Tue 08 Nov 2016

Food Without Fuss: Let it Stew!

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This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the winter selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. Wine Without Fuss offers regular selections of delicious wines with the minimum of fuss. Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

Find out more about Wine Without Fuss in a short video on our website.

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

When icicles begin to show signs of hanging by the wall, make room for them by unhooking your trusty stewpot.

If, as mine are, your wrists are beginning to feel the strain of cast iron, a bit of earthenware makes just as cracking a slow braise – stew, daube, tafelspitz, ragout, ragù or whatever you might wish to call it. This is also a good time of year for owners of electrical slow cookers to justify to sceptical spouses why they are such an essential piece of kit, especially if dust has been gathering on them.

Far be it from me to start lecturing fellow members on the gentle, bubbling art of stewing, merely to issue a gentle, bubbling reminder and introduce a few seasonal bottles that will sit effortlessly alongside. Yes, the formula may be the same from cawl to caldo verde – rhythm section, protein, liquid and flavourings – but it’s all in the layering, from the sizzling alliums that kick off the exercise to the fragrant top notes of specific flavourings.

It’s in the difference between fresh and dried herbs, the latter having, for some reason fallen into undeserved disfavour, the subtle addition of white or cayenne pepper rather than black, perhaps the sneaky inclusion of star anise (without doubt my go-to intriguing spice with baked ham or fish) or clove, the secret to beef, brasato-style. These are what defines the glorious aromas that fill the kitchen, and inspire good wine matches, your reward for a bit of effort and a lot of patience.

stew

Below are three all-time favourite stew recipes, chosen with this Winter Wine Without Fuss selection.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

Christmas Eve Pork
This recipe, shared both with colleagues and members in the past with the kind permission of its author Philippa Davenport, first appeared in the Financial Times. The clipping has gone from pristine pink to faded and splashed in equal measure – always a good sign. After three hours in the oven, the pork melts in the mouth and infused with the intriguing darkness of Agen prunes.

agen-prunes

Wine matches: A dryish, slightly tannic red from, say the Loire or Bordeaux is good here. Touraine ‘Jajavanaise’, Domaine Paget 2015 (Buyers’ Premium Reds) and Château Saint-Hilaire, Médoc 2010 (Buyer’s Classic French Reds) are two that occur and anything Iberian is, of course excellent with pork. Having said that, a richer, rounder white will sit very happily with this. Try Delheim Chenin Blanc (Buyers’ Premium Whites) or Gewurztraminer Les Princes Abbés 2013 (£14.50, Buyers’ French Dry Whites).

For 4-5 people, lay 1 kg halved lean-end belly pork rashers (boneless but with rind on) in a single layer in a baking dish. Push 12 prunes into the gaps. Scatter generously with lemon thyme leaves, chopped coriander and parsley. Add some crushed garlic, salt, pepper and a corner of a chicken stock cube, crumbled. Veil the meat with paper-thin slices of onion and pour on 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar mixed with 300 ml unsweetened grape juice. Cover tightly with oiled greaseproof and foil. Put the dish in the oven and set the timer to switch on to 150C/Gas 3 to bake the pork in time for dinner. It will take three and a half hours but a little longer will not hurt. By then, it will be so tender that, as Philippa writes, ‘even the toothless would rejoice in it.’ Good accompaniments are mashed potatoes, and a salad of peppery leaves.

Spiced aubergine and tomato ragout
I serve this store-cupboard special not only to vegetarian friends, but for my own entire pleasure. The original recipe, with which I’ve taken one or two liberties, was clipped many moons ago from a long-defunct foodie mag, so if its anonymous author is reading this, please get in touch so that I can heap you with praise!

aubergines

Wine matches: Rich, velvety and imbued with Mediterranean warmth, it calls for a similar red, of which there’s an embarrassment of choice in the Winter Wine Without Fuss selections. A few that come to mind are Nero d’Avola Sicilia 2014 (£6.75, Buyers’ Everyday Reds), or, from Buyers’ Premium Reds, Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Merlot 2013 (£8.50) and Señorío de Sarría Crianza, Navarra 2012 (£8.25). Paradoxe Rouge, Domaine de l’Arjolle, Côtes-de-Thongue 2013 (Buyers’ Classic French Reds) is a premium comfort blanket.

For four people, heat a splash of oil in a big frying pan and temper – oil first, spices, then onions in quick succession – a spicy rhythm-section of diced onions (two medium ones are about right), two fat cloves of garlic, crushed, a pinch each of whole cumin and coriander seeds and a teaspoon of dried ginger. It’s punchiest freshly grated from a whole dried root, but powdered is fine.

Once it’s all looking soft and promising, throw in two large aubergines, cut into bite-sized pieces. Mix well and cook for a few minutes before adding half a bottle of fruity red wine, a 440g can of plum tomatoes and a good tablespoon of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained of the latter and snipped. You might also squeeze in a little tomato puree for good measure. As always with tomatoes, a pinch of sugar is a good idea at this juncture. Now bring it all to the boil, lower the heat and simmer very gently until the aubergine is tender. This might take anything from half an hour to 45 minutes. When it looks to be just about there, throw in a bag of washed spinach leaves and let their vivid green wilt graceully into the sea of red – a matter of moments.

You can serve this as it is with mashed roots, pasta or toasted sourdough bread, rubbed with garlic, or, for a genuine one-pot meal, stir in a can of chick peas, drained and rinsed, for the last five minutes of cooking.

For a festive wow factor, make it in advance, let it cool and pile it into four small soup bowls. I like the traditional French kind, with a pedestal and, inexplicably, a lion’s head on either handle, but anything with a small surface area will do. Cover each with a puff pastry hat, brush with beaten egg and reheat at 190C for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden and a ferocious bubbling is apparent below it. Who needs meat?

Moro Fish Tagine with Potatoes, Tomatoes and Olives
Scene of many toothsome Society sherry dinners, Moro, Sam and Sam Clarke’s ground-breaking restaurant, was among the first to put thrilling Spanish and north African ingredients properly on our radar. This recipe is from their first recipe collection, simply called Moro: The Cookbook (Ebury Press, 2001) and it’s Moorish in more ways than one.

Wine matches: A conveniently quick simmer, rather than a stew, it responds to spicy whites such as Schlumberger’s heady Gewurztraminer Les Princes Abbés 2013 (£14.50, Buyers’ French Dry Whites) or even fruity, medium-bodied reds like Esteva Douro (Buyers’ Everyday Reds). Still with Portugal, Casa Ferreirinha Esteva, Douro 2015 (£6.25, Buyers’ Everyday Whites) is another good option, as is Costières de Nîmes, Tradition Blanc, Mas de Bressades 2015 (Buyer’s Premium Whites).

• 4 hake steaks about 250g or fillets of 225g each (you can use any white fish)
• 20 small, waxy new potatoes, peeled (Charlotte, Roseval, Ratte)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
• 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
• 4 green peppers, grilled until blistered, then skinned, seeded and cut into strips
• a handful of black olives
• 100ml water
• sea salt and black pepper

Charmoula
• 2 garlic cloves
• 1 level teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
• juice of 1 lemon
• ½ tablespoon good-quality red-wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
• 1 tablespoon olive oil

First make the charmoula, preferably in a pestle and mortar. Pound the garlic with the salt until a smooth paste is formed, then add the cumin followed by the lemon juice, vinegar, paprika, coriander and olive oil. Rub two-thirds of the charmoula mixture into the fish and stand in the fridge for between 20 minutes and 2 two hours.

Boil the potatoes in salted water for 10-15 minutes until just tender. Drain and halve lengthways.

In a medium saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium heat and fry the garlic until light brown. Add the tomatoes and toss for 1-2 minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in the peppers and remaining charmoula and check for seasoning.

Spread the potatoes evenly over the base of a 25cm tagine, saucepan or frying pan with a lid. Scatter three-quarters of the pepper and tomato mixture over the potatoes, then place the marinated fish on top. Dab the remaining tomato and pepper mixture on top of each fish, along with the olives.

Add the water, drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of olive oil , put on the lid and steam for 10-15 minutes until the fish is cooked through.

Categories : Wine Without Fuss

Comments

  1. Ian says:

    All sounds great and not too complicated. I will surprise my wife with one of them this weekend – thank you.

  2. Catharine says:

    I’ve cooked the Morocco Fish Tagine dozens of times and heartily endorse its quality. Hake is a delicious fish and generally a good price too.

  3. Sue Rowe says:

    The tagine was excellent – only comment on recipe, a bit less water if you use thawed out frozen fish

  4. George Lush says:

    I am sure that Janet Wynne Evans is at least bi-lingual and both of them barbed (keep it up) and I do agree with the comment on dried herbs. Most of those fresh expensive ultra green quickly ripened hot house herbs don’t do it for me and in any event many of the dried variety offer a different fragrance. Dried basil being a good one to look at.

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