By Toni W. Riley
Want to chase these dreary days of winter away? Take the family on a globe-trotting adventure with the warm flavors and thick textures of stew. As the winter drags on, thoughts of exotic places help pass the dark, cold days, and a hearty bowl of stew using international spice blends could be the cheapest way to feel like you’re there.
From Argentina to Barbados, stew is an international food that every culture, country and community tweaks to make its own. To “stew” is to cook food slowly, which results in a thick, soup-like dish.
A stew usually consists of meat, spices, local vegetables and sometimes fruits. The stew is slowly simmered until the meat falls apart and all the flavors fuse together.
The meat is the main ingredient. While beef is the “stew meat of choice” for most Americans, countries around the world use what is produced locally. Stews can be made with pork, chicken, lamb, goat and seafood, depending on what is available. If a red meat is used, the cut is one that is less tender — usually a shoulder cut — because stewing breaks down the connective tissue and tenderizes the meat.
Making a stew with an international twist can provide a sense of adventure for the family. While the stew is cooking, take time to learn about the country where the stew originates. Why are specific meats, vegetables and spices used in this country’s stews? The blend of spices, which really distinguishes each country’s stew, will take the family through a variety of flavor and aroma journeys.
To create an international stew, start with a good quality chuck roast cut into stew-size pieces and a choice of basic vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots and onions. Then add spice. Remember the spice is going to give the stew its international flavor. Check out a list of international spice blends and a Moroccan stew recipe below.
A bouquet garni — 2 thyme sprigs, 2 parsley sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig, and the leaves from 1 celery stalk, tied together in a dampened piece of cheesecloth.
Mexico, Middle East
1/4 cup cumin, ½ cup coriander and 1/8 cup black pepper. This makes about 3/4 cup and may be too much for most families’ needs. Pared down, combine 1 teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoons coriander and a dash of black pepper.
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice or 2 teaspoons ground allspice, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon whole coriander seed or 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 inch of cinnamon stick or 1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon sweet paprika, 1 generous tablespoon dry basil and 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
Moroccan beef stew
2 ½ pound chuck roast cut into pieces
2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes cut into pieces
1 medium onion cut into chucks
2 cloves of garlic minced
½ cup golden or regular raisins
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
3 tablespoons flour
1 can stewed or diced tomatoes
Place first five ingredients in slow cooker, combine flour and spices. Stir in cinnamon.
Top with tomatoes, set on low for 6-7 hours or when meat is very tender.
Serve over rice or couscous.