Probably the most ancient form of cooking, it is a selection of meat and vegetables (and/or), in a pot with water or stock, over a flame and cooked until the contents are all soft.


For some reason I don’t cook them all that much and every time I do, I am reminded how good they are, how simple and in many cases, how inexpensive.


Its true that I have done my best to fance up the stews and call them casseroles.


There are purists who say that Stew is cooked on stove top and Casseroles are cooked in the oven. My own sense is that they have, at least in Australia, become quite different dishes. The stew has remained a simple relatively unknown or forgotten way of cooking, whilst casserole has developed more as we are urged by TV chefs to be a bit smarter in the kitchen.


This is a list of some of the worlds stews. I am not sure that I agree with it, but that may be as a result of my narrow upbringing and subsequent growth or no. To me stew is soupy, unless thickened to go in as a pie base.


My mothers list of stews was quite narrow, we had a beef stew, most often slightly thickened, sometimes with lamb kidney (then called simply steak and kidney) Irish stew made from either lamb or mutton, mum would also do a lamb shank number that was often ‘creamed’ at the end of the cooking time (meaning that mum would run up a thick white sauce and add it to the stew) later as I grew up and started getting involved with food, the addition of some chopped dill and a scrape or two of lemon rind made a big difference.



Is a braise a stew? Mum did a braised lamb or beef. Traditionally braise is browning or searing the meat and then cooking in a liquid or moist environment.


I don’t think of braise and stew in the same breath, they are different. Stew being simpler, less ingredient and less complex in the cooking methods. Some would say that stewing requires the meat to be browned, I say no to that, I do think the onion and vegetables need to be gently fried not to brown them but to start the juices running. Braise however does require that the meat be browned and even that the onions in the case of my favourite braise must be very well cooked to a caramelised state.


All that said, I want to return to the simple ways of a stew and urge you give it a go.


2 kilo of chuck steak (cost me about $5.85 a kilo) diced into 2 cm dice (ish)

2 large brown onions sliced

2 – 3 cloves of garlic peeled and left whole

2 sticks of celery chopped (1 cm)

1 large carrot cut in rings.

1.5 litres of stock.. I like beef stock, but chicken or vegetable are quite acceptable.

Salt (just be careful here, stocks can be salty) and pepper.

Herbs… I like fresh Thyme, but what ever your favourite is, go for that. About 1 tablespoon.

Optional Extras.

Tomato .. I add a can of chopped tomato, this makes it richer but does not turn it tomatoey.

Bacon Ham or Pickled Pork.. can give a smokey flavour to the stew.

Extra vegetables.. parsnips, even some chopped cabbage (at the end) I am not fond of mushrooms in a stew. Peas, Beans and cauliflower can all be used, but not for the full cook, they need about 15 minutes, so add them about 1.5 hours in.



In the pan you intend to cook the stew in, add a splash of oil and then tip in the onions, garlic, carrot and celery, over a medium to low heat, allow them to sauté but not brown, they should be starting to cook. Add the diced meat and toss around a bit in the vegetables, after a minute, add the stock and turn up the heat. If you are using tomato, add now. Add some pepper (salt later) and what ever herbs of choice. If using smokey bacon, ham or pickled pork, add now. Bring to a boil. When it starts to boil, skim the scum that rises to the surface. Turn down the heat to low and allow to simmer for 90 minutes. After 90 minutes add what ever extra vegetables you are using and give them another 15 minutes to cook. Taste the meat which should be very tender. If not, cook it on for a bit longer.


I like to serve this in deepish bowls with some good bread to soak up the juices. Its also even better the next day.


Irish Stew.


Traditional Irish stew is a white stew of potatoes, lamb and onion.  Potatoes are an important element they should equal twice the weight of the meat.  After the long cooking the potatoes and onions will be reduced by half to a thick creamy mash, Irish stew should never be watery.


1 kg mutton or neck of lamb

2 kg potatoes

500 g onions

salt and pepper

1 litre water or lamb-bone stock made with the trimmings

a large casserole with a well-fitting lid


Have the mutton or lamb cut into chops no more than 2-5 cm thick.  Peel and slice the potatoes and onions.  Reserve 500 g of the potatoes (leave them in salted cold water).  Arrange in the casserole a layer of potatoes, meat,  onion, then potatoes, then more meat, then onion, and finally a layer of potato, seasoning as you go.  Pour in the boiling water or stock.  Cover as tightly as possible.  Cook the stew gently on top of the stove or in a slow oven at 130°c for 2 hours.  Half an hour before the end of the cooking time, add the remaining slices of potato.


This is called a stew in Spain.

Pork & Bean stew.


850 grams of pork shoulder cut into a dice (don’t remove fat, it will cook out)

1 x 400 g tin Cannellini beans

250 grams of chorizo (note to self, don’t buy the excessively dried one, and try and be sure it was done by a Spaniard.)

2 x 400 g tins of chopped tomato

2 large red onions roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped.

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons chilli flakes (optional) or use 2 teaspoons sweet paprika.

Salt and Pepper to taste.



In the pot (heavy based) you will cook the dish in, add a splash of olive oil and then commence browning the pork in smaller batches, remove and set aside. Add the Chorizo to the pan sliced in rings and then add the roughly chopped onions, smoked paprika and chilli or paprika, fry for a few minutes until the onions have softened, return the pork to the pot along with 400 mil of water. Simmer for a further hour. Serve with s

~ by peterwatson on June 28, 2013.

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