Curried Potato Stew

Curried Potato Stew
Curried Potato Stew, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

This is it, I suppose! At this time of social distancing (and, yes, there is a pandemic going on and yes, if you are not social distancing as much as you can and making light of all this you are in self-denial; and yes, if you think that COVID-19 cases will magically disappear by Easter you are in double self-denial) it is time to get creative with things you may have in your pantry and things you may be able to get from your grocery store.

So, for the next few months what you’ll get here are recipes that are super simple, mostly one pot, and include ingredients like rice, beans, potatoes, carrots, corn, onions… We are back to basics here, like this Italian cuisine inspired Rice and Beans I shared last week!

I will also keep thing brief and to the point. More cooking, less talking! So, here we go: this week I am sharing a wonderful dish that is really all about potatoes. All you need is some onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes and coconut milk or cream. And if you don’t have coconut milk on hand, your can use coconut oil, or a bit of butter (vegan, if you are vegan, or any other kind if you are not – I am totally non-judgmental of people and their food choices and I hope all can just enjoy the meal) and some milk or cream (again: which kind is up to you). The main point of adding coconut milk is to create a rich stew that’s smooth, silky and dense – something that will fill you up and provide some good old comfort in a bowl.

What makes this dish pop are spices! In this case we will be using curry powder and garam masala, two spices I recommend having on hand at all times! (I’m fresh out of curry powder, so that may be a spot of bother to be honest). If you don’t have these, you may want to add a bit of cumin powder and a bit of paprika, or just a bit of nutmeg, a hint of cinnamon, or a dash of allspice. Any combination of these may work depending on your individual preferences, so if you are improvising the best advice I can give you is to follow your nose!

Lastly, I recommend using a heavy pot for this. My go-to is a Dutch oven, but any heavy pot will do. Take care, eat well, pamper yourself and stay well!

Curried Potato Stew

What you’ll need:

  • 4-5 large potatoes (I prefer Russet, but any more starchy variety will do), washed, peeled and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes
  • 4 large carrots, washed and sliced into carrots rings (if you have a 8+ year old kid who needs something to do during this period of no school they can help chop potatoes and carrots)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 13.5 – 14 oz (about 400 ml) can coconut milk or cream (alternatively, 1 cup of cream, or 1 cup of milk plus 2 tablespoons of butter will work)
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala powder
  • water – enough to deglaze the pan (see step one below) and cover your vegetables (step 3)
  • optional toppings – freshly chopped cilantro or parsley, freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice (or if lemons or limes are not within an easy reach you may want to add a small amount of clear vinegar (red wine, apple cider, white or rice will all work here, not sure about balsamic), and a drop or two of hot sauce

What you’ll do:

  1. Place your heavy pot over the high heat and add your onions, carrots and garlic to the pot. You may use some oil if you are using, but you don’t really need to. You will be adding lots of fat later (with all that coconut milk/cream or milk/cream/butter alternatives). Stir frequently to prevent veggies from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add some water (in 1/4 cup increments or so) to deglaze the bottom from time to time. Brown the vegetables for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes, coconut milk (or alternatives) and spices. Mix well and let cook like this with frequent stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add enough water to cover the vegetables well, bring to boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked through. The exact time will depend on how finely you’ve chopped your vegetables!
  4. Once the veggies are cooked, use a stick blender to blend approximately half of the pot into a smooth, silky mix (you can also use a blender to do this, or even your potato masher).
  5. Serve hot in a bowl, topped with any, all or none of the topping listed above. Enjoy!
COPYRIGHT © EAT THE VEGAN RAINBOW, 2020

 

Italian Rice and Beans – Riso e Fagioli (Oil Free)

Italian Rice and Beans
Italian Rice and Beans, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Here where I live, and I imagine where you live too, schools have been closing, events are being cancelled, and most people are advised to work from home and stay away from large gatherings (where I work, we are down to less than 25 people). It’s called social distancing and it is one of the strategies that can help reduce the impact of COVID-19.

In these times of uncertainty and anxiety many will turn to comfort food (I’ve already seen posts about people getting into their Nutella reserves!). And: many will turn to their pantry for the ingredients. So, this recipe is made for such a day, when you want to make something really comforting and filling with things you likely already have on hand: rice and beans.

The recipe here was inspired by an old Italian favorite called Pasta e Fagioli – a pasta and bean soup/stew that is absolutely delicious. This time around I wanted to replace pasta with rice, and see where we end up. Where things ended up was a really rich, and dense stew/casserole dish, with a lot of rich flavors working in harmony!

I took one shortcut to make putting everything together easier and used canned white beans, also known as cannellini beans. Beans are a great source of plant protein and I always have a good supply of canned beans in my pantry. White (cannellini) beans are a fantastic basic bean, and I use them in many different ways, for example in burgers, pasta sauces, or soups. I also used them to make a marvelous mushroom pâté!

If you have dry beans, please remember to soak them overnight before cooking. I recommend that you cook beans first before using them in this stew. The amount of dry beans you need for this recipe is about 1 to 1 1/2 cup, however I recommend that you soak and cook a full batch (in my house that’s usually 1 lbs (about 500 g)), and use the leftover beans for something else, perhaps one of the recipes I listed above. This will save you some time and help with meal prep and batch cooking.

The dish itself is one-pot – all the ingredients go into a single pot, and the lovely meal comes out. Please note that the pot needs to be oven safe, as you will move the dish from the stove top into the oven. I recommend using a Dutch oven or another heavy and sturdy type of pot. If you don’t have such a thing, you can transfer your stew into an oven safe dish and proceed from there. Please note that the food will be very hot, and you  can burn yourself badly if you are not careful!!!

Finally, you have options when it comes to rice. To keep things authentic, you may want to choose a short grain rice, like Arborio, as this will give you a creamier texture. However, you don’t need to lose any sleep over the rice choice here and use whatever you have on hand. As you can tell from my pictures, I used a very long grain rice known as Basmati rice, which is the staple I have in my pantry.

Note: When combined with rice, beans make a complete protein (meaning includes all the essential amino acids that we need), just in case you were wondering. In general, if you eat a varied plant-based diet, you really don’t need to stress over whether you are getting enough protein and whether it is complete, because the quick answer to this is: Yes, you are! Plants have plenty of protein, and people eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains are all set.

Italian Rice and Beans – Riso e Fagioli (Oil Free)

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup rice, washed and rinsed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 sweet pepper, diced (any color or type provided it’s not hot; you can also used frozen)
  • 2/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 14.5 oz (400 g) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 15.5 oz (440 g) can white (cannellini) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups water (or vegetable stock if you prefer)
  • Optional toppings: fresh basil, and/or vegan parmesan, and/or nutritional yeast.

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).
  2. Place the Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the diced onions and dry sauté until soft and slightly browned. You may need to add some water to prevent onions from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. Keep stirring! (Note: If you are OK with using oil in your cooking, you can sauté the onion in some olive oil – 1 tablespoon should be sufficient).
  3. Add the diced peppers, and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes, with frequent stirring, until peppers soften.
  4. Once the peppers are softened, add the tomato paste and mix well. Let the tomato paste bloom for 1-2 minutes with frequent stirring.
  5. Add the rice, beans, herbs, water, and diced tomatoes. Stir well and let come to boil, then transfer into the oven and leave in there for 30 minutes.
  6. Take rice and beans out of the oven and enjoy! I recommend topping each plate with some fresh basil, and if you are not entirely oil-free with a drizzle of good olive oil and/or some parmesan (vegan, for those who are vegan or regular if you are a vegetarian or transitioning to plant-based diet), or some nutritional yeast (that’s my guilt-free favorite!!!). A simple side salad will complete this nicely, but if you are out of fresh produce due to social distancing, a pickle may work just as well!
COPYRIGHT © EAT THE VEGAN RAINBOW, 2020

Balkan Cabbage and Bean Stew

Balkan Cabbage and Beans
Balkan Cabbage and Beans, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Growing up in the Balkans cabbage and beans were unavoidable, especially during the winter months when each household used to have bins of dry beans and barrels of homemade sauerkraut. Although for the most part dishes that I grew up with kept cabbage and beans apart, one of my grandmother’s signature dishes was a cabbage and dark bean stew that was packed with both, as well as with piles of smoked meat. I do remember the taste with fondness, so I wondered if I can come up with a vegan way of making a Balkan style cabbage and bean stew.

This is a straightforward recipe with only a handful ingredients. I recommend using a Dutch oven, or a similar type of pot, and not being afraid of keeping it on relatively high heat to get the onions, which form the aromatic base of the stew, and Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo, brown and caramelize. In looking for an ingredient that can replace smoked meat, I decided to go with this chorizo as I found it to work really well in the past, both in Mexican-style lasagnas, and in hearty soups.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 1
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 1, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
The star of this stew is definitely cabbage and for a big pot you will need lots of it. In principle, you could grab few bags of shredded cabbage and that will work fine, but for best texture I recommend shredding the cabbage a bit more thickly. This time around I used both red and green cabbage, but traditionally this type of stew would use fresh green cabbage or even sauerkraut (don’t laugh until you try it – it is delicious!). And don’t freak out about the volume of cabbage, it will cook down.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 2
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 2, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
One final trick to this stew is creating a bit of a roux to bind the stew together. Traditionally, the roux in the Balkans starts with lard and flour, and it often includes paprika. To keep this stew vegan and gluten-free, I used corn starch and instead of making the roux in a separate pan and pouring it over I simply sprinkled the corn starch and mixed in with the onion, chorizo and wilted cabbage before adding the beans and water.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 4
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 3, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Once you add corn starch, beans and water, as well as whole peppercorns and bay leaves, the rest is easy. You bring your pot to gentle simmer, put the lid on and leave it on low heat. In less than 30 minutes you have your perfect post of a not-so-traditional Balkan Cabbage and Bean Stew which is best enjoyed hot with a piece of freshly baked Balkan cornbread (proja).

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew

What you’ll need:

1 medium head of green cabbage, anywhere between 1.5 to 2 lbs (700 to 900 g)

1/2 small head of red cabbage, anywhere between 0.5 to 0.75 lbs (250 to 350 g)

1 yellow onion, diced

1 Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo

2 15.5 oz (439g) cans pinto beans

3 tablespoons corn starch

2 cups water

3 bay leaves

20 whole peppercorns

Cooking Spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Spray the bottom and the sides of your Dutch oven or a large pot with the cooking spray. Turn the heat on to medium high to high and add diced onions. Let the onions brown for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add soy chorizo (note: if using Trader Joe’s Soy chorizo please make sure to remove the casing before cooking because it is plastic and inedible!), and brown for additional 3-5 minutes.
  3. While onions and chorizo are cooking, shred the cabbage into thick shreds. Add the cabbage into the pot, stir well and let it cook down for 5-10 minutes with occasionally stirring.
  4. When the cabbage has gone down a bit, stir in corn starch. Mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add beans that have been drained and rinsed. Mix well.
  6. Add bay leaves, peppercorns and water. Let the pot come to a simmer than lower the heat to low, put the lid on and let it cook for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Enjoy with the piece of Balkan Style Cornbread!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017