Hearty stews and wholesome one-pot meals are the ultimate comfort food to keep the winter cold at bay. With a mix of healthy carbs, protein and lots of McCain veggies, a stew has all the makings of a nutritious meal.
5 great reasons to cook delicious one-pot meals this winter
- All the nutrients are conserved, and it is a great way to get your daily dose of vegetables. Many nutrients are water-soluble and braising or stewing food allows you to preserve these minerals and vitamins in the cooking liquid. When cooking with McCain’s frozen vegetables, you can rest assured that all their produce is harvested at its peak, blanched and snap-frozen within hours to maintain freshness and lock in nutrients.
- It takes time but little effort, and it saves on fuel. Once you are done with the initial prep, you can leave a stew to simmer and braise. You can easily double up recipes – saving time and energy.
- It is economical because you can use cheaper cuts of meat that benefit from slow cooking. It is also easier to bulk up and create dinner for another night. Stews freeze very well, so you can save a lot of time and energy by bulking up.
- It gives your immune system a boost. Stews are packed with nutrients. Add McCain frozen vegetables to your favourite stew to make it even more nutritious.
- It provides comfort. A warm, wholesome stew will chase away even the coldest of winter chills.
5 ways to cook the best stew
Whether you call it a stew, bredie, braise or ragù, the basic principles of making a delicious and hearty one-pot meal stays the same.
Brown the meat: Browning the meat gives a richer and deeper flavour to the stew. Pre-salt the meat a few hours before you start to cook. Take your time in caramelising the meat on all sides, but do not overcrowd the pan. You can dust the pieces of meat with flour to aid caramelisation and to act as a thickener.
Build on the flavour base: The French call it mirepoix – this is the classic soup and stew combination of roughly chopped vegetables like onions, carrots and celery.
Add some liquid (but not too much): One of the biggest mistakes cooks make is to add too much water or stock to a stew. Meat and vegetables naturally release enough moisture. The addition of a tin of whole peeled tomatoes, a cup of quality stock or ½ a cup of red wine is enough to make a delicious, thick stew.
Ramp up the flavour: Another classic French addition to stews is called a bouquet garni. It is a bundle of herbs that add flavour to any stew, curry or soup. Tie a few sprigs of thyme, parsley and bay leaves together with kitchen string. Add it to the stew at the beginning of the cooking time. The string makes it easy to fish out before serving.
Keep it low and slow: After browning the meat and vegetables over high heat, you should reduce the heat to low to ensure a soft simmer. A low temperature will ensure softer meat and a deeper, richer flavour.
Make your favourite one-pot meal even healthier
Pack in the protein
Meat cuts with the bone add depth of flavour to stews and also ups the nutritional content significantly. Bones are rich in minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium and also contain collagen and gelatin that play an important role in your gut and joint health.
Make a classic Italian osso bucco. Osso bucco literally means “bone with the hole”. Season 1kg sliced beef shank pieces with salt and brown in a large casserole in 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, ½ a cup of frozen McCain Diced Carrots, 1 chopped celery stick, 3 bay leaves and 6 sprigs of thyme. Cook until soft. Add 2 tins (400g each) of whole peeled tomatoes and ½ a cup of red wine to the casserole. Mix it through, and simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is soft and falls from the bone.
Veg it up
Vegetables contain antioxidants, fibre and flavonoids that reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in cells. You should eat at least five different coloured vegetables every day for optimum health. Making one-pot meals and stews are an easy and delicious way to ensure that you meet this daily count. Add starchy veggies like McCain Pumpkin Chunks, McCain Baby Carrots and McCain Sweet Potato closer to the beginning of the cook because it takes longer to break down the starches. Add delicate veggies like McCain Green Beans, McCain Broccoli and Cauliflower Florets and McCain Baby Peas towards the end of the cooking process to preserve the texture.
Add immune-boosting ingredients
Add onions and garlic to the base of stews. Onions contain quercetin, a potent antioxidant that has antiviral properties and anti-inflammatory effects. Garlic, on the other hand, contains a compound called allicin. Allicin is released when the cloves are crushed or chewed, giving garlic its antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Whole spices like cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and ginger have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that strengthen your immune system.
Make a delicious, immune-boosting chicken curry. Toss 1kg chicken fillet strips in 3 tbsp curry masala and season with salt. Brown in 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan. Remove and set aside. In the same saucepan, cook 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped red chilli, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, 5cm grated fresh ginger and 5cm grated fresh turmeric until soft. Add 2 cinnamon sticks and 15ml fennel seeds. Return the meat to the saucepan with 1 tin (400g) coconut cream, 1 tin (400g) whole peeled tomatoes, 1 tin (400g) drained chickpeas and 1 cup frozen McCain Cauliflower Florets. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add 1 cup McCain Garden Peas and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Add healthy carbs
Add fibrous and wholesome carbs to stretch and thicken your favourite one-pot meals. Beans, barley, lentils and chickpeas are good for your heart, can lower blood pressure and protect you against colon cancer. Beans and chickpeas need to be soaked overnight before adding to stews, but lentils and barley can be added directly. If you are pressed for time, you can add tinned beans or chickpeas – they have the same nutritional value as the dried alternatives.
For more recipe ideas with McCain’s frozen products, visit https://www.mccain.co.za/retail/recipes/.