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what to make when

What to make when... you're craving the comfort of a hearty autumn stew

Need warming up? Try one of these deeply delicious cold-weather recipes.

WITH THE COLDER weather upon us, there is nothing more comforting than a bowl of stew to warm us up after a long day.

As well as being delicious, a stew makes a really economical meal. While Irish stew might be the first thing to come to mind when we think of stew recipes, there are many well known stews in global cuisine – from a French-inspired beef bourguignon to a flavour-packed Hungarian goulash.

One of the great aspects of a stew is that it often tastes even better a day or two later, when the flavours are even more intense. This makes it an ideal meal for batch cooking, so it can be very useful to double the quantities for freezing.  

Whether it’s a classic Irish stew or something with a bit of spice, I have a comforting stew for just about every taste… 

1. Spanish-style pork stew

Pork is ideal for stews; fillet can be cooked quite quickly and remain tender, and if you have time other cuts of pork, the shoulder can lend itself very well to slow cooking, like this recipe from Shelley Beth, who stews pork chops slowly on low heat. For a speedier version, we’ll use pork fillet for this Spanish-style stew. Brown some sliced pork fillet in a hot pan for two to three minutes, then add crushed garlic, sliced onion and red pepper. Turn down the heat, and fry gently for 10 minutes, until the onion is soft but not brown. Pour over a cup of hot chicken stock and a tin of tomatoes, and simmer gently on a low heat for 30-40 minutes. Just before it’s ready, stir through some pitted green olives, and serve with rice or baby potatoes and a fresh green salad. 

2. Beef bourguignon

This classic French stew requires a little effort, but taking some time to prepare and cook it slowly will pay off, resulting in deliciously tender beef in a luscious sauce. Start by browning diced beef in a hot pan, then set it aside. You may need to do this in batches to ensure the meat browns properly. In the same pan, add chopped onions, mushrooms, garlic, bacon lardons and diced carrot, and allow those to fry gently for 10 minutes. Add in some fresh thyme, parsley and a splash of red wine, then add the browned beef. Cover the ingredients with hot beef stock, season, add some tomato paste, and pop it into the oven for three to four hours at 150°C, stirring occasionally. If needed, you can thicken the stew with some cornflour, and serve with mashed potato and fresh bread. 

3. Sweet potato, chickpea and spinach stew

This delicious stew is packed with nutrients and takes just 30 minutes to make. To start, heat some oil in a saucepan over medium heat and fry sliced onion, crushed garlic and cubed sweet potato. Gently fry that for 10 minutes, until the onions are soft, then stir through a teaspoon of paprika and pour over a pint of vegetable stock. Simmer the mixture for 15-20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are soft, then add in a tin of drained chickpeas and a bag of spinach. Simmer for a further two minutes, then adjust the seasoning according to your taste. Serve the stew in bowls with a dollop of crème fraiche and plenty of fresh bread. If you’re lactose intolerant or vegan, take inspiration from Alva O’Sullivan and stir through a half tin of coconut milk at the end. Check out her full recipe here!

shutterstock_177613244 Shutterstock / Elena Veselova Shutterstock / Elena Veselova / Elena Veselova

4. Classic Irish stew

It doesn’t get more comforting (or local) than an Irish stew! There are many different ways of cooking an Irish stew, and families often have their own traditions. Lamb neck or shoulder is traditionally used, but you could also substitute this for diced beef. You check out some of our readers’ secrets to the perfect Irish stew here. Firstly, brown the meat in a casserole dish and set it aside. In the same casserole dish, saute onions, celery and carrot for five minutes, then return the meat to the dish. Cover the meat with beef or lamb stock, add in some baby potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer the stew gently for an hour or so, until the meat is tender and the potatoes are cooked. Serve it straight away, or let it cool and then leave in the fridge overnight, allowing the flavours to develop even further. 

5. Thai chicken one pot stew

This Thai chicken one pot stew is packed with fragrant flavours and is guaranteed to warm you up on a cold evening. To start, heat some oil in a saucepan and brown chicken thighs, and then set them aside. In the same saucepan, fry a heaped spoonful of Thai green curry paste along with some garlic, ginger and green chili. Pour over a tin of coconut milk along with some chicken stock, then put the chicken pieces back in. Add in some veggies at this point too – peas, broccoli and courgette work well, but use whatever you have in the house. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook for 40 minutes, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Serve in bowls with noodles and fresh coriander. 

More: What to make when… it’s beans on toast for dinner, but you still want to feel fancy

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