Photo: Lucija Kerecin

As summer draws to a close, the trees start shedding their leaves and turning golden and amber colours, so does our taste change. As days get shorter and colder our stomachs crave warmer and heartier foods, and what’s better for our cold struck, sun deprived bodies than a hearty healthy stew. Root vegetables and squash are basically the mascots of fall, they characterize all that is beautiful about the season. The falling leafs, the golden colours, the spice lattes, the mesmerizing walks in the park, the sound of rain that lulls us to sleep on a beautiful autumn afternoon, the crunching of leaves under our feet, a new found beauty in the bare trees, the coziness of a warm drink . When I think of fall I think of all those things, but I also think of warm hearty, comforting food, like pie, stew, ragout and soup, and my heart skips a beat, because there is something so comforting about fall food. It is filling  yet healthy, it is warm yet energizing, it is all food should be. Even though hearty comfort food sounds unhealthy, it does not have to be the case. Vegetables like pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, zucchinis, sweet potatoes, beetroots are the perfect fall food, yet they have all the necessary health benefits and more. For example, pumpkins can help you sleep, they have very little calories and a lot of fiber and vitamins and there is nothing better than a healthy yet filling autumn meal. We may immediately associate Pumpkins with soup and limited food options but this does not need to be the case. Aside from soup, pies and stews are the best ways to use a pumpkin or a squash creatively, which is why this pumpkin and sweet potato stew might just be your perfect staple autumn dish. Served with a healthy side of herby couscous, quinoa or zucchini pasta, this stew will hit the spot after a hard days work on a chilly fall day, and the best part is, any left overs can be used to make soup or pie the next day which can be just as delicious as the stew of today. The best part of Jamie Oliver inspired stew is that this recipe is easy and quick to make but its incredibly flavorsome and delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic
  • Herbs (choice of rosemary, thyme, bay leaf or any herbs you enjoy)
  • Spices (cumin, turmeric, pepper, salt, aniseed, sweet paprika powder)
  • Half of a butternut squash ( the other half can be used the next day to add substance to your leftovers soup or pie)
  • 1 Sweet potato
  • 1 Carrot
  • Olive oil
  • Splash of Vinegar (apple or red wine)
  • 2-4 Fresh tomatoes (or one tin of plum tomatoes)
  • 500ml of vegetable stock
  • Quinoa, Cous Cous or zucchini

Method:

  1. To start the stew cut up your squash, carrots and sweet potato into small cubes, coat with a tablespoon of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper and coat in crushed spices of your choice. Toss these together and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 200 C˚. When softened and slightly browned, remove them from the oven.
  2. To start your stew, cut up your onion and garlic and fry them in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. When the onions are soft and translucent add a dash of flour, which will serve as a thickening agent for your sauce. Once your have fried the flour for a couple of minutes add in your chopped fresh tomatoes or prepared tinned plum tomatoes. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add in the vegetable stock which you made either from a stock cube or from previously made vegetable stock. Let this simmer for 15-20 minutes until it is slightly thickened. Add in your chosen fresh or dried herbs and stir.
  4. Finally add in the roasted vegetables and simmer for some 10 minutes.
  5. For your side dish, chop up some fresh herbs, such as parsley or mint and prepare 250ml of vegetable stock and 115g of cous cous.
  6. Bring the stock to a boil and remove from the heat, add in the cous cous. Once it has soaked up the fluid, fluff it up with a fork and stir in your herbs. You can do the same with some quinoa, bulgur, polenta or any other grain. Similarly, you can cut up some zucchinis into thin strips with your vegetable peeler and steam for 30 seconds, and serve it as a pasta. I made my stew on a bed of wild rice so clearly the options are endless.
  7. Finally, serve your pumpkin stew on top your preferred grain or zucchini pasta and enjoy the autumn wonderland of flavour in your mouth.

Photo: Alexandra Turcea

This easy recipe yields enough food for 4-5 people. It can be served with a nice summer salad such as tomatoes or lettuce or cucumber for a refreshing touch. Similarly, the dish usually provides some leftovers, which can be turned into a beautiful soup or pie the next day. If you wish to make soup, pour the prepared stew into a deep saucepan and add around a cup of water to reduce the thickness, let it boil, adjust seasoning and when ready, blend with a stick blender until you have achieved a perfectly smooth consistency. Coat with some pumpkin oil and pumpkin seeds and enjoy the soup. If you want to make a pie, warm up the stew with a splash of water, while this is simmering, prepare a pie crust into a baking dish, pour in the stew, cover with more pie dough and bake in the oven. Since the stew is already cooked you can reduce the cooking time by as much as 30-45 minutes as you bake it mainly to bake the pie dough. So when the dough is golden brown it is ready to be eaten in a new and exciting way. This is the exciting thing about fall, there is always something new waiting for us every day. The trees change colour every day, the temperature changes, the weather changes, no day is ever the same. So with all these changes, we can spice up and change our dinner foods and using one stew we can make three different dishes. So dig in, enjoy your hearty stew and take in all the autumnal beauty, and don’t forget that pie and soup, you won’t be disappointed. And don’t forget, you are not limited by any vegetable choices, you can use any number of root vegetables and different squash types to make this stew. Get creative and enjoy that autumn  spirit.

 

 

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