| Delicious Soups and Stews
by Stacey Tress
January and February in Saskatchewan can be long, bitterly cold, and dark. The beauty of these months is that we can dream of our summer gardens, read books, curl up by the fire, and prepare and eat some hearty foods. Our family loves soup and it’s usually the first thing I begin preparing when the cool fall temperatures are upon us and the kitchen is tolerable again. I like to prepare big batches of soup and then freeze smaller portions to pull out for a homemade quick meal (usually served with a hot buttery biscuit or fat slice of sourdough bread). I also love to cook it up fresh as there’s something very comforting about the heat given off from the stove—and the aromatics of the mirepoix (pronounced “meer-pwah”), herbs, and meat are divine, and who doesn’t love the taste test parts! The last soup I made was a beef barley as we had a crock pot roast a few days prior. Are you like me and sometimes add too much barley and end up with a risotto-like substance? It still was hearty and delicious!
Stock is made from beef, veal, mutton, fish, poultry, or game, separately or in combination. Brown stock is made from beef (lean meat, bone, and fat). White stock is made from chicken or veal. Fish stock is the water in which fish has been cooked or it may be made from fish bones and head, or bits of fish simmered 30 minutes in Court Bouillon (see recipes) and strained. Vegetable stock is the water in which vegetables have been cooked. It contains valuable mineral salts and may replace water in making stock or be used in cream soups in place of stock.
Bouillon is usually made with brown stock delicately seasoned and cleared. Exception: clam bouillon.
Consommé is made from two or more kinds of meat (usually beef, veal, and chicken) highly seasoned, cleared, and strained.
Broth is the liquid resulting from simmering meat in water.
Bisque is generally made of shellfish, milk, and seasonings. Exception: tomato bisque.
Cream soups are made with the addition of milk or cream to a vegetable or meat foundation. To bind the two elements into a smooth uncurdled liquid, melt butter and stir in flour (using quantities as required by the recipe), mix well, add to soup, and stir constantly until boiling point is reached.
Stew is a combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy. Ingredients in a stew can include any combination of vegetables and may include meat, especially tougher meats suitable for slow-cooking, such as beef. Poultry, sausages, and seafood are also used. While water can be used as the stew-cooking liquid, stock is also common. Seasoning and flavourings may also be added. Stews are typically cooked at a relatively low temperature, allowing flavours to mingle.
Mirepoix is a combination of aromatic vegetables that gives a subtle background flavour to dishes such as soups, stews, and braises. To make mirepoix, rinse, trim, and peel vegetables—typically two parts onion to one part carrot and one part celery—then chop them into uniform pieces.
Mirepoix is perfect in its simplicity, but if you are adventurous, here are some ways to change it up:
- Throw in a clove or two of minced garlic.
- At the end of cooking, stir in a spoonful of tomato paste.
- Deglaze with a bit of white wine or vermouth before the mirepoix is removed from heat.
- Sauté veggies with a pinch of red pepper flakes for a spicier version.
- Add a dash of soy sauce or tamari for a saltier, smokier flavour.
- Substitute the carrots with red or green bell pepper to achieve the Cajun holy trinity.
- Mushrooms, parsnips, leeks, fennel, and turnips are other aromatic vegetables that can all be used in mirepoix with great success.
Some Health Benefits of Mirepoix
Carrots contain sources of beta carotene (a plant form of vitamin A). There are many sources/links to reduced risks of cancer with consumption of carotene-rich foods. Carotene is better absorbed in cooked carrots vs raw carrots.
The name beta carotene comes from the Greek “beta” and Latin “carota” (carrot). It is the yellow/orange pigment that gives vegetables and fruits their rich colours. H. Wachenroder crystallized beta carotene from carrot roots in 1831 and came up with the name “carotene.”
Carrots also contain good sources of potassium, whether raw or cooked, are virtually fat free, high in soluble fibre, and are a modest source of vitamin C when raw.
Celery contains vitamin C and flavonoids, but there are at least 12 additional kinds of antioxidant nutrients found in a single stalk. It’s also a wonderful source of phytonutrients, which have been shown to reduce instances of inflammation in the digestive tract, cells, blood vessels, and organs. And then there’s the high water content of celery—almost 95 percent—plus generous amounts of soluble and insoluble fibre. All of those support a healthy digestive tract and keep you regular. One cup of celery sticks has 5 grams of dietary fibre. With minerals like magnesium, iron, and sodium, celery can have a neutralizing effect on acidic foods, which can have added benefit especially when used in meat dishes (or soups/stews).
Like garlic, onions also have the enzyme alliinase, which is released when an onion is cut or crushed and comes into contact with another enzyme also present in onions, alliin, which has no smell. When the two enzymes combine, they form another compound called allicin, well-known for its health benefit, but the characteristic aroma is also released and causes your eyes to water. So as tears stream down your face when you cut onions, think of all the wonderful health benefits that you’re going to enjoy. They also contain flavonoids, which are pigments that give vegetables their colour. These compounds act as antioxidants, have a direct anti-tumour effect, and immune-enhancing properties.
Onions contain a large amount of sulphur and are especially good for the liver. As a sulphur food, they mix best with proteins because they stimulate the action of the amino acids to the brain and nervous system.
1/3 cup each: carrot, onion, and celery, cut in small pieces
2 sprigs parsley
2 tbsp butter
1/2 bay leaf
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp vinegar
2 quarts water
Cook carrot, onion, celery, and parsley with butter 3 minutes, add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Makes 2 quarts.
“Cooking a shin of beef or any good stewing cut this way gives you some really fantastic comfort food. Just letting it slowly blip away in the oven, with the sauce becoming more and more intense, is the nicest sort of cooking there is. Delicious served with some mashed root veg—like carrots, potatoes, a bit of rutabaga, some turnips… and some nice buttered cabbage or spinach.”—Jamie Oliver
2 red onions, peeled and
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sticks of celery, trimmed and
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
a small handful of dried porcini
1 cinnamon stick
2 1/4 lbs shin of beef, preferably free-range or organic, bone removed, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp flour
2 x 14 oz cans good quality
2/3 of a 750 ml bottle of Chianti
Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a heavy-bottomed ovenproof saucepan, heat a splash of olive oil and gently fry the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs, porcini, and cinnamon for 5 minutes until softened slightly. Meanwhile, toss the pieces of beef in a little seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Add the meat to the pan and stir everything together, then add the tomatoes, wine, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently bring to a boil, cover with a double-thickness piece of aluminum foil and a lid, and place in your preheated oven for 3 hours or until the beef is meltingly tender and can be broken up with a spoon. Taste and check the seasoning, remove the cinnamon stick and rosemary sprigs, and serve.
Pumpkin and White
Yields 14 servings
2 1/2 lbs pumpkin, peeled and cut
into 3” chunks
olive oil as needed
Kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tbsp unsalted butter
5 carrots, sliced
2 ribs celery, diced
6 cloves garlic
1 Spanish (sweet) onion, chopped
10 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp fresh sage
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cream sherry
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese—plus additional for garnish
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn
Combine 3 cups pumpkin in a roasting pan with olive oil to coat, salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F for 20 minutes or until soft and brown.
Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add remaining pumpkin, carrots, celery, garlic, and onion and sauté in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add stock, sage, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium. Simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove from heat; add sugar, sherry, and cheese. Purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in beans and roasted pumpkin. Garnish with basil and cheese.
If you love to garden and are interested in organic, non-GMO, local and/or heirloom seeds, I invite you to check out the upcoming Seedy Saturday events that will be starting soon across Saskatchewan. I love growing my own beans, pumpkins, herbs, onions etc. (as in the above recipes) and I get my seeds each year at the Seedy Saturday events. Check out www.seeds.ca for a complete list of all events across Canada!
A heads-up to those in my neck of the woods for our 9th Annual Yorkton Seedy Saturday being held Saturday, February 23, from 11:00 am to 4:30 pm at the SIGN Building on Broadway Street. Hope to see you there! Feel free to follow us on Facebook as I have a page, “Yorkton Seedy Saturday,” with an event up there for you to join and get in on some exclusive draws.
Court Bouillon from Fannie Farmers Boston School Cookbook
Melt-in-your-mouth Shin Stew from Cook With Jamie by Jamie Oliver
Pumpkin and White Bean Soup
Fannie Farmers Boston School Cookbook (8th Edition) by Little, Brown, and Company
The Healing Foods by Patricia Hausman & Judith Benn Hurley
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT) and Young Living Essential Oil Distributor (#2282633), lives in Rhein, SK, with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton—GT Bliss, which offers fermentation workshops, active culture kits, permaculture consulting, essential oils, and more! To learn more, call 306-641-4239, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or Facebook “Garden Therapy Yorkton - GT Bliss.” Webpage: www.gardentherapybliss.ca. Also see the display ad on page 9 of the 24.5 January/February issue of the WHOLifE Journal.