Tag Archives: stew

Aubergine and Chickpea Stew

In times of stress, I crave comfort food.  When adrenalin courses through my veins and my heart beats a tattoo against my ribs, my stomach roars and swells at the thought of all those foods which have seen me through the most difficult periods of my life. The chicken soup with matzo balls my Bubbie made for me after I was stung by a jellyfish when I was five.  The ramen noodles with dashes of soy sauce I’d inhale when I was a student and living off 50p a day. The lamb hotpot my Dad would serve up when I was cold, lonely and depressed, and the world felt like a very cruel place indeed.  Right now, as I hurtle towards my wedding with the speed of Usain Bolt hurtling down an athletics track (only two weeks to go!)  I find myself craving the food equivalent of a bearhug – steamed puddings, pies, crumpets laden with melted cheese. Wedding diets be damned, I’d rather be curing my hen night hangover with a giant burger than a macrobiotic wholegrain salad.

And then there’s my old steadfast. Stew. I could go on at length about how much I love making stew – that relaxing art of chopping everything you can find, dumping it into a pot with some stock and tomatoes and letting it all bubble away for a few hours. Stew is the ultimate hug in a bowl, irrespective of what that chemically-laden-upstart Cup-a-Soup may tell you. And while it may not be the most seasonal of suppers considering the unexpected dose of Summer we’re experiencing at the moment,  it is one of the tastiest, simplest and most satisfying.

This Aubergine and Chickpea Stew sees silky, meaty aubergines paired with chickpeas, crunchy fried onions and the warming hit of cinnamon and cumin. I’d like to think that it’s influenced more by Morocco than ‘what I found at the back of my fridge’. It goes really well served over couscous, or just on its own with a healthy dollop of natural yoghurt on top. Best of all, it’s just the thing to chase the Summertime blues away – regardless of whether you’re getting married or not.

AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW (Makes three large portions)

You will need:

  • 1 large aubergine, diced into chunks
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds (you can use ground cumin if you like, but I prefer the flavour you get from toasted cumin seeds)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to season

To garnish

  • A handful of chopped mint leaves
  • A handful of chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 onion, sliced into rounds

Make It!

  1. Season your aubergines and fry them for five minutes or so. Feel free to add more olive oil if needed (the aubergines will soak it up like a sponge). Once the aubergines have turned soft, add a touch more oil, and sauté the garlic cloves until they turn brown at the edges.
  2. Toast the cumin seeds in a small pan for thirty seconds until you can just begin to smell them (take care not to burn them!) Grind them to a powder in a pestle and mortar, and add them to the pan along with the cinnamon and chilli flakes. Cook your spices for 30 seconds. Add the tinned tomatoes and chickpeas, cover the saucepan with a lid, and simmer for twenty – twenty five minutes.
  3. While the stew is simmering, fry the onions in a tablespoon of olive oil until they have turned brown, caramelised and slightly crunchy at the edges. Take the stew off the heat and serve garnished with the crispy onions, chopped mint and coriander. This goes really well with warm pitta bread, or couscous flavoured with saffron.
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A pan of Scouse for #globalscouseday

The Irish have their Irish Stew, the Lancashire types their Hotpot. And Liverpudlians have Scouse. It’s part of the fabric of the city, a major component of what makes those who live in this corner of the North West of England who they are. Ostensibly, there’s no real difference between these  dishes bar their construction – all three being a simple combination of lamb (or beef), potatoes and a few root veg chucked in for good measure. But, if you’re being poncey, you could say that there’s something about the Merseyside terroir which makes Scouse unique to Liverpool, and so much more than your average, everyday meat stew.

Of course, Scouse isn’t a native Liverpool dish. Like many things you’ll find in this city, you’ll find that it’s an immigrant that has been taken in and brought close to Liverpudlian’s hearts. To quote my good friend Wikipedia;

“In the 18th and 19th centuries Liverpool, being a major seaport, found itself inundated with foreign seamen, especially Norwegians, looking for a berth on any ship. There is still a Scandinavian Seamen’s Church in Liverpool built in the 19th century. Scandinavian seamen’s churches proliferated in many British ports in the late 19th century, and it is therefore probable that these incomers brought their recipes to Liverpool.

A “pan of scouse” became a common meal in working class Liverpool. A thickened stew, usually of mutton or lamb with vegetables slow cooked to tenderise cheap cuts of meat, it takes its name from the Norwegian for stew, “lapskaus”

My first introduction to Scouse came when I’d been living in Liverpool for only a few months. It was an achingly cold February day and the canteen in my office was closed. I ran across the road to the café situated in the Anglican cathedral and devoured a bowl of the stuff whilst watching flakes of snow drift slowly across Hope Street. Warm, rich and soothing, it made me immediately feel comforted and at home. It was the first time I really felt in love with Liverpool   – although it certainly hasn’t been the last.

I’ve now been living here for (almost) three years, and in that time I’ve eaten a lot of Scouse. But I’ve never actually gotten around to sharing my own recipe for the stuff. So what better time to celebrate this most seminal piece of Liverpudlian cuisine on this blog than today – Global Scouse Day?

According to folklore*, every 28th February, Scousers from across the globe all cook up a pan of Scouse to remind them of home. As I have come to realise whilst trying to formulate my own recipe for the stuff, every bowl of Scouse is different – and every Scouser you meet with invariably have their own opinion on what it should contain. Some people say you should use only lamb, some say a proper Scouse should always always contain peas. Others say that it’s a lump of swede which provides it with that certain something. However, it’s been agreed upon the core components of it are:

  • Lamb or mutton (cut into chunks, and never minced)
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Beef stock of some kind and a few generous dashes of Worcestershire Sauce

All of this various components are thrown into a pot and cooked together until the potatoes break down and the gravy acquires the consistency which could coat the back of a spoon. Again, there’s a fair bit of argument about whether it should be a thick or thin stew, but all agree that it should always be served up with pickled red cabbage or beetroot, and plenty of bread to mop it up with.

For mine, I made it with a mixture of a cheap cut of lamb and some stewing steak, which I fried in some butter and cooked down in a few pints of Bovril. I also added a dab of tomato paste to the mix to provide it with a bit more of an umami kick, as well as the ubiquitous potatoes, onions and carrots. After a few hours of football watching and concerted stewing, it was done – just the thing for a lazy Sunday spent watching Liverpool (fittingly) win the Carling Cup final.

I can’t make any claims for this being authentic Scouse, but then again, I’m not an authentic Scouser. If you fancied gussying it up a bit, I imagine it would be brilliant with a bit of black pudding or chorizo chucked into it. Happy Scouse Day everyone!

*a few people I’ve spoken to in the pub recently, and this Twitter account

SCOUSE (Serves four)

I used this recipe as a rough guide, as a quick search of the internet revealed it to be the most authentic

You will need

  • 400g Stewing Steak
  • 400g Neck of lamb (I used shoulder of lamb here and found it to be slightly too boney. Lamb is expensive at the moment, so use mutton if you’re trying to save your pennies)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium sized carrots, chopped into rounds
  • 5-6 large floury potatoes (I used King Edwards), chopped into large chunks
  • 2 pints of good beef stock (I used Bovril because I really like Bovril)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • A few good glugs of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning

Make It!

  1. If it hasn’t been already cubed by your butcher, cut the lamb and stewing steak into large cubes and season well. Brown in batches in a mixture of butter and vegetable oil (or, if you have it, beef dripping).
  2. Transfer the meat to a large saucepan  and add the chopped onions, carrots and the tomato paste. Add the beef stock until it has just covered the meat. Add a few good glugs of Worcestershire sauce and  simmer on a low heat for two hours.
  3. After two hours, add the chopped potatoes and another glug of Worcestershire sauce, and simmer for another two hours, stirring occasionally. The large pieces of onion will start to break up and the potato will become soft and will make the final sauce thick.
  4. Serve with pickled red cabbage (I used this recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for mine), and fresh bread. You can also add ketchup or HP sauce if you like (although personally, I think that’s a bit wrong).
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Cumin rubbed Pork steaks with Butter Bean and Olive stew

As anyone who has the pleasure of living with me will tell you, I do not cope well with Winter. As soon as the temperature drops, you will find me wrapped up in a slanket, hugging a radiator and looking decidedly pissed off. I’d blame it on the fact that I spent some of my childhood in Florida, and so became acclimatised to a more temperate climate, but that would be bollocks. The true fact of the matter is that – whilst I am a fan of knitwear, big boots and warm mulled alcoholic drinks –  I am not a fan of the cold. Especially when I have to go the gym, and it’s windy out, and the icy gusts which come ripping off the Mersey make me feel as though the skin is being sandblasted off my face.

The only reason I can see people liking Winter is that it legitimately allows you to eat stews on a nightly basis. I bloody love stews. So much so in fact that I have decided  that if this whole ‘working-in-digital-and-social-media’ lark that I do for a day job doesn’t work out, I’ll set up my own door-to-door stew delivery company. After all, who wouldn’t want a piping hot bowl of Scouse or Hot Pot delivered to them on a chilly night?

Yesterday, the skies in Liverpool were heavy and grey with the threat of snow. So, after trudging home in the cold, I decided to rummage around in my cupboards and throw together a quick bean stew. Full of toothsome butter beans, a kick of chilli and a spike of smoked paprika, this Butter Bean and Olive stew really hit the spot. I accompanied it with a grilled pork steak which I’d rubbed with some cumin, salt and pepper, and some caramelised onions. It was perfect comfort food – full of warm flavours and (relatively) healthy to boot. It was so good in fact, that it almost helped me to forget that Manchester City were beaten by Everton at the football last night.  Oh well. You win some, you lost some eh?

CUMIN RUBBED PORK STEAKS WITH BUTTER BEAN AND OLIVE STEW (Serves Two)

You will need:

  • 2 medium sized, (relatively) lean pork steaks
  • 1 tin of butter beans
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A handful of pitted black olives, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A handful of roughly chopped parsley for garnish

Make It!

  1. Sweat your chopped garlic and chilli flakes  in a teaspoon of olive oil until the oil turns slightly red and the garlic is starting to brown.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, smoked paprika and olives to the pot, and cook for ten minutes or so. Then, add the drained butterbeans and simmer for another twenty minutes, until the stew has begun to thicken.
  3. Whilst the stew is cooking, season the pork steaks with the salt, pepper and cumin. Cook on a screamingly hot grill until just cooked, and the insides are no longer pink.
  4. Once grilled, place the  pork steaks on top of the stew, and sprinkle with roughly chopped parsley. You can add caramelised onions on top if you feel like it – they add a nice sweetness to dish. Serve with a large glass of red wine.
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