots, slice lengthwise, and roughly chop.
Put a Dutch oven on a medium heat. Put all of the vegetables and your chosen herb into the pan with 2 glugs of olive oil and fry for 10 minutes. Add your meat and flour. Pour in the booze and canned tomatoes. Give it a good stir, then season with a teaspoon of sea salt (less if using table salt) and a few grinds of pepper.
Bring to a boil, put the lid on, and either simmer slowly on your cooktop or cook in the oven for the times shown above. Remove the lid for the final half hour of simmering or cooking and add a splash of water if it looks a bit dry.
When done, your meat should be tender and delicious. Remove any bay leaves or herb stalks before serving, and taste it to see if it needs a bit more salt and pepper.