Matt Pre­ston:

On the ul­ti­mate win­ter braises

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASSIE LIVING - @mattscra­vat @MattsCra­vat MATT PRE­STON

AH,THE com­fort of the casse­role,the beauty of the braise, the sim­plic­ity of a stew. Is there any meal more redo­lent of win­ter than some­thing bub­bling away mer­rily on the stove­top or slowly in the oven? The very act warms the kitchen and the whole house fills with the heart-warm­ing aroma of home.

Strange, then, that casseroles and stews seem to have fallen out of favour as we cast ad­mir­ing glances the way of tray bakes and all man­ner of ‘bowls’ in­stead. Oh, fickle us.

Casseroles and stews aren’t just some­thing your grandma made when she lived in a bark hut in the bush. They’re beau­ti­fully sim­ple, one-pot won­der­ous ways of cook­ing (with min­i­mal wash­ing-up) and we just need a lit­tle ad­ven­tur­ous­ness to rein­vent them for a new gen­er­a­tion. Here are four great ideas that will get your fam­ily re­assess­ing the hum­ble stew.

A QUICK CHEAT’S CASSOULET

The French re­ally are the masters of the braise with all their daubes and dishes like boeuf Bour­guignon, chicken Nor­mandy, cooked with cider and cream, and coq au vin. My favourite, how­ever, are the bean-laden cas­soulets of the coun­try’s south-west.The trou­ble is that a good cassoulet takes an age to make prop­erly; if you make it quickly you in­vari­ably fail to get the won­der­ful lip-stick­i­ness that’s very much the de­li­cious joy of this pork and bean dish.

At least that was un­til we per­fected the cheat’s cassoulet.The recipe uses more fa­mil­iar pork snags and chicken thighs rather than duck and es­o­teric sausages or salted pork belly, but it still achieves that de­li­cious meaty stick­i­ness with the cun­ning ad­di­tion of a cou­ple of tea­spoons of pow­dered gela­tine (see Matt’s recipe for a sim­ple French cassoulet at de­li­cious.com.au.)

In­ter­est­ingly, coq au vin was orig­i­nally made with white wine rather than the red we more usu­ally use these days and that makes for a sur­pris­ingly good vari­a­tion to this French clas­sic.

UN-ITAL­IAN LAMB PUTTANESCA

For all their off-hand­ed­ness and re­laxed out­look, Ital­ians are pretty rigid when it comes to food and fash­ion.To test this,try wear­ing a yel­low Pringle jumper tied round your shoul­ders at the wrong time of year, or or­der a latte af­ter din­ner. At the risk of of­fend­ing them, how­ever, I’ve al­ways felt the clas­sic Neapoli­tan puttanesca sauce was wasted served just on pasta. It seems to of­fer so much more given how toma­toes, ca­pers, olives and an­chovies love both fish and lamb so very much.

For fish with puttanesca, fill a warmed casse­role to thumb-deep with hot puttanesca sauce and pad­dle firm white-fleshed fish in the hot sauce and roast in the oven. For full recipes for my su­per-easy fish puttanesca, lamb puttanesca and puttanesca with mus­sels and orec­chi­ette head to de­li­cious.com.au.

GHANAIAN PEANUT STEW

There’s much stewin’-spi­ra­tion to be found in the kitchens of sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, from Botswana’s pounded beef, or seswaa, to Nige­ria’s egusi, but the African dish tipped by US hos­pi­tal­ity pun­dits as a pos­si­ble break-out braise for restau­rants in 2018 is the gor­geous peanut curry (aka nkatenkwan) from Ghana.This stew of chicken seared off with gin­ger, gar­lic, hot chilli and sweet potato, and fin­ished with peanut but­ter and toma­toes is tipped as be­ing fa­mil­iar enough in flavour, tech­nique and in­gre­di­ents that it won’t scare off US din­ers who still want a bit more ad­ven­ture (but not too much) when they eat out. It’s a su­per-easy stew to make at home, with the peanut but­ter adding a lovely rich­ness and vel­vet mouth­feel.The tra­di­tional carb served with it is fufu (typ­i­cally made by pound­ing cas­sava and green plan­tain), but since the in­gre­di­ents are hard to find un­less you’re in, say, Ac­cra, try brown rice.This West African clas­sic has al­ready made an early ap­pear­ance in MasterChef this sea­son, per­haps con­firm­ing that it’s time has come.

BEEF RENDANG

Malaysians are ob­sessed with food to such a de­gree that Dr Ma­hathir Mo­hamad’s weigh­ing into the re­cent ‘crisp rendang’ con­tro­versy to de­fend one of Malaysia’s na­tional dishes dur­ing the re­cent elec­tion cam­paign could be seen as a play for the pop­u­lar vote. If so, it cer­tainly worked – he de­posed one of the world’s longest­serv­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

A good rendang should be fra­grant, with a thick, cooked-down, sauce that is dry and dense rather than sloppy, and with a slight squeak from the toasted co­conut. When choos­ing a recipe, the picture will tell you so much.Also,be sure to use kaf­fir lime leaves (they’re sold in su­per­mar­kets), both to cook in the sauce and to slice ra­zor-fine and sprin­kle over the top for gar­nish. Buy ex­tra – they keep well in the freezer.

For eight more bril­liant braises that are a lit­tle off-piste, see Matt’s ex­tended story at de­li­cious.com.au. You’ll also find more than a win­ter’s worth of warm­ing braise recipes.

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