Autumn: it is the season for Stew!

Comes the end of August and start of September, I usually feel down for a few weeks, with days becoming noticeably shorter and mornings colder.

But one of the things I love with the change of seasons, is the new foods it brings on my plate.

Here comes the season of stew, which actually will last well until the end of winter and start of spring. It’s an absolute favourite in this household. The depth of flavours is lovely, it is so warming and it’s a healthy way of cooking, as you retain a lot of the vitamins and minerals in the dish.

There’s 2 things to know about stew:

  • it doesn’t make for pretty pictures: it is “brown” (mostly). I remember reading an article from Nigella Lawson when she was having a bit of a rant at “foodie-instagrammers”, about the fact that because stew isn’t picture-worthy (“it is brown”) it was seldomly featuring on Instagram.

  • it always tastes better the 2nd day: sometimes I feel like stew and I’ll cook it and eat it there and then. But it is ALWAYS better once it’s had time for the flavours to settle and the meat and vegetables to “stew” in their juices. It always makes for a thicker sauce. So if you can, make it a day early. (Oh and make more, as it freezes really well for home-made “ready-meals”).

There are a lot variations of recipes, all giving slightly different flavours. But there are a few common principles to most recipes, so you can just vary the pleasures, without looking up fancy recipes (stew is never fancy anyway).

  • Meat: you want a cheap(er) cut of meat, that is quite fatty. Lean meat isn’t good for stew, it’ll get dry and tough. The fattier the better, fat is what gives it a nice taste. You want good quality meat (grass or pasture-fed), so the meat is richer in Omega 3 (and not Omega 6 as you would get from the grain-fed animals of industrial farming). Also, ideally, you want some bone, it adds gelatine to the stew. Personally I love lamb neck (the cut I used for this recipe).

  • Vegetables: I always start with a base of onion-garlic-celery. Whichever recipe (French, British or Asian flavours), it usually works and add great flavours. I then add a selection of root vegetables and other veggies: carrots, turnips, swede, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips and also cabbage, mushrooms, leeks, etc.

  • Liquid: as it’s going to cook for a long time, you need some liquid to stop the food from burning. It also adds flavours and ensures you have a nice rich sauce/gravy for your stew. This usually involves bone broth, which is great for gut health (and flavour - health without flavour is pointless!), but it can also be wine, beer (not Paleo or AIP), cider, vinegar, or even water

  • Seasoning / spices: this is usually where the dish comes in its own. A traditional French or British seasoning will be herbs such as bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, sage, clove. Middle Eastern, Asian & Caribbean flavours will include spices such as ginger, chillies, cumin, turmeric, coriander, etc (please note that seed and nightshades spices such as cumin, coriander and chillies are not AIP).

I was a bit early in the season for turnips (my favourite in stew), so for this particular recipe, I used Jerusalem artichokes and it was a beautiful result.

For me, stew is a staple of the Autoimmune Paleo protocol, as it uses gut healing bone broth and as it is cooked at low temperatures (or in a pressure cooker), it retains a lot of the nutrients. As it is best the 2nd day, it’s also a great dish to add to your food preparation session and leftovers are always great for breakfast or a quick weekday lunch.

Recipe

For 6 or 4 with some left overs

Ingredients

8 pieces of lamb neck (ideally with bone)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large yellow onion (chopped)

2 garlic gloves (chopped)

1 celery stick (chopped)

1 leek (chopped)

2 bay leaf

2 sprigs of rosemary

4 carrots - peeled (or not, your choice) and cut in 2cm-chunks

8 Jerusalem artichokes (or slightly more if they’re quite small) - I now don’t peel them, just give them a good scrub (saves you a lot of time!) and cut in 2cm-chunks

1L of liquid (2/3 stock - 1/3 dry white wine or all stock - up to you)

A good handful of sea or pink salt

Method

Brown the meat on medium heat with olive oil (usually 2 batches) in an oven-proof dish with a lid (I use a Le Creuset cast-iron casserole)

Remove the meat and keep all the juices

Add the onion, leek, garlic and celery. Cook on medium heat till soft and golden

Add the meat, all the other vegetables, bay leaf, salt.

Cover with the liquid and a lid

In the oven for 2-3 hours at 140 degrees.

If the sauce is too liquid at the end of the cooking time, you can remove the meat and vegetables and reduce the sauce on the stove. Or you make the day ahead.

Instant Pot alternative

If you have a pressure cooker like an instant pot, follow the same instructions, but brown the meat and soften the onion etc in the sauté function of the instant pot.

And then cook for 20mins at high pressure. The sauce will be quite liquid, so best to make it the day before.

I like to serve it with a side of pan-fried leafy greens, such as chard or kale.

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IIN qualified health coach, foodie, mum of 2, wife of 1, ex corporate advertising executive, RA warrior