Winter stew & garlic bread
This time of year sucks. It’s been cold, wet and windy for months on end and there seems to be no end to this interminable winter.
This was always when my Gran always used to make her legendary stew. Served in a canteen-sized pot large enough to serve not just the family, but anyone else who happened to be around, it was a regular sight on her stove. Some of us had it with rounds of bread and butter, others with brown sauce lathered over it (heathens); but we all agreed it was even better when heated up the next day, once the ingredients had time to rest and the flavours had infused with each other.
My version is slightly different in terms of ingredients and style, but it retains the same hazy, comforting feeling and, just like my Gran’s stew, gets better the longer you leave it cooking. So grab your warmest jumper, open a bottle of red and serve it alongside a baguette of homemade garlic bread – and kick winter back outside where it belongs.
Ingredients (serves 4)
For the winter stew:
1 butternut squash
8 smallish anya potatoes (or another waxy variety)
5 medium carrots
1 white onion
1-2 litres of vegetable stock
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and black pepper to season
For the vegan garlic bread:
1 bake-at-home baguette
100g vegan-friendly butter
Fresh parsley, chopped finely
1. First, tackle the butternut squash. Loads of people seem to find preparing these a scary proposition, but it’s actually pretty easy. Just cut it along the thinner end into thick discs, until you get to the seeded area, which you set aside.
Cut the thick skin from the edges of the discs (although you can eat this, it’s not right for this recipe) and then cut the discs into six or eight smallish pieces of roughly equal size. Put them in a large pot. NB: The seeded bit also contains edible bits, but you’ll need to take out the seeds first before repeating the above.
2. Peel and cut the potatoes, carrots, leeks and onion, making sure they’re not too small. Throw them in the pot and pour over the stock while it’s still warm.
3. Bring the pot up to the boil and then leave at a simmer. Stir in the rosemary, thyme and smoked paprika, then add a little salt and a generous amount of pepper. Stick a bay leaf or two in, cover over and leave. Check occasionally to make sure it’s not boiling, but otherwise leave it the hell alone for at least an hour. Go watch Netflix or something.
4. After an hour or so, take off the lid and give it a stir. The butternut squash should be falling apart now; you can give it a hand on its way by crushing it against the side and breaking it up. This will thicken the broth and make it all just taste bloody lovely. Now stick the lid back on, put the spoon down and back away. Resist the temptation to keep checking on it.
5. If you need something to do, get out some non-dairy butter, chop your parsley up and mix it all together. Leave this buttery mix on the side and don’t touch the stew.
6. About thirty minutes before you’re ready to serve, get your baguettes out and slice incisions across them all the way down, leaving around 4-5cm at the bottom. Using a knife, spread your butter/parsley combo into each gap. Be generous here; it’s winter and you can afford the extra calories. Trust me. When you’re done with your semi-homemade masterpiece, stick it in the oven on 200° for about 10-12 minutes until nicely golden-brown.
7. When you can’t wait any longer for the stew (I normally last about three to four hours, maximum) turn the heat down, spoon it into deep bowls and serve with the freshly-baked garlic bread.
8. Heat some up the next day to eat. You’ll know what I mean about it tasting even better.