This is a stew that offers all the flavour, comfort and punch that is required during the colder seasons, autumn and winter. I love to make one pot meals when the cold, grey skies somehow steal my inspiration and enthusiasm, and all I want to do is sit by a warm fire. I always keep butter, cannellini, and flageolet beans handy in the cupboard for adding to stews and casseroles, as another ‘layer’ along with various vegetables. Sometimes I add chicken, but usually I make the no-meat version, and cook chicken separately for those who want it. Beans are, of course full of protein, and although they can increase Vata Dosha, there’s never enough of a quantity in the meal to get oneself in a frenzy about! I tend to use chillies, smoked paprika, and a little Dijon mustard in this stew as my flavourings, as they all work well synergistically, and impart a mediterranean feel to the meal. This means I can be symbolically transported to sunny climes when I put it together. I know you’ll love the simplicity and robust feel of this dish, which is quick and easy, so it can be cooked mid-week, or even as an impressive weekend supper for friends or family. Just double or treble the quantity if you are feeding more people.
Ingredients to serve 2:
2 tbsp best quality organic cold pressed olive oil
4 organic free range chicken thighs- optional
A medium red onion, chopped
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
A tin of chopped tomatoes
A tin of butter beans or any other similar beans, drained
A small carrot, thinly sliced
A couple of handfuls chestnut mushrooms, sliced
A red pepper, deseeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 large handfuls of shredded kale- I like cavolo nero
Half a packet of organic feta cheese
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Half litre vegetable stock
Half level tsp smoked sweet paprika
A bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 tsp grated Jaggery (or dark brown sugar, or date syrup)
If you are going to serve chicken with the stew, preheat the oven to 180º, lightly smear the chicken pieces with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook them on a baking tray for about half an hour or so. Whilst they’re cooking, you can prepare the stew; both should be ready around the same time, but if the chicken is ready first, remove the tray from the oven, cover it with foil, and keep it aside.
Heat the oil in a small casserole pot, and fry the onion, stirring regularly, until soft but not browned. Add the garlic and fry for another minute before adding the carrots, followed a few minutes later by the mushrooms and pepper. Let it cook for five minutes or so, until everything has softened. Turn the heat up, and keep stirring to mix everything together. Now pour in the tinned tomatoes and a quarter litre of the stock, the smoked paprika, around half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (you can add more later if you like it very spicy), the mustard and jaggery, and season well with salt and a little pepper. Bring it to a gentle boil before turning the heat down to medium. Put the lid on and cook for around 20 minutes before adding the beans and kale. Keep checking the juices, and add more stock if it looks like it needs it. Give it all a good stir, and cook with the lid off for another 10 minutes or more. The tomatoes and stock should have merged, and become a thick and robust gravy, not at all watery. Check the overall flavour, and add more seasoning, or chilli flakes, if desired.
Serve in a bowl topped with crumbled feta and the parsley, and if you’re serving chicken, place it on the side. I like to serve the stew with a little bit of chunky sourdough bread, and perhaps a small green salad on the side. If you serve it with some chicken, you might prefer to skip the bread.