The big question: is stewing a method of cooking that is reserved for the colder months? Well, I think so, possibly because we tend to associate stewing with comfort and keeping warm. However, there are a number of recipes in Alan Rosenthal’s first cook book, ‘Stewed! – nourish Your Soul’, published by Ebury Press, that beg to differ.
In his introduction to ‘Stewed!’Alan makes a good point: stews exist all over the world, in hot climates as well as cold. The process itself, of slow cooking, usually in one pot, delivers two things – flavour and texture. In Alan’s words, stews are “a delicious symphony”. Whether you are cooking a Moroccan Tagine or perfecting a Thai Curry, the weather really has nothing to do with it. Add in the fact that stewing fits almost every occasion, from ‘posh nosh’ to down-to-earth family cooking and you have a cook book filled with ideas for all seasons.
Alan sold his very first pot of stew at the Alexandra Palace farmers’ market in North London in 2008 and his journey from there on in has been quite remarkable. His stew pots, perfect for a ‘grab and go’ lunch, are now being sold nationally and his cook book, offering a whole host of globally-inspired recipes to try for yourself, is really quite a treat. Stewing also provides an easy way to impress; brown your meat, bring the flavours together and let the pan do the rest. I would be happy to say that this is a cookbook suitable for all levels.
There are eighty stews and one-pot meals on offer in the book. Alan sets the scene with the very first recipe, Boston Baked Beans from the ‘Americas’ or, as his tasters called it, “baked beans for adults”. I can smell this on the fire pit in my garden already, or perhaps on a summer camping trip, shawl over the shoulders, as muscovado sugar, black treacle and pork belly melt away into haricot beans. “Cowboy food’ at its best!” On the subject of cowboys, the Chilli Con Carne is also a must-try, with cumin, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and plain chocolate melding with beef chuck steak – pure alchemy in a pot.
Tribute is respectfully paid to a few well known stews in the chapter ‘British Isles’, with Lancashire Hot Pot, Beef in Ale and Irish Stew included, giving you a great reference point when a classic is needed. For a spring supper, the Chicken Stew with Cider, Tarragon and Asparagus is perfect and very seasonal. I’m also slightly addicted to the Puy Lentil, Beetroot, Pecan and Goats’ Cheese Stew, which makes an impressive addition to any early summer gathering and works just as well as a packed lunch.
‘Europe’ provides a quintessential French Bouillabaisse, given an extra punch with orange zest, saffron, fennel and garlic. A visit to a fine fishmonger is in order with this one, as it is for the Chicken and Seafood Paella, a recipe Alan brought back from a holiday in Spain. The vibrant colours of red peppers and runner beans are combined with an intense flavour-hit of chorizo, smoked paprika, chicken, mussels and prawns making it one of my favourites in the book. Local spring lamb would be perfect for the Slow-Roast Lamb Shoulder with Red Wine, Garlic, Rosemary and Haricot Beans, making an easy one-pot meal.
Some of the lesser known recipes follow in the final two chapters. Lighter stews, though certainly full of flavour, can be found in ‘Asia’. Tonjiru, a Japanese pork and miso soup, and Vietnamese Beef Pho, a hot aromatic broth poured over noodles and thinly sliced raw beef, are both examples of flavourful one-pot meals rather than ‘stews’. ‘Middle East and Africa’, with recipes such as Persian Chicken Stew, where sour cherries, walnuts, pomegranate molasses and fresh pomegranate seeds meet, would provide something unusual to the table.
There really is no way of faulting the palate and instinctual understanding of flavours shown by Alan in his book; the recipes really work – whatever the weather. Since landing on my shelf, I certainly consider it as a very helpful and useful cookbook, one I’ve come back to time and again for inspiration.
Alan Rosenthal’s Stewed! company website: www.steweduk.co.uk
To follow Stewed! on Twitter: @stewed
Photographer Jonathan Gregson’s website: www.jonathangregson.co.uk
Ren Behan’s website: www.renbehan.com
Follow Ren on Twitter: @RenBehan