COOKING STEWS & SOUPS
Listen to the Big Blend Radio interview with Ruth Milstein, author of the Gourmand award-winning recipe book ‘Cooking with Love: Ventures into the New Israeli Cuisine,’ who explains how to make soups and stews (see her tips below), along with her husband Howard Milstein, who shares wine pairing advice. www.RuthMilstein.com.
Stew is similar to soup. Generally, stews have less liquid than soups, are much thicker and require longer cooking over low heat. While soups are almost always served in a bowl, stews may be thick enough to be served on a plate with the gravy as a sauce over the solid ingredients. Hearty soups and stews are actually a meal in itself.
A stew is a combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy. Common ingredients usually include a variety of vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, large colorful peppers as well as parsnip and tomatoes, (you can use tomato paste if you prefer). Meat, poultry and seafood are the main protein used for stews. It helps to coat the pieces of meat with flour before searing. While water can be used as the stew cooking liquid, you can also add wine, beer or stock. Add seasoning according to taste.
Stews can be thickened by mashed potatoes, flour or cornstarch. Cook at a relatively low temperature and let it simmer to allow all the flavors to mingle. It’s okay to use the least tender cuts of meat for they will become tender and juicy as they cook on a low heat. Use fresh vegetables when in season. A good stew almost always tastes better the next day. It can be frozen fresh up to one month.
Stews have been made since ancient times. Amazonian tribes used the whole turtles for stew going back 8,000 years ago. There are recipes for lamb stews and fish stews in the Roman cook books since the 4th century AD. The now famous Hungarian Goulash dates back to the 9th century. The hot Hungarian paprika was added in the 18th century.
Soup is generally a warm meal that is made by combining ingredients such as meat and vegetables with stock or water. Traditionally, soups are classified into two main groups: clear soups and thick soups. Clear soups are bouillon and consommé. Thick soups are creamy, or thickened with vegetable purees, which is the healthiest method. Béchamel sauce, eggs, butter, rice, lentils, flour and any other grains can be used. Soup can be sourced as far back as 6,000 BC.
Always try to use fresh vegetable if possible. Some frozen vegetables can be used like Brussels sprouts or beans. Commercial soups became popular with the invention of canning back in the 19th century. Since the 1990s we have a great variety of canned, ready-to-eat or dried soups that require hot water or milk. Last but not least, fruit soups, can be served warm or cold. Serve cold soup when fruit is in season during hot weather. You can also add dried fruits like raisins and prunes.