Many ways to stew

Many ways to stew

The humble stew is the most versatile cooking pattern: no wonder that every cuisine around the world has their own iconic stews to show off.


I don't know about you, but I'll happily admit that I hardly ever get tired of some sort or other of stew - the variations on the theme are literally endless!


A stew is one of the most versatile cooking patterns you can use in the kitchen: no wonder that every cuisine around the world has their own iconic stews to show off. And if you look more closely, even the most exotic sounding stew, is actually 'just' a stew: they all follow the same basic pattern!

They all feature their own local twists, of course, in terms of ingredients and/or preparation, but they are just tweaks on the same simple pattern:

  • a base (usually involving onions) + aromatics
  • a liquid (water, stock, wine, tomato, coconut milk, etc)
  • core ingredients of veg and/or meat (as a feature and/or to add bulk)
  • 'special' ingredients (which define the 'special' taste)
  • add-ons that serve various purposes, e.g. thickening, adding creaminess, defining or refining the taste.

Stews are closely related to soup (more soupy = more liquid) and sauce (more condensed, meant to be eaten over something else cooked separately). In a stew everything is cooked together - the perfect one pot dish!

We could look at a lot of examples - from the most common to the most exotic - and still find that they all fit that pattern. Here is just a few to illustrate the concept, including some of my regional favourites:

  • any curry (tomato or coconut based) or chilli
  • the many classic European stews (often involving wine)
  • legumes (beans/lentils/peas) as stew or soup (e.g. dhal or Greek fasolada bean stew)


Greek celery stew
Usually involving pork (a winning combination) but there are many variations. The sauce is often refined with egg & lemon. (I will share more about this favourite dish of mine some other time.)


Balinese pork stew
The twist: the spiced meat is baked first, before being simmered in a sauce. A flavour turbo charge! (Check out the details in this post)

Persian fesenjan
Featuring pomegranate & walnuts. This sounds very exotic yet it closely follows the 'stew' pattern - it's the local ingredients that make all the difference. (More about it here)

To stew or not to stew? For me the answer is a resounding yes! What's your favourite stew?


Categories: EXPLORE, (RE)THINK

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