Sunday, 13 January 2013

IKEA ‘SENIOR’ Cast iron casserole dish with lid.

Happy stew year!

It’s January, that means it is stew season! Money tight after DMXmas? Stew! Resolution to learn to cook? Stew! Need warming up on a cold night? Stew! Stew! Stew!

Or casserole.

Speaking of money being tight a Le Creuset cast-iron, enamel coated, 24cm diameter base casserole dish/Dutch oven/crock pot (are these all the same thing?) costs £130. That’s not cheap. Ok, they last a lifetime, but I don’t have my lifetime’s crockery allowance to hand right now.

But Ikea have a cast-iron, enamel coated, 24cm diameter base casserole dish/Dutch oven/crock pot for £24:

£24! That is a saving equivalent to a year’s worth of stew ingredients!

Half a kilo of chuck steak costs £5.00 from Waitrose. From Waitrose! That’s the good stuff, that’s a chunky handful of cow. Chuck steak is usually diced up and sold as braising steak, but stick it in the pot for three hours and there is no need to dice it; it falls apart when prodded with a silicone spatula, a wobbly rubbery spatula! Hoo, boy, that is some tender meat.

And the bone? The meat FALLS OFF! It just falls off the bone! And all that bony flavour stays in the pot; just pick the bone out with some soft-tipped tongs (you don’t want to go scraping the enamel having spent £130/£24 on the pot).

Half a shoulder of lamb is about a fiver as well, buying diced meat in a pack will typically set you back more than double that of buying a joint; and the flavour and tenderness are incomparable, incomparable I say!

Lamb stew!

I am super-excited for stew season, you can make such a variety and the principle is the same for each one:

Heat a drop of oil in the pot on the hob, brown the meat and set it aside, fry off some veg in the meat juices, season, add stock and stir, put the meat back in, put the lid on and transfer to the oven to cook low and slow. Stew!

Of course the only downside with it being from Ikea is that as a flat pack pot you have to smelt the iron and cast it yourself. No, of course not, but I did have to carry it home which damn near slayed me.

Ever wonder how your sweet old granny had the strength to pick you up by the scruff of the neck when you were being naughty? Even a medium sized, cast-iron dish weighs about 4 kilos; and that’s without anything in it.

If you want to make a stew, a cast iron pot is just the absolute best, you can always fry off in a pan and transfer to a Pyrex or earthenware dish for the oven stage; but I always felt I was losing some flavour in the transfer process, like it had somehow escaped from pan to dish. One pot keeps the flavour in and they are handsome enough to serve straight from the table. Buy a Le Creuset lid off eBay if you must show off to your friends.

£24? What a crock! Stewpendous! Score: 10 out of 10.

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Bonus content - One stew fits all:

Heat oil and brown the meat
Fry off the veg
Add stock and put in oven.
Lamb pot roast
Brown lamb half shoulder on all sides and set aside.
Add chopped onions, and carrots and potatoes (or any root vegetable).
Season and add thyme.
Add a pint of stock and stir well. Reintroduce the meat (and any escaped juices), put the lid on and put in a low oven (160/150 fan) for three-four hours.

Lamb curry
Add two chopped onions – dupiaza means double onions! Put in a good spoon of madras paste. Add a tin of chick peas and tomatoes.
Add spices of your choice; paprika, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, curry powder, whatever!
Beef stew
Brown beef chuck steak or brisket on all sides and set aside.
Add chopped carrots and swede, I get mine from a bag as swedes are gigantic.  
Add a tablespoon of corn flour and stir in to thicken. Season and add rosemary and bay leafs. A glass of red wine, or splash of port if none on the go, will add depth and de-glaze the base of the pot.
Add chopped onions, red peppers, chillies and tomatoes. Add a tin of beans (kidney, black, pinto.)
Salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, Tabasco  maybe some brown sugar if the tomatoes are too tart (or the chillies too hot!)
Cut pork ribs so they fit easily into the pan. Brown the rib sections and remove from pan.
Add chopped fennel and garlic. Take some sausages out of their skins and add (or substitute onion for fennel and use fennel sausages – don’t double up on fennel; the aniseed taste will overpower).
Add a glass of red wine to de-glaze the base of the pot. Add salt and pepper, dried basil (fresh will turn to mush but feel free to use). Add a tin of tomatoes and stir in.

And these are just the ones I have actually tried. Moroccan lamb, ham and cider, hunter’s chicken, chorizo and white bean. Once you can cook one stew you can cook them all! Rabbit and pheasant if you are a Lord or gamekeeper or something. Go to it, go stew it! 


Pot o chilli

Chilli and rice

Leftover stew? Put it is a pasty!  

OMG!? Portable stew!

Update: it is 30 notes now, that is still bargin city.

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