Classic Beef-less Stew

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There’s nothing more comforting on a cold night than a delicious hearty stew. This one is special. It is dark and rich, and more like a Beef Daube – the classic Provencal stew from the south of France. Hard to believe it contains no meat! This stew gets its flavour from the rich stock base, which includes red wine and oil-free roasted vegetables.  Whenever I make recipes like this I am reminded of just how little oil is needed in cooking.

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For the Roasted Vegetable Stock

Vegetables do not contain any gelatin, which is typically where meat-based stocks and stews get their body.  The body and sheen in this recipe come from the starch in the beans that are added to the stock. Although making the stock requires an extra step, it is hard to justify substituting any other stock as this one is key to the depth of flavour. 

Ingredients

  • 4 large carrots*
  • 3 large onions
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • 2-3 large tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 fennel bulb (optional)
  • Salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 2 sprigs each – fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup of dried, cooked pinto beans (or a 15-oz can of cannellini beans, drained and well-rinsed)
  • 1 package dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 oz.)
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 4 litres water

Preheat oven to 450°F.

This recipe yields a little more stock than needed for the stew. You could reduce the amount of water or wine, but I prefer to make a large batch and use any extra stock as a base in other vegetable sauces or gravies. The stock can be frozen so this just saves time later. 

Quarter the tomatoes. Coarsely chop the carrots and onions. Slice the celery and fennel and place all of the vegetables in a single layer in a large baking dish. (I used 2 enamel coated cast iron lasagne pans (le Crueset) because I don’t have one large enough to hold all of the vegetables).

Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the vegetables.

Place the pans in the oven and roast the vegetables for an hour, or until vegetables are soft and nicely charred. There should be a “fond” on the base of the pans. “Fond” is the culinary term for the browned bits that stick to the bottom of the pan during roasting. 

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When they are done, remove the vegetables to a large soup pot and add the fresh herbs, bay leaves, tomato paste, beans and dried mushrooms. 

Pour the wine into the baking pans and bring to a low simmer on top of the stove. You don’t want  to reduce the wine, you just want to loosen the “fond” from the bottom of the pans. This fond will give the stock an incredible depth of flavour and you definitely don’t want to discard it).  

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After you have scraped up as much of the fond as you can,  pour the contents of the pan into the soup pot. Add the water and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about an hour. 

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Remove the pot from the heat and discard the solids. Allow the stock to come to room temperature. The stock can be refrigerated or frozen at this point. 

For the Stew

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. (4 large) portabella mushrooms, diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ large yellow onions, diced (or 10-12 pearl onions, peeled and left whole)
  • 4 medium-large carrots, coarsely chopped*
  • 1 large turnip, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1½ tablespoon finely chopped garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
  • 1 strip orange peel, 1-inch wide x 2-inches long
  • 5 cups roasted vegetable stock
  • 6 medium yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, coarsely chopped*
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 cup frozen peas (thawed)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a tablespoon of water in a large pot on med-high heat. I use a 3L enameled cast iron dish (le Creuset, again) for this because it’s lovely for stewing or braising anything. But you can also cook the mushrooms in a non-stick frying pan. When the water is hot, add chopped mushrooms and stir gently until they begin to darken and shrink, adding a little more water as it evaporates. This keeps the mushrooms from sticking.

Add the onion, celery, turnips and carrot, and continue cooking the vegetables, until they begin to caramelize, stirring and adding a little water as needed to prevent sticking. Once the vegetables start to turn brown around the edges stir in the minced garlic and continue cooking for one minute – just until fragrant.

Add the potatoes, tomato paste and orange rind. Pour in the roasted vegetable stock and give everything a stir. Bring the stew to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the carrots and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally (about 25 minutes).

To thicken, puree a bit of the stew using a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot. Only puree as much as you need to get the consistency you want. The puree doesn’t have to be completely smooth. Alternatively, remove about 1/3 of the stew (include some broth), and puree in a  blender. Then stir the puree back into the pot and repeat the process, if necessary, to reach the desired consistency.

Stir in the frozen peas. Let the stew rest, covered, on low heat for a minute or two to cook the peas. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve.

Makes 8 generous servings.

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Notes:

*Carrots and potatoes can be peeled or unpeeled. I generally do not peel them if they are organic.  

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