Four stupendous new stews to stash in the freezer

Mexican beef cheek stew with beans, rice and spiced avocado.
Mexican beef cheek stew with beans, rice and spiced avocado. Photo: Katrina Meynink

I have a strong and enduring love for making stew. I am not sure if it's the stew itself or the process; the time to appreciate life's rhythms it provides. I enjoy nothing more than a relaxed tinkering in the kitchen, the ingredients embracing for a deep, warm hug, and the smells pervading every nook and cranny of the house. I also draw significant emotional wellbeing from knowing at the end of my cook, I am not only ensuring comfort for dinner, but I am future-proofing my wellbeing by stashing the leftovers in the freezer. 

Mexican beef cheek stew with quick beans and rice

Ground ancho chillies are well worth seeking out. The chillies are low in heat but incredibly high in flavour and give this stew that husky and smoky fragrant heat. I've used beef cheeks here, so this is one for the weekend when there is time to potter about near(ish) to the stove.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5kg beef cheeks
  • 1 large brown onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tbsp ground ancho chilli (or ground chipotle if unavailable)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp gound coriander
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 375ml beer (I used pale ale)
  • 1 litre chicken or beef stock
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • juice and zest of 1 lime, plus extra limes to serve

Quick beans and rice

  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • ½ cup chopped coriander
  • 200g tinned black beans, rinsed
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • pinch chilli flakes

Spiced avocado (optional, serves 4)

  • 2 avocados
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
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METHOD

  1. Place a Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Add the olive oil and once hot add the beef cheeks and sear on all sides, about 5 minutes. Push to the side and add the diced onion and cook until soft and translucent, another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the oregano leaves, spices and cocoa powder, and using tongs, turn the beef cheeks to coat in the spice mixture. Add the beer, stock, tomatoes, honey, and lime juice and zest.
  2. Give it a good stir then cover and turn the heat to low. Cook for 5 hours, checking and turning the cheeks every hour or so. You want to check the liquid isn't evaporating too quickly and the top of the beef cheeks aren't drying out. The stew is ready when the cheeks are falling apart under the pressure of a fork, and the sauce is dark and thick.
  3. When ready to serve, reheat the rice and add to a bowl with the other quick beans and rice ingredients, mix well. 
  4. For the spiced avocado, combine the spices in a small bowl.
  5. Divide the beef and rice between serving bowls. Top each with an avocado half and sprinkle over the spice mix. Squeeze over extra lime juice and serve.

Serves 6

Indian spiced chickpea and coriander stew with fried curry leaves. Katrina Meynink stew recipes for Good Food May 2022. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

Thick chickpea stew with crispy curry leaves and spiced yoghurt. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Indian spiced chickpea and coriander stew

I am not sure there is a functioning pantry that exists without a few tins of chickpeas lurking in its depths. Without fail, they offer a dinner solution when pressed for time, ingredients and motivation. And when combined with a few glorious spices, a tin of toms and a bit of time, you have a very fine dinner indeed. This is very, very loosely based on the Punjabi chana flavour profile. Serve it with steamed rice and the addition of fried curry leaves and coriander seeds for some midweek dinner zing, and winning leftovers for lunch the next day.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp ghee (or flavourless oil)
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5cm knob ginger, chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1–1½ cups vegetable stock
  • juice of ½ lime
  • ½ cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp garam masala (or to taste)
  • 8-10 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • coconut rice to serve

METHOD

  1. Add the ghee to a large frypan or Dutch oven and place over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Add the ginger, chilli flakes and spices and stir to coat the onion in the spice mixture until fragrant. Add the chickpeas and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring to coat, then add the chopped tomatoes and 1 cup of the stock. 
  2. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, adding more stock as needed to prevent burning. When ready to serve, the sauce should be thick. If needed, uncover the pan and allow sauce to reduce for a few more minutes. Season with salt and lime juice to taste.
  3. Combine the garam masala and yoghurt in a bowl, set aside.
  4. Place a small frypan over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of ghee and once hot, add the curry leaves and coriander seeds and cook until leaves have darkened and are intensely fragrant. 
  5. To serve, scoop the chickpea mixture over rice. Drizzle with garam masala yoghurt and spoon over the curry leaves and coriander. Serve piping hot.

Serves 4

French onion soupy braised chicken. Katrina Meynink stew recipes for Good Food May 2022. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

French onion soup meets chicken casserole. Photo: Katrina Meynink

French onion soupy braised chicken

This is French onion soup meets your Tuesday night chicken bake meets all the crunchy crouton action of your dreams. The painful labour here is the slicing of your onions but oh how I promise the reward is high. The slower you take the onions, the more flavour you are building, and while initially it will seem you can barely fit them in your pan, they will cook down.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 800g (about 6) brown onions, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp chopped oregano leaves
  • leaves from 1 small sprig of rosemary
  • 1kg chicken thighs, patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

To finish

  • 130g Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 slices of sourdough, roughly blitzed to a crumb
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

METHOD

  1. Place a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter, and once the butter has melted and is beginning to foam, add the onions. Turn the heat to low and sweat, stirring regularly. Sprinkle over the bicarb soda – this will help speed up the caramelisation process. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the onions have caramelised – about 30 minutes. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Scrape the onions into a bowl and set aside while you prepare the chicken. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C fan-forced (190C conventional).
  3. Return the frypan to the heat. Add the chicken thighs and cook until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes per side. Don't overcrowd the pan.
  4. Scrape the onions into a large baking dish and spread them across the base. Nestle the chicken pieces into the bed of onions.
  5. To a jug, add the wine, stock, mustard and sugar, and use a fork to give it a quick whisk. Pour this over the chicken and pop in the oven for 45 minutes. By this stage the liquid should have reduced, and you will have a slurpy onion base with beautiful crisp and soft chicken.
  6. Sprinkle over the gruyere cheese and return to the oven for about 5 minutes.
  7. While the cheese is melting, place a frypan over medium heat. Add the 3 tablespoons of butter, and once foaming, add the breadcrumbs and cook until lovely and crisp. Transfer to a bowl and combine with the parsley.
  8. Remove the chicken from the oven, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle over the crouton mixture and serve.

Serves 6

Iranian herb and lamb stew. Katrina Meynink stew recipes for Good Food May 2022. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

Persian-inspired herb and lamb stew. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Iranian herb and lamb stew

What I love about this stew is that it's actually all about the fragrant green herbs, not the lamb, which is there to complement rather than steal the show. And while it does require a LOT of herbs, it is simple to make, looking after itself on the stove as you get on with living, while providing all the necessary comfort and fortitude we look for in a stew.

My tip is to really cook down the herbs – it releases the most phenomenal green oils. This really is a dish to behold and will be on regular rotation for me as the weather turns. 

Traditionally this style of stew would include Persian black limes,but given their limited availability, I have substituted that deep lemony-lime flavour with sumac.  Also, if you want to bulk this out, it is often served with kidney beans.

INGREDIENTS

  • 850g butterflied lamb leg, chopped into large bite-sized pieces
  • ½ tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp sumac, plus extra to serve
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek
  • 1 large brown onion, finely diced
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • lemon juice, to serve

Herb mixture

  • leaves from 2 large bunches flat-leaf parsley
  • leaves from 2 large bunches coriander
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

METHOD

  1. Add the chopped lamb, turmeric, sumac, garlic, olive oil and fenugreek to a bowl and toss to combine. 
  2. Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and once hot, add the lamb, and cook, browning all over for 5-10 minutes. It's important not to rush this step, you want the meat to brown and the fat to caramelise.
  3. Push the lamb to the side and add the onion and cook, stirring to prevent catching, until the onion has softened, about another 5 minutes.
  4. Add 3 cups of the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a low heat, with the lid partially on the pot, and simmer for about 1.5 hours (up to 2 hours). You want the meat to break apart with a fork and the liquid to have mostly reduced. Depending on your stove top and the rate of evaporation, I always like to have a spare cup of stock nearby in case the liquid evaporates before the cooking time is up. If it's beginning to look too dry, add the additional cup of stock.
  5. For the herb mixture, add the parsley and coriander to a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped. 
  6. Chop the chives and spring onion by hand, as finely as possible, and add to the herbs. (You can't chop these in the food processor as they will just turn to mush.)
  7. Place a frypan over medium heat. Add the 3 tablespoons of oil and the herb mixture and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. It's important to cook the herbs until they become quite dry. It seems a little counter-intuitive to cook fresh herbs like this, but it is where so much of the stew's flavour comes from. Remove and stir through the lamb, and cook for an additional 20 minutes.
  8. Squeeze over lemon juice and season with salt, sumac and pepper as required, just prior to serving. Serve as is or with rice.

Serves 4