When we first moved to London with our small children eleven years ago, I found myself quite naturally watching cooking programs on the television. There was little else to watch and as my children went to bed early and my husband was working with a big firm in the city, I had little else to do.
One of the first programs I came across was Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef and the first recipe I watched with pen in hand was his Andy the Gasman’s Stew. At the time my children were just beginning to eat proper meals with us as a family and this one looked like a stretch with its spices and veggies but I thought I would give it a try.
One of the things I love about Jamie’s way of cooking is that he is never precise. He cooks like my grandmother, a little of this and a little of that and is quick to suggest that you make the recipe your own by adding to or taking away from his original recipe.
The first thing I did was add sweet potatoes and parsnips, two foods I knew my children would like. The second key was in involving my children in the process. My daughter was younger so I had her zest the orange, this has recently been adopted by my son, Zane. It was a messy process but she loved it. I had my son pick the leaves off the rosemary and we began. These days even though they don’t have to be coaxed into eating it. The older two help me with cutting the veggies while we cook together.
I don’t know whether it was because of their involvement or because the house smelled wonderful while the food was cooking but whatever happened, this quickly became a favorite in our house.
2 white potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
2 sweet potatoes, not peeled but cubed
2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
1 level teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaped tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 pound of stewing steak, or pork, cubed. I have tried all three and prefer the beed but it is also good with no meat.
1 14 ounce can of of good-quality cooked chickpeas, drained
1 28 ounce can of good-quality plum tomatoes, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your oven. You can cook this in three hours which would mean a temperature of 350 or you could cook it over six hours which would be a temperature of 275.
Put a large thick bottomed pot that is also oven safe on the stove and add the olive oil. I am pretty generous with the olive oil here. Heat the oil on high and then add the first ten ingredient to the mix. Cook for just one minute before adding the drained chick peas, the pepper flakes and the tomatoes. Mix it all together, add the meat, season with salt and pepper, cover with water and put the whole pot with a lid in the over for three or six hours.
Jamie suggests that you add yoghurt and some fresh coriander but as a family we prefer it without. This makes a lot of stew giving us leftovers throughout the week. When the kids were younger I did not appreciate this. Now that I have two teenagers in the house, I love it.