stew ingredients

by Bridget O’Donnell

It’s beginning to look a lot like winter, especially in the freezer…

When it gets cold outside and travel plans don’t seem to be a viable option, comfort foods can turn into a mindful coping strategy to help warm up the kitchen and our bellies. Like the competitive cooking shows I periodically watch at the gym, my only guideline while looking into the freezer was to pair grass-fed beef with the rest of the hand-picked okra that I froze during the 2021 CSA vegetable season.

Based on what I’ve read okra is commonly used in African, Caribbean, Egyptian, Indian, Southern and occasionally Mexican recipes. (Did anyone else just think, Anthony Bourdain?) Okra is often fried or used as a thickening agent in soups and stews but can be an acquired taste for some.

Stews, tangentially, have been a quintessential cuisine in many cultures for centuries. They’re typically simmered over a low-heat for hours and call for few lower-cost ingredients. To me, this ultimately translates into less prep time. Now you may come across the blog entry about family broth that’s been simmering, or at least never completely cold, for three generations in Italy. Or, you may have read about a pot measuring 5-feet in diameter and 2 ½-feet deep with Thai Beef Noodle Soup simmering and drawing crowds in Bangkok for 45yrs. But, the perpetual stew or “hunter’s pot” fell out of favor (due to convenience) around the Medieval period so rest assured there are a number of stew recipes available for your Dutch oven or Crock-pot. Keep it simple. Omit the meat and embody a vegetarian/vegan dish. Or, apply your artistic license to add/blend more seasonal and cultural influences.

Adding a few choice ingredients, including a homemade jar of diced tomatoes (referenced in the October 2021 What’s Cooking blog post) my rendition of Rachael Ray’s “Stewed Beef, Tomatoes and Okra” was ready to serve over rice or noodles with or without a little bread and cheese.

Title of Recipe:
“Stewed Beef, Tomatoes and Okra” – https://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipe/stewed-beef–tomatoes-and-okra

Author of Recipe:
Rachael Ray

What prompted you to check out this recipe?
In 2020 I prepared hand-picked okra in a “Quick Jamaican Pepperpot Soup” which was delicious. This year I used Rachael Ray’s recipe because we agreed it looked good and I wanted to expand my repertoire for dishes that call for okra.

What did you like about this recipe?
The recipe was easy requiring few very attainable ingredients.

What didn’t you like about this recipe?
Because it was a new recipe I probably should have made a smaller batch but I like to alternate and repurpose leftovers throughout the week. Unsuspectingly, I definitely underestimated the idiomatic qualities of okra. By the time we finished the stew, the ‘gravy’ texture was almost too thick and would probably have tasted more balanced with a 2:1 ratio of rice: stew.

Would you recommend this recipe?
Honestly, I would only recommend this recipe if you’ve tried a soup or stew with okra and liked the texture or if the recipe was cut in half. Of course, you could always try adding more meat and/or vegetables if there were leftovers in the refrigerator after two days.

Did you alter the recipe or make any substitutions? If so, what were they?
Yes, I sautéed celery, red and green bell peppers with the onions. And, instead of adding more salt I chose Moroccan Ras El Hanout to add a warmer flavor profile. Tabasco Pepper Sauce was added to individual servings but hot pepper flakes could also have been added or substituted.

A bowl of green okra.
A pot of beef and okra stew next to a pot of rice.

References:

Stewed Beef, Tomatoes and Okra, Rachael Ray In Season / RachaelRayMag.com

Quick Pepperpot Soup / Eatingwell.com

Bamia: Egyptian Okra and Meat Stew / Honest-Food.net

Beef and Okra Stew, Recipe courtesy of Kardea Brown / FoodNetwork.com

Louisiana-Style Picadillo / Pillsbury.com

West African Beef, Plantain, and Okra Stew / MyRecipes.com

“Soup’s On! And On! Thai Beef Noodle Brew Has Been Simmering For 45 Years” (November 3, 20197:00 AM ET), Food History & Culture / NPR.org

“Where is the oldest perpetual stew?” / Quora.com

Quick Subject links to the Library catalog:

Ray, Rachael.
Bourdain, Anthony.
Stews.
Stews. (New Catalog, Vega)
Also try combining Subjects like… Stews. Vegetarian cooking.
Comfort food.