Friday, 11 December 2009

Stew; soup.

I'm not a soup gal.  It's a thing.  I never have been.  Call it 'stew' and I'm there every time.  I adore that stuff, more or less whatever meat or fish was used to make it.  I would choose a stew almost every time over more or less any other sort of meal.  Long, slow cooked meat falling into a nicely flavoured sauce, and all that.  And apart from anything else, they're easy:

Harissa Lamb, adapted from Nigel Slater's 'Real Fast Food'   (For two, with leftovers)
1 half leg or 2 shanks of lamb
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1 aubergine
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp harissa paste
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)

Slice onion and mince garlic. Chop the aubergine (that's an eggplant to you foreigners...) into inch cubes.  Salt the meat, then brown in a large casserole.  Remove and brown the aubergine (you'll need more oil).  Turn the heat down and fry the onions, garlic and cumin seeds until wilted.  Add the harissa, some salt and pepper and the tomatoes. and bring to the boil.  Stir in the aubergine and then poke the lamb back in.  Fill the tin with boiling water and add that, too (mind fingers).  Bring to the boil, then stick it in a low oven (150 degrees centigrade, ish) for about 2 hours, checking once in a while that it hasn't dried out (add more water).  It's done when the meat falls off the bone when you poke it with a fork...

But sometimes...I want something less meaty.  Vegetarian stews rarely cut it, they don't have the depth of flavour that you get from meat, even if you try to (not quite literally) beef them up by adding Marmite.  I think I need a greater well-flavoured-sauce-to-chunks ratio than I can get from veg.  Probably, I just want the meat fat to thicken my sauce.  On occasion when I've had any dripping, I've done that.  I have tried (not necessarily that hard) to make vegetable soup-stews that cut the mustard.  The only one I've found that comes close is a tomatoey harira adapted from this book, but I so rarely have the quantities of fresh parsley and coriander around to make that (something close to 70g of each...) and it wouldn't be the same without.  It is basically a mixture of cumin-y tomatoes, chickpeas, and the aformentioned green herbs.

Also in that book is a rather unappetising recipe for taco soup - which looks like soggy tacos in a bowl of watery broth.  Not attractive to the thick-and-flavourful-sauce enthusiast (card carrying member).  While drifting around The Pioneer Woman's recipe world bit, I saw another recipe for taco soup, this time one that was essentially chilli (close to my favourite food) with extra stock in it to make it soupy - it's similar right down to the recommended accompaniments.  It contains quite a lot of pre-packaged stuff, which needless to say isn't really available in British supermarkets.  Also, it contained actual beef, which is expensive and I regard as unnecessary except for special occasions.  But the concept?  That looked good.  This evening, leaving Cambridge for St Albans circa 7:30 (it's an hour's drive home) post carol service, I discovered I was craving it.  The signs looked good:
 - Already cooked off pinto beans in freezer (I buy a packet then cook the whole thing on an evening I'm in, then bag them up and freeze them.  I always cook them until they're more or less mush, and they're perfect for this.  I realise that they make tins of them, but I'm a purist.)
 - Tins of tomatoes in cupboard
 - More onions and garlic than I ever know what to do with
 - Yesterday's discovery that the following can now be bought at Tescos:

(I know that few others will be quite so excited by this.  It's stock, yes.  I don't eat meat unless it's come from animals that have been reared to better-than-industrial standards - I don't want to be responsible for battery chicken.  This stuff is Really Good Stock, is inexpensive, AND is free range. Tescos should be encouraged.)
 - The fact that I would *drive past* a Tescos on the way home, and could get stock, and, better, tortilla chips.

So, at half past nine this evening, I began to make soup.  Onions and garlic were chopped small and fried in a large pot until translucent.  The packet of fajita mix (only ever the Discovery brand, which seems to be made of real food and doesn't contain MSG) was stirred in.  The tomatoes were added.  A potato masher was applied when they appeared to be recalcitrantly large.  The stock was sloshed in and brought to the boil.  Once I'd got to this point, my bag of beans had just about finished in the microwave and was glopped in.  Tasting revealed the need for half a teaspoon of Marmite (that would be 'yeast extract', nothing weird if you never met it) and some salt.  I could have added the limes I bought for this purpose but I forgot.  That would have reduced the need for salt.  When hot through, it was ladled into a bowl, covered with grated cheese and a handful of tortilla chips was crumbled over that.


I had seconds, despite there being no hunger-need to.  Pleased with self.  To be honest, the whole excuse in the first place, beyond needing something healthy and with vegetables, was the existence of that stock and a gravy I made with it yesterday.  I did also buy some organic stock cubes both vegetarian and chickeny for further experimentation - I want to see what happens when I make it truly vegetarian.  Need to cook more beans first.  And eat this batch - I think there's about 8 portions here...


  1. Might have to copy that one...

  2. ...Come down here. I genuinely have NO idea how I'll get through all the leftovers...