In this pre-winter season, Éric Simard, doctor in biology, and myself, international chef of the blog, had the idea of offering you a recipe drawn from Canadian culture.
With these temperatures cooling down considerably, we need to put some fat around our bones! Moreover, at the moment, in our supermarkets, our root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beets, turnips, onions, etc.) are at affordable prices, even almost ridiculous. We must not miss the opportunity to prepare a vegetable stew. Vegetables are of course a key component of healthy longevity and the number of scientific articles published annually on the subject has increased from around 30 in the 1990s to more than 1,000 in 2020 (source PubMed: vegetables and health). The consumption of vegetables is therefore associated with a reduction in mortality from all causes.
If we go back to the days of our grandparents, where everything was handmade, there was a shortage or even an absence of vegetables during the winter. This is why spring and summer were favorable for growing root vegetables, green or yellow beans and cabbage. These vegetables did not require very rich soil to grow. Many of these plants could be stored for quite a long time in the cellars of our thatched cottages in the past. Growing your own vegetable garden was a delight for families, especially for making Canadian stews.
Before and during the winter, the first settlers followed a tradition of cooking vegetables with meat or marrowbones. They wanted to make this dish a consistent family dish that could be reheated. In Europe, and around the world, our Canadian stew has many variations.
The stew contains different vegetables, in addition to those to which we are accustomed, accompanied by several kinds of meats. Some will tell you that you should never use noble meats to make stews. It is imperative to use pieces of marbled meat, not too dry and not too lean, so that the flavor is transmitted to the vegetables through the fat of the meat. Certain meats such as roast (top or bottom) of paddle, beef shank, scoter and shoulder are good choices for this dish.
Here is a bit of a story about a featured vegetable in this stew; turnip or swede! According to many sources, “rutabaga” is a deformation of the Swedish name “rottabaggar” which means “cabbage-turnip”. After investigation, “burp” means root and baggar means rams: rottabaggar would therefore be equivalent to “root for ram”, referring to the widespread use of rutabaga (turnip) as a forage plant throughout its history.
Did you know that swede or turnip is very popular in Swedish cuisine? It is cooked as a succulent gratin with nutmeg. In Quebec, our ancestors called it Siam cabbage. In another century, it was also the name given to kohlrabi by the French who thought they were dealing with a Thai cabbage. It was a name given in the past in Thailand. The turnip is a vegetable that the French consumed in unprecedented proportions at the time of the Second World War. Why? Because this tuber, previously sent to cattle, was not requisitioned by the Nazi occupiers! Perhaps the German soldiers were getting their revenge, the ones who had eaten tons of rutabaga during the blockade of the First World War. The turnip was even used in the composition of bread and coffee!
Turnips were very popular in Europe until the 18th century, when the arrival of the potato pushed it into the background. While so many products were brought to Europe by the Portuguese conquistadors, the turnip was introduced to North America by Jacques Cartier in 1541 along with lettuce and cabbage. It was quickly adopted by the Amerindians who began to cultivate it.
In short, for this month of November, we would like to offer you a reinvented vegetable stew with a very special touch; that of adding a leafy vegetable, mushrooms and a personalized seasoning. Good food and especially good when sharing with our elders!
– 4 to 6 pounds of meat: large bottom and/or top of pallet roast OR top sirloin
– 1 to 2 beef shanks with bone OR 3 to 4 marrow bones (soup bone)
– White flour (a few spoonfuls)
– Salt and pepper
– Very red paprika (regular or Hungarian)
– Vegetable or olive oil
– 10 cups of water, beef or vegetable broth
– 2 envelopes of Lipton onion soup
– 3 to 4 leek whites cut into coarse slices OR 3 to 5 medium onions cut in half, re-cut into four (large dice)
-6 to 8 finely minced garlic cloves
-3 stalks of celery cut into wide diagonal sections
-5 medium carrots or 3 large carrots cut into coarse slices
-1 large turnip (rutabaga) cut into large cubes
– 3 parsnips cut into coarse slices (optional)
– 1 large green cabbage or Savoy cabbage, cut in half, then cut into quarters
– 3 to 4 cups thickly sliced white mushrooms
– Green and/or yellow beans (about thirty)
– 1 large bag of broad or leafy spinach of your choice or green (kale, collard, Swiss chard, etc.)
– Fresh parsley (optional)
– Twenty so-called “new” potatoes (red, white, blue or mixed) OR ten medium-sized peeled potatoes, cut into large pieces
Herbal Bouquet* & Seasoning:
– Fresh thyme (4 to 5 branches)
– Fresh savory (3 to 4 branches)
– Fresh marjoram (3 to 5 branches)
– 4 to 6 fresh or dried bay leaves
– 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
– 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds
– 1 scoop of nutmeg
– 4 cloves
* Note: For the herbal bouquet, here are some details regarding the herbs. They can be tied with a small piece of butcher’s rope or cotton twine. If you choose to infuse the herbs and bay leaves without setting them, remember to remove them when ready to serve. You can put your whole spices in a tea bag or even a tightly knotted piece of cheesecloth (cheesecloth). No one enjoys biting into a whole spice.
- In a plate, put a few spoonfuls of flour with paprika, salt and pepper. This happy mixture will be used to coat your pieces of meat. Take out a large Dutch oven, or even a huge soup pot. The important thing is that it can hold up to about 20 cups of liquid. Knowing your pots well, choose one that has even cooking. Make your garnished bouquets (herbs, whole spices) so that they are already ready for cooking the stew. Flour the pieces of meat (including the marrow bones), then in your pot, sauté them in oil over medium high heat. Sear the meats on each side ensuring a golden-brown color and add your ten cups of liquid. Bring to a boil over medium heat. After a while you will observe a grayish foam (phospholipids) rising to the surface; remove as much as possible until the broth becomes clear again. After a good half hour, your meat will probably start to simmer evenly. Then discard the garnished bouquets and continue cooking for 40 minutes with a half-closed lid.
- One hour and ten minutes of cooking has passed! Now is the time to add the leek and/or onions, celery, carrot rings, turnip, parsnip and onion soup husks. Above all, don’t stress. We want tender meat. Therefore, it takes time. This is why you could chop all of these vegetables, then add them to the boil as you go. Prepare the cabbage, then add it to the boil when your vegetables start to soften. If you choose to use new potatoes, you can add them at the same time. If you are using regular potatoes, wait before adding them because they will cook much faster. This step should take about an hour and a half to cook your root vegetables and make your meat tender.
- Having reached a crucial moment in the amalgamation of the flavors of your stew, it is important to adjust the seasoning. That is to say, salt and pepper as needed. This may not be necessary due to the onion soup seasoning, which is already quite salty. However, you may need to readjust the seasoning at the end because of the addition of the last vegetables. Slice the mushrooms, hull the broad beans, wash the leafy greens except for the spinach which is often pre-washed, not forgetting the regular potatoes, if used. In the case of other leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard or collard, the leaf must be removed from the stem, after that wash them and cut them into large ribbons. Remove the garnished bouquets from the boil. Then add the last cut vegetables to finalize the dish. Their cooking could vary from 20 to 30 minutes. This last step should also allow the meat to be cut with a fork.
- As your feast is about to be served, taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. So, check the tenderness of your last added vegetables which should be cooked. Finely chop the garlic and parsley (if desired) then add them to the boil. You can now turn off the stove to let the garlic and parsley steep for 2 to 3 minutes.
This dish is convivial. It is therefore possible to bring the pot to the table and serve, but preparing portions so that the meat is evenly divided is preferable. Marinades like sweet pickles, chutneys or pickled beets are a must with this dish. We suggest having a whole wheat and/or whole grain crusty bread that will complement the rich flavors of the broth perfectly. Your friends, family and even Grandma’s heart will be won over by this reinvented stew.
In these difficult times, we offer you this comforting dish while wishing that our personalized touch will brighten up your smiles!
- Li et al., 2017. Legume Consumption and All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:8450618.
- Willcox et al., 2014. Healthy aging diets other than the Mediterranean: a focus on the Okinawan diet. Mech Ageing Dev. 2014 Mar-Apr;136-137:148-62.