Stew & No Dumplings

I watched a Nigel Slater cooking programme recently and he made a really good winter vegetable stew.  It’s likely the recipe is in one of his cook-books somewhere, although I don’t know where.  But for credit I have linked to his website above.

His – very helpful – view was that for a vegetable stew there needs to be plenty of base and background flavours to go with the vegetables, which will result in an interesting and flavoursome sauce.  He also has the great approach of ‘adding whichever veg you like or have hanging around’ – suits me perfectly!  This is the recipe I made on this occasion.

Winter Vegetable Stew(servings depends on your portion size!)

1 large onion, peeled and diced

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

6 Juniper Berries, crushed in a pestle & mortar

1 swede, peeled and diced

2 parsnips, peeled and diced

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 leeks, cleaned and sliced

100ml Sherry

Vegetable stock – to cover the vegetables, and top up if needed

Fresh black pepper

2 Tablespoons Cranberry Sauce

2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard

1 pack cooked chestnuts

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently saute the onion until soft and translucent.  Add the crushed Juniper Berries, stir and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the swede through leeks, stir well and cook for 2 minutes to heat and coat in juniper flavour.  Grind in some fresh black pepper to taste.  Pour in the sherry and sufficient stock to cover the vegetables + 1″ extra.  Cover the pan with a lid, and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat but maintain at a rapid simmer for approx 25 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender.

Stir in the mustard, cranberry sauce and pack of chestnuts.  Taste for seasoning, and allow to heat for a further 5 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

This dish was so tasty, and I concur – the additional flavours really are a bonus.  I had made a similar vegetable stew years ago, using the vegetable stew-packs which could be purchased in Supermarkets for 80p(ish) – I think they’re more like £1 – £1.20 per pack now.  But I only relied on the flavour from stock and black pepper at that time.  It was ok, but bland in comparison to this version.

Nigel Slater added flour to thicken his sauce – I prefer potatoes for thickness:

Colour and goodness in the pan.

Bump up the flava!The chestnuts added some texture with a good bite.

End result – a bowl of delicious, warming goodness.

I had some leftover cooked broccoli which I stirred in towards the end.  I also wish I had added some peas, as I love those in stews and casseroles.  Another good addition would be some Butter Beans, for chunky texture and protein.

I have used Juniper Berries in a dish before – they are a strong flavour and are used in producing gin.  A berry to chew on provides that distinctive gin flavour – wahoo!  But I also found it to be overpowering – and now I’m wondering whether it was because they were added whole to the previous dish, or whether it was due to the large quantity added.  Nigel recommended one teaspoon of berries for this stew – I was too scared!  And added only 6 crushed berries – there was some flavour of juniper, but not a lot.  I’ll try a teaspoonful next time, but will crush them so I don’t end up chewing on whole berries.  I think that’s where the secret lies.

A bowl of this was substantial and satisfying.  It would be good served with warm, crusty bread to dip into the sauce.  And I wonder what it would be like transformed into soup, with the chestnuts left whole…?

Have Juniper Berries featured in your food?

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