Monday, March 17, 2014

Quasi-Irish Stew

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!

Let me begin this St Patrick's Day-inspired recipe with no claims to Actual Authenticity. That said, a little research and a lengthy consultation with my Irish BFF confirmed my longstanding impression that the basic prototype is "pretty feckin' boring," and requires certain additions (herbs, spices, and a bit of fat not leeched from the carcass of some poor, long-dead sheep) to be appealing to jaded post-modern, non-famine-sharpened palates.

With that idea in mind, I took my usual approach: conflating several putatively traditional recipes with my own gut instincts to produce a "good parts version." The end result was disconcertingly like the thick, meaty stews my English mother made when I was growing up; unsurprisingly, it went over big with my perpetually hungry household. So while I can't testify to its "Irishness," I will say that this stew bears a strong resemblance to the cooking of at least one second-generation Irish Brummie, and that's a damn sight closer to the old sod than corned beef and green beer!

Quasi-Irish Stew
~ 2 tbsp. canola or or other neutral-flavored oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 2 leeks, chopped
~ 3 large carrots, cut into chunky diagonal slices
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, thyme, marjoram
~ 1/2 tsp. rosemary, crushed in your fingers
~ 2 bay leaves
~ A few generous grinds black pepper
~ 4 good-sized potatoes, cubed
~ 6 cups no chicken broth
~ 1 tbsp. each: vegan Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, Liquid Smoke
~ 12 oz. vegan stout (I used Sam Smith's Oatmeal)
~ 2 cups seitan or big portobello mushroom caps, cut into "stew-sized" chunks
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/4 cup flour

~ In a large, deep pot, cook the onions, leeks, and carrots in the oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until they are beginning to soften.*
~ Add the dry seasonings and the potatoes, stir to coat, and continue cooking another minute or two.
~ In a large beaker, combine the broth, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, Marmite, and Liquid Smoke. Add this mixture to the vegetables, stir, and then pour in the stout.
~ Add the seitan (if using), cover the pot, bring the whole business to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer.
~ Continue cooking, covered, for an hour, until the vegetables are quite soft.
~ In a small bowl, whisk together the soy milk and flour, and add this mixture to the pot. Combine thoroughly, and cook the stew 5-10 minutes more, until slightly thickened.
~ Taste for seasoning, fish out the bay leaves, and serve hot, ideally with colcannon, champ,  and/or fresh soda bread.

*NB: If you are substituting chopped mushrooms for seitan, begin by frying them in a hot skillet in very little fat, until browned and fragrant (7-10 minutes). Shake the pan occasionally to prevent sticking, sprinkle with a little salt, and set aside. Add to the stew along with soy milk/flour mixture near the end of the total cooking time. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Simple Yellow Dal with Spinach

Yes, it's another curry! This one is a simple, comforting dal for those nights when you need a little warming up from the inside. Best of all, it requires very little actual effort, since most of the cooking time takes the form of inactive simmering, giving you a chance to have a drink, make a side dish or two, and/or have a nice, hot bath before adding a last-minute handful of spinach, dishing it up, and feeling the love.

Simple Yellow Dal with Spinach
~ 2 cups chana dal (yellow split peas), rinsed and soaked
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tsp. each: mustard seeds, cumin seeds
~ 1 medium onion, diced
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, chili powder, garam masala, fenugreek
~ 1/2 tsp. each: turmeric, asafoetida, cinnamon, cayenne
~ 1 14 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes, including liquid (about 2 cups)
~ 4 cups good, flavorful vegetable broth (homemade or store-bought)
~ 1/2 lb. frozen spinach
~ 1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro (optional)

~ In a large, deep pot, melt the coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and stir briefly, until they begin to sizzle and pop. Add the onions, lower the heat to medium, and sauté about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
~ Add the garlic, ginger, and dry seasonings and cook for a minute or so, until fragrant.
~ Add the soaked, drained chana dal and stir to coat. Toast for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes and broth.
~ Cover the pot, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, crack the lid, and simmer for an hour, until the liquid has been almost entirely absorbed and the dal is quite soft.
~ Add the frozen spinach and cook 10 minutes more, then stir in the fresh cilantro (if using) and serve hot with steamed basmati rice and/or naan.