Winter isn't too far away over here in the Eastern Perth Hills, and our beautiful Grand Dogs Kali and Locky are allowed inside this morning as the temperatures plummeted to 6 degrees overnight. So today I have started preparing winter meals to store in the freezer. At this time of year, leading up to Winter, many people succumb to head colds and the influenza virus which can be very debilitating. I am a great believer that Chicken and Vegetable Soups based on homemade chicken stock strengthen our immune system and are also a healthy and warming meal. This helps to defend our bodies against the viruses that are prevalent every year, particularly in the colder climates.
M&M and Hugo are travelling overseas at the moment, so if they arrive home tired and perhaps not feeling too well, there will be a nourishing stockpile of food available for them from their freezer. Busy working families can also do this, by just deciding to allocate a day on the weekend to prepare meals for the week and freeze them or to make some simple but nourishing homemade soups and stews in preparation for those Winter nights when you might be feeling unwell or tired, and don't feel like cooking. We all have nights like that.
Chicken soup and beef stew both start with the the trio of onions, carrots and celery, the magic combination which when sauteed in a combination of oil and butter until the onion is transparent, then forms the base for whatever meat, stock and vegetables you wish to add. This is an economical and time saving way to approach winter cooking, while you have all of these vegetables on hand. I cooked them together this time, but you certainly don't need to.
A carton of Chicken stock or beef stock, or a litre of homemade stock, is added to this trio base of sauteed vegetables and brought to the boil, and then brought back to a simmer. Even if stock isn't homemade and comes from the supermarket it will still be beneficial. Supermarket stock just doesn't contain the gelatine from the bones, which is the beneficial component of homemade stock.
I then add some fresh chopped parsley, some more chopped vegetables such as zucchini, perhaps some barley, about 1/2 cup, and then let it simmer until the barley is nice and soft. I add a little salt or pepper if I think it needs it. Often soup made form homemade stock does need a little salt, as stock should be cooked without the addition of salt.
Beef Stew(Apologies no photos of this, as we just ate it with toast last night.) I will try and add a couple later.
I often cook this stew in my slow cooker at home, however in Matthew's kitchen I am using a large heavy based pot, which will simmer well on the stove for most of the day.
This recipe makes enough stew so that I can freeze half of it in portions, and we can eat the rest during the week. I improvise with this recipe each time that I cook it, that is the beauty of cooking the old-fashioned stew.
1 kilo of Oyster Blade beef cubed, or stewing steak will do although this can be tough
2 chopped onions
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
3 potatoes cut into quarters
2 zucchinis chopped
2 teaspoons mixed herbs, or fresh parsley and thyme (be careful not to overdo the thyme)
1 bay leaf if you have it
1 litre of beef stock or half red wine and stock (I didn't use red wine this time as little Hugo will be eating this as well) Add more liquid later if you need to.
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons good quality tomato sauce
2 tablespoons plain flour
salt and pepper to season
1/2 cup pearl barley (instead of using cornflour to thicken the stew)
I like to coat the cubed beef in plain flour and a bit of salt and pepper first, and then brown the beef in batches on a high heat in the cooking pot so that there are delicious brown scrapings in the bottom of the pan. This is what gives the stew it's flavour. It only needs to be browned though, not cooked through.
Remove the browned beef to a bowl, add a little more oil to the cooking pot and add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute the vegetables on a low heat until the onions are transparent.
Return the beef to the pot, add the stock, or wine and stock, and bring to the boil. Reduce back to a moderate heat and add the potatoes, herbs, sauces, pepper, and barley.
Replace the lid, turn to a low heat, and allow to simmer for a couple of hours. Then add the zucchinis and any other softer vegetables you may want to use and keep simmering until the barley is soft and the beef is tender. This could take up to 4 hours.
Taste it to test if more seasoning is needed and serve with chopped parsley and steamed vegetables, or just have it on toast, particularly if it is Sunday evening. It is full of essential vitamins and minerals.
Once chicken soup and a beef stew are simmering on the stove simultaneously, the work is done really and then it is just a case of keeping an eye on them occasionally to ensure they are still simmering, doing a taste test after a couple of hours to see if more seasoning or herbs are needed. This was also perfect timing as the quarter-final of the Davis Cup was on TV today, and as we are all tennis players we enjoy watching the tennis, so it has been a nice day at home. Jordan Thompson and Nick Kyrgios both won their singles against very accomplished American players today so tomorrow should be a good day of doubles.
Late this afternoon though, we took Kali and Locky down to the park for a game with the tennis ball which they love, and to give us all some exercise. Kali is the black and white Border Collie female, and Locky is the Chocolate and white male. We are really enjoying looking after them while M&M are away.
|She is such a star in the making.|
|A quick little bike ride|
|The dogs keeping an eye on Neil as he mends the gate. There is always work to be done.|