I’m a bit of a daydreamer. It’s what gets me through the week sometimes.
A recurring daydream of mine is that I own and run a mom and pop cafe. Something similar to a place in Victoria called Hot and Cold Cafe. A point of reference for my Ottawa friends would be The Wild Oat; for my Toronto St. Clair West friends, Baker & Scone. Small menus, few tables, creative and ever-changing recipes. Baked goods, hot soups, maybe salads, probably sandwiches. Everything would be relatively low in carbs. I could market it as gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly, and low-glycemic for diabetics.
Sounds like a pretty reasonable daydream, right? Sadly, not really achievable. Cooking and baking this way isn’t cheap. It’s become an expensive hobby for me since I’ve oddly developed an insatiable sweet tooth in the last few years and I can’t imagine making a profit using the ingredients required. I spend a fortune on almond flour alone. I make my own on the occasion, but it works out to be about the same in cost to just buy the almonds.
Sometimes I do wish I were more of a risk taker. Or that some cool business-savvy benefactor would appear in my life right about now. There’s nothing I love more than sharing my baked goods with people and proving that you don’t need to bake with wheat and sugar to come up with something amazingly delicious.
I’m trying to get back on that soup game and cool it with baking for a while to relieve my bank account just a bit. So, now that it’s officially fall, here’s a festive stew to kick off soup season!
Salt and pepper
This stew involves a lot of prep work. The easiest way to do it, in my opinion, is to get the meat ready first and to prep the rest once you’ve got the meat simmering in the broth.
Leave the beef out to come to room temperature. I usually take it out of the fridge at least an hour ahead of time. Pat it down with paper towels so it’s relatively dry and season with lots of salt and pepper.
Heat a large stock pot on medium high heat and add the oil and half of the butter. Working in a couple of batches as to not crowd the pot, brown the beef on both sides – no need to cook the meat all the way through in this step. You’ll know it’s done browning when the beef releases from the bottom of the pot and it’s a dark caramel colour. If the beef is sticking to the pot, it’s not done yet – wait a few more seconds! Take your first batch of beef out and set aside. Butter the pot again and repeat.
Once the meat is out and set aside, deglaze the pot with the bottle of wine and stock. Get all of the browned bits up from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Turn the heat up to high and when the broth is steaming, add the beef, the juices in the beef dish, smashed garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, tomato paste, and a bit more salt and pepper. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to medium low to simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Cover and reduce to low heat to simmer for about two hours.
This is where I get my pumpkin, parsnips, and pearl onions ready. Two hours is plenty of time to peel and cube a pumpkin and to peel a tonne of pearl onions; two incredibly daunting and time consuming tasks. Parsnips are pretty straightforward.
The best and fastest way to peel pearl onions is to blanche them. Put them into boiling water for about 30 seconds and plunge them into ice water. That way when you cut the bottoms off, the peel can easily be squeezed off from the top.
I honestly have never really known the easiest way to prepare a pumpkin, so I googled it and found this incredibly helpful chef. And you truly do need a sharp knife for this.
After two hours of simmering, add the pumpkin, parsnips, and pearl onions to the pot. Leave uncovered and crank the heat back up to medium to simmer another 30-45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the herb stems, bay leaves, and serve.
Serves 6 – 8