This month Heart of the Matter is being hosted by Michelle of The Accidental Scientist and she has asked us to cook a heart-healthy stew or casserole. Michelle kindly gives some information on the difference between a soup and stew which is very useful to me, given that I often make ‘soups’ that E tells me a spoon could stand up in. She says stews have larger pieces than soup, thicker liquid and more likely to be eaten as a main course. Sounds like my soups!
But I wanted to make a stew or casserole that was different to my usual chunky soups. Unfortunately, it is not really the season in Melbourne to want thick warming stews. I love cassoulet which has gently cooked in the oven or Scotch barley stew in winter but not in summer, even if the weather is mercifully below average temperatures. But mostly I think of meat when I think of casseroles and stews. My mum used to make lots of them when I was a child. Vegetarian meals don’t need the tenderizing that meat needs and I only have one recipe that requires 10 hours of slow cooking (I must dig it out one of these days!).
The recipe I chose is one that I put in my notebooks over 15 years ago in pre-vegetarian days. This spicy prune and bean casserole fascinated me in the days when I was less and less interested in curry chicken, beef stews and sausage casseroles. It still appeals to me as being a little different. I hope it will appeal to Michelle for its health benefits - both prunes and beans contain high levels of fibre and iron.
This casserole is dark and mysterious, sweet and spicy, rich and intense. By itself it is a bit overwhelming. But served with brown rice and some vegetables it is wonderful. I made a salad of pumpkin and sugar snap peas with a tahini salad dressing from Kathryn at Lime and Lycopene (1 tbsp tahini, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp tamari, 2 tsp mustard). The salty bitter taste of the dressing worked well with the sweetness of the salad. But next time I hope the vegetables in the fridge that need to be used are more appropriate – like pumpkin and broccoli. Nevertheless, it is nice to revisit this casserole and to feel pleased to have taken down this recipe so many years ago.
Spicy Prune and Bean Casserole
1 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp finely chopped chilli or chilli paste
½ tsp cumin
125g button mushrooms, roughly sliced
440g tin of kidney beans, drained
100g pitted prunes, halved
2 tsp tomato paste
440g tin tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (I used ½ tsp salt and pepper mixture)
⅓ cup water
Heat oil in a medium size saucepan and fry onions over low heat about 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic, chilli and cumin and fry an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and stir another 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Bring to the boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check seasoning (it gets sweetened as the prunes cook). Serve with wholemeal rice and bread and vegetables.
On the Stereo:
Strange Folk: 19 strange and beautiful tracks celebrating four decades of Twisted Folk – Various Artists