It has been a beautiful autumn with lots of warm sunny days and crisp air full of wood smoke. Such days are hungry-making and kitchens should be stew scented to slake that need. Stew. We use the same word to mean so many different things. Stew is a perfect example. To be stewed is to cook some things together slowly in liquid or it is to be intoxicated. A stew, in addition to being a dish of mixed foods cooked as above, is also a brothel or a district of brothels. While stewing is not only a method of cooking, likewise it is a suppressed state of agitation, worry or resentment. Go figure.
Nor is stew a new idea. The Greek historian, Herodotus, credits the Scythians with the invention of stew, but he is a Johnny-come-lately in this. Archaeologists have found evidence of meats simmered long and slow dating to about 8,000 years ago. Stews have been simmered in everything from animal stomachs to giant mollusk shells. Only 4,000 years ago, the Babylonians were sufficiently fond of their stews to inscribe at least 3 recipes in stone: one for lamb stew with root vegetables, one for lamb stew with milk and grain and one for a vegetable stew. These stone tablets are part of the Yale Babylonian Collection and there are well known chefs working to interpret and reproduce these recipes with modernly available ingredients.
There are hundreds of stew types, at least one for every culture that ever existed and left its mark on the planet. The names alone would keep a team of linguists at work for decades including: gumbo, tagine, goulash, hot pot, slumgullion, feijoada, Stroganoff, puchero, burgoo, bouillabaisse, fricassee, Bourguingon, Waterzooi, cassoulet, kokkinisto and birra. A non exhaustive investigation holds France responsible for a minimum of 13 divergent forms. All of which only proves that, in some cases, you cannot take a good thing too far.
There are dozens of stew recipes on our website, including: Frogmore Stew With Shrimp And Sausage, Pumpkin Pork Stew, Cannellini Stew With Pancetta and Swiss Chard and Filipino Pork Stew all of which are rich and satisfying. For today we are offering a Creamy Lamb and Leek Stew. Like most stews it keeps well and is worth more than one meal.