Hearty Vegetable Stew
Its that time of year where even the leaves don’t have the energy to stay on the trees anymore, its cold, its sometimes rainy, and winter is definitely setting in. This means longer days in the pub spending all your change on mulled wine and beer jackets to keep you warm. For me this means I’ve not been home to use up all the ingredients that I have the best intentions of using in fancy recipes during the week, so tonight, in honour of keeping warm, of bonfire night and just purely to use up what’s left in my fridge before it becomes waste I’m making a delicious, hearty, gluten free, vegetable stew.
Don’t be scared of the list of ingredients, I just have a fair amount of veg that happens to need using up, the base of the canned tomato, herbs and red wine always stays the same and the only vegetables that I would say you need to have in there to make it a legitimate stew is garlic, onion, potatoes, carrots and peas- celery a close second as it adds a certain je nais cest quoi.
2 celery sticks
¼ red cabbage
Splash of red wine (about 60ml)
1 brown onion
3 cloves of garlic
2/3 eggplant (aubergine)
1/2 zuccini (courgette)
3 cans of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of water (use to rinse the tomato cans to get all that good flavour)
1 cup of peas
1 chicken or veg stock cube (dependant on taste)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
Thyme and rosemary (a couple of sprigs each)
Handful of roughly chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
This can be made with any kind of leftover winter veg so throw in any ripening tomatoes, peppers, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potatoes anything on its last legs that needs using really.
If you want to pad it out you can also add some pearl barley- I love barley, its probably BEST used in more watery soups and broths, my mum used to put it in her chicken broth and I just loved its chewy texture but these days tend not to use it so as to keep my diet as gluten free as possible. If you do decide to use barley it will need to be cooked in the stew (this takes around 30 mins so is best added as soon as the canned tomatoes and water are in). You will find you’ll need more liquid for the barley to soak up whilst it cooks so add a little more water and perhaps another can of tomatoes.
Dice the potatoes and eggplant into manageable medium chunks and cut the carrots and zucchini into decent sized rounds or semi circles so they cook at fairly the same time. Shred the cabbage, finely dice the brown onion and slice or dice all your other veg to match. If you have pumpkin or sweet potato or anything a little more dense make sure as to not cut it too big otherwise the smaller more delicate vegetables will be overcooked in the same span of time.
Sautee the garlic and brown onion till clear in a tablespoon of olive oil, add the mushrooms and any other veg that would do better sautéed for a couple of minutes (peppers, whole tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant).
Add in the herbs, the heat allows the frangrance to come out.
Add the splash of red wine and let the alcohol ‘burn’ off for around 1 minute before adding the cans of chopped tomatoes. The heat of the pan evaporates the alcohol content of the wine so that its perfectly safe for children to eat.
Finally add the potatoes, carrots and any other more dense vegetable you have, bring everything to the boil then turn down to simmer with the lid on for around 20-30 mins.
To check its been cooked properly simply stick a knife or fork in one of the potato chunks and see if its soft enough. Once everything is ok add the peas at the very last minute and stir till they’re hot, once the peas have cooked in all that delicious juice its ready to be eaten with some crusty bread and butter to mop up all those scrumptious juices (gluten free bread of course).
Don’t worry if you’re not usually vegetarian, the richness of the mushrooms, red wine, Worcestershire sauce and earthy herbs gives it a depth of flavour so that even the biggest of carnivores wont miss the meat in this dish.