As the weather cools off and the days get shorter, comfort meals like stews and braised meat are a filling treat for those who have been working or playing outside.
They’re meals I don’t generally crave when the weather is hot, but as soon as there’s a nip in the air, I delight in changing my diet to more hearty food with the mellow flavours of fall.
As our gardens yield the last fresh herbs and tomatoes, garlic, carrots, onions and potatoes of the season, it’s only natural to toss them into a pot with a chunk of flavourful meat to cook away over time and release wonderful aromas to tempt the taste buds.
Earthy root vegetables stand up well to braising and stewing, as do the less-expensive, but also less-tender cuts of beef like blade, round, shank or short ribs.
If you don’t have the time to spend in the house giving a stew the occasional stir, brown the meat and toss all the ingredients into a slow cooker, leave it all day and you’ll have a delicious meal by supper time, with little last-minute effort.
We recently had the kids and grandkids over to help with some yard work, and everyone stayed to dinner. It was an easy one, because I made it up in the morning, before anyone had arrived, popped it into my crockpot and covered it for the day. At the last minute, a few spuds were boiled up, some beans from the garden steamed, and dinner was served.
Everyone raved about the aromas emanating from the house during the afternoon, and they said the meal met their expectations after a day of hard work outside. I’ve included it here.
You’ll find many more fall comfort food recipes in my book, Jude’s Kitchen, available locally at Mosaic Books, the Wine Industry Museum, Calona Wines and Quails Gate Estate Winery in West Kelowna.
Denny’s Hunter’s Stew
The aromas make your mouth water as this is cooking. It’s a wonderful greeting for visitors or family who’ve been active outside in cooler Fall weather. Serve with boiled potatoes, pasta or fresh bread or rolls.
This heats up really well for a quick second meal a couple of days later. This could be a stew, a roast or a steak dinner.
Pair it with a full-bodied B.C. VQA Shiraz or Syrah red wine.
3 lb. (1.4 kg) beef
seasoned flour mixture
drizzle of oil
2 cloves garlic
28 oz. (796 ml) tomatoes
1 tbsp. (15 ml) fresh oregano
1 tsp. (5 ml) fresh tarragon
1 tsp. (5 ml) fresh basil
6 small onions
2 ribs celery
Pre-heat oven to 325 F.
Choose simmering cuts of roast or steak, or stew meat, either beef or a game such as venison or moose. In fact, you could cook a chicken and call it cacciatore…
Dredge the meat in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, then brown in a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven in a skim of oil, adding chopped garlic near the end.
Add tin of tomatoes,chopped herbs and other seasonings. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil before covering and putting in the oven for three hours or so in total.
For the last hour or two of cooking, add the small whole onions, or large, chopped ones; chopped celery, pieces of carrot and whole mushrooms.
Vary the vegetables to your taste.
If the meat is eaten and just tomatoes and vegetables are left use the sauce as a base for soup the next day, or for a pasta sauce.
Red Wine Beef Stew
This makes a quick and easy meal for when you’ll be out all day, but want to come home to a meal that makes the whole house smell yummy. Or, it can be made on top of the stove if you’ll be around during the day. Double the recipe to make enough for a second meal. I used Copper Moon Shiraz in this, and served it alongside. Economical and excellent. We love the addition of grated potatoes for both flavour and to thicken this stew.
2 lb. (1 kg) stew beef
2 tbsp. (30 ml) flour
salt and pepper, to taste
drizzle of oil
2 c. (250 ml) beef broth
4 celery stalks
2 large garlic cloves
1 c. (250 ml) red wine
1 tbsp. (15 ml) fresh thyme
2 tsp. (10 ml) fresh tarragon
2 tsp. (10 ml) fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. (30 ml) fresh parsley
4 medium potatoes
Dredge cubes of beef ( I like small ones, a half-inch or so) in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper and brown quickly, in batches, in a little hot oil, then put into crockpot or slow cooker, or set aside, if cooking the stew in that pot. Pour beef broth into the pot and scrape in any browned bits, and stir well. Return browned beef chunks to the pot.
Chop vegetables into chunks and mince garlic. Add to beef.
Add wine and herbs. You could tie fresh herbs together in a ‘bouquet garni’ and tuck into the centre of the stew, to be retrieved before serving…)
If cooking in a crockpot, cover and simmer on low for eight hours or so, but if cooking in a Dutch oven on top of the stove, or in a regular oven, cook on low for a couple of hours.
To thicken and add flavour, grate four scrubbed potatoes into the stew, stirring in well and cook for an hour or so longer.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.