While Europe and North America have been experiencing a brutal winter, here in Siem Reap we have not been faring much better. Okay, sure a 14˚C (57˚F) minimum during winter would come as a relief to many, but in Cambodia that’s practically freezing. Well, that’s our excuse to do some slow cooking and consult our hearty stew recipes here on Grantourismo. It’s also the reason we’re starting with curries on our Year of Asian Cookbooks project.
During our first year of Grantourismo in 2010, when we did our yearlong grand tour of the globe, we got to spend a good chunk of the year in cold climates. That meant I got to cook a fair few hearty stew recipes, which included some slow cooking classics from around the world, for my series The Dish on the quintessential dishes of places.
All over the world these kinds of slow cooked meat based dishes keep popping up and they all have a couple of things in common. They use ‘lesser’ cuts of meat, such as the ox tail pictured above, cooked for a very long time, using spices that are common throughout their region.
The reason we were attracted to these dishes is that they’re quite old, traditional recipes that are classics in their places of origin.
As well as being relatively easy to make (although they take a long time to cook), they fill the place with aromas that make an apartment rental or holiday house feel like a home and they are great for casual dinner parties you might want to hold on the road.
Here are our favourite hearty stew recipes – just click the title to go through to the full recipe:
After our Côte de Bœuf (cote de boeuf) recipe, this is the most searched for recipe on our site, and for good reason. While we love chicken tagine, there is something about lamb tagine on a cold winter’s night. Essentially a slow cooked lamb stew, it’s one we prepare in the late afternoon so it’s ready around 10pm – you need plenty of time to get that meat to the fall-apart tenderness stage.
Another lamb stew, this classic Cape Town dish with Malaysian roots has a great array of spices that really elevate the dish. Add cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, thyme, marjoram, and a good dash of chili to any stew and you have a winner, but this one gets even more earthy by letting the flavours meld in the refrigerator overnight, and then adding some potatoes to finish it off.
Nothing exemplifies the use of cheaper cuts of meat than this hearty oxtail stew. In some ways it’s related to Bœuf Bourguignon, but it’s tastier because the marrow from the ox tail adds depth to the gravy. Like the bredie above, it’s a two stage dish and a Spanish cook wouldn’t dream of serving rabo de toro on the same night that the first stage is completed. Locals disagreed with me about using a medium-bodied Spanish red in the sauce instead of Oloroso sherry, but I’ve made it both ways and prefer the red wine.
While there is a lot of confusion over what goulash is, here’s the truth: goulash (gulyás) is actually a soup and pörkölt is what most people think of as goulash, but without the soup and with plenty more meat. With that out of the way, I have to say that both are perfect winter warmers. What sets this stew apart from the others is the beautiful, fragrant Hungarian paprika. The only problem is getting some quality paprika outside of Hungary to make this with, as, without it, it’s just a stew – albeit a great one.
Of the times we’ve thrown dinner parties while on the road, making cassoulet for a native Toulousain – Toulouse is one of the dish’s spiritual homes – was one of the most brazen cooking ideas I’ve had. Luckily, the dish went down well with our guest from Toulouse and his partner. Named after the cassole, the earthenware pot the dish is often cooked in, this hearty French stew of haricot beans, pork, sausages, and duck confit is probably the most complex dishes of the five to make, but it’s so very rewarding on a chilly winter’s night.
And for Dessert
Cold winter evenings deserve a rich chocolate dessert and after going to the effort of making one of the hearty stew recipes above, this simple soft-centred chocolate cake recipe is easy, as you can make it in between checking on your stew. Just pop the cakes in the oven straight after mopping up that last bit of gravy with some crusty bread.