I don’t know about you but by the time January is finished, I feel like I’m in need of TLC. That’s where the stews come in.
You get through the door and the smell of a good stew is full of promise that the evening is on the up. Then, the first spoonful seems to fix all the ills of the day, from the gale blowing outside, the congested traffic, the parking tickets, the muddy football boots or the cold that managed to get to your bones despite the padded coat, the gloves, the scarf, the hat… that’s because stews are TLC from the inside, lasting much longer than the meal. The stewing of bones in particular, is a great help in fighting off the winter bugs and in greasing rusty joints.
Stews can be made in advance and tend to taste even better after a day or so when all the flavours have had a chance to blend in. So no one minds the leftovers.
They can be made with anything using many combinations of ingredients, need limited preparation and always deliver maximum flavour. For that reason, they are a great saviour mid-week for our family, when the time I could spare to cook is nowhere near dinner time. I cook the stew, put it in the oven and let the oven do the work for a couple of hours. I will then turn the oven off but leave the stew in there, so it carries on slow cooking, staying warm until we need it.
For all the above I am a great fan of stews. I probably owe it to my grandma who makes a very good ‘ragout’, a French stew which requires a ‘roux’ (a mix of butter and flour to thicken the sauce). I don’t tend to thicken the sauce myself because I do not often feel the need, but if I do, I use either Caulichamel which I stir at the end of cooking or arrowroot flour. For the latter, I either roll my meat into the seasoned flour before browning or if I forget (or can’t be bothered…) whisk in a few tablespoons at the end of cooking, letting the juices thicken on the hob.
Thickened or not, a stew is always yummy to me.