PRODUCT OF THE WEEK: STEWED!
Summer such as it was, is almost over. Hurrah, it is my least favourite time of year and I find myself spending most of the months of June, July and August being even more grumpy than usual and just longing for Autumn to come, people to get the hell back to work, the children the hell back to school. And, of course, for the nights to draw the hell in.
Autumn is also the time of year when I don’t have to feel guilty for cooking the sort of food I really like, pies, puddings, curries. Proper food that people keep telling me should be replaced during the Summer months with salads containing bits of exotic fruit and lightly grilled fish with no more than olive oil to hide its blushes.
Now, I can retrieve my slow cooker from the cupboard and turn my attention to my favourite things to eat and in particular, slow cooked stews. God I love stews. I love the simple Cawl of Wales made with no more than water, root vegetables and a few cheap cuts of lamb. I love stews made from humble cuts of beef cooked in beer and served with suet dumplings bobbing on the surface and I love pork stew cooked in cider topped off with a glass of apple brandy just before being brought to the table.
Stews however take time to prepare and sometimes the cravings hit when you have neither the time nor the ingredients to prepare them. That is why I was more than a little interested when the good folk from STEWED got in touch and asked me to try their range of four pre-made stews that you just have to warm through.
Stewed was started in 2007 by Alan Rosenthal and from Monday will be available for those of you too lazy to walk to the supermarket via Ocado. It also gained the approval of the blessed Saint Delia (a good thing) and Peter Gordon (slightly less good as his food is a bit sucky)
I had my doubts. After all, despite trumpeting the provenance of their ingredients, these stews contained things that might make John Bull come over all a quiver ; chorizo, chickpeas and feta to name but three. One even committed the cardinal sin of having no meat in it at all, which in my eyes makes it a soup rather not a stew.
Despite my initial misgivings however and the fact that, as a stew it doesn’t look terribly attractive on the plate, I have to say that the Persian Chicken stew I sampled for tonight’s supper turned out to be very enjoyable indeed. It was full of decent ingredients, showed pleasing absence of additives and came packed with flavour. The chicken retained a bite and had subtle hints of sour cherry and pomegranate molasses added at the end of cooking.
A slight criticism for claiming that each pot contains enough for two people (when plumped out with rice or bread) that’s just silly talk as one person could polish off a pot without it touching the sides and would probably want to. Another for the lack of some good old British recipes in the range (I trust they will follow) but these are minor quibbles about a well made product from people who patently care about what they are doing.
They are never going to be the same as making a home cooked stew, however, when the urge hits for some slow cooked loveliness but the flesh and spirit are too weak to provide, STEWED might just be a good place to turn.