This morning the car needed scraping and I walked out of the house for the school run with two left gloves. On a more poetic note, the cavolo nero was silvery tinged with frost and when the low winter sun made an appearance, the sky was a beautiful grey blue. Either way, Autumn has undeniably been usurped by Winter and it’s time for hot water bottles, evenings by the wood-burner and slow-cooked soups and stews.
My warming stew is both frugal and comforting, using turnips, parsnips and swede from the garden, mother hubbard squash from the store and blade steak from a wonderful local smallholding which I happened to have in the freezer. I buy their blade steak regularly, it’s a cheap cut of their very well-reared, organically fed animals that has lots of flavour but does need tenderising. I find that either bashing with a rolling pin and marinading in olive oil, salt & pepper and flash-frying or slow-cooking does wonders. As this stew cooks slowly for 3-4 hours it’s perfect, resulting in tender meat and an unctuous stew. Sweet root veg, garlic and red wine add to the robust flavours.
I cooked a large amount of this stew during an evening, a bit of very simple chopping giving me a couple of dinners for the following days. The wood-burning oven was lit, perfect for slow (and free!) cooking while I picked up my knitting. I know, it’s wild in the Cotswolds!
But back to the stew, which provides 6ish portions (depending on your level of winter gluttony) and can be nicely imprecise in the cooking times. You can substitute veg for carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, whatever you have to hand.
Squash, Blade steak and Root Veg Stew
1 tablespoon olive oil
I onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
800g blade steak (or other good value cuts from well-reared animals) cubed.
flour to dust
1 turnip, peeled and roughly chopped
500g squash peeled and chopped (I used home-grown Mother Hubbard, butternut would be good too)
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 Swede, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1/4 bottle of red wine
500ml beef or vegetable stock
a handful of rosemary leaves, chopped
Cook the onion and garlic in olive oil in a large casserole pot for 5 mins. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, tomato puree, wine and stock and stir. Season with black pepper and a little salt. Bring to simmer, place a lid on top and cook in an oven heated to 160C for 3 to 4 hours until the meat is tender and the stew rich and unctuous. If you have a wood-burning stove, it’s perfect to pop in the oven. Sprinkle some chopped rosemary over before eating.
We ate this with mashed potato and a heap of mixed cavolo nero and kale but a few home-made dumplings wouldn’t go amiss.
Would love to enter this into the Four Seasons Food Challenge for November, hosted by Anneli of Delicieux and Louisa of Eat Your Veg. It’s definitely worth a browse for lots of comforting Soups, Stews and One Pot Wonders this month.