A Winter stew or casserole can be a cost effective and nutritional family meal that can be altered to seasonal and regional foods available and to personal tastes, there are many recipes and traditions of pot dishes around the globe.
Mum’s signature Farmhouse Stew has been a family favourite for generations. O’s and X’s are hugs and kisses, just so you know, and not a brand name. ☺ This stew creates that wonderful hug that warms your soul, the kind your mum gives you when you’ve had a hard day, or the kind your grandma gives you when she knows you’re feeling under-the-weather.
My mum, Joyce, or “grandma-Joyce.” Made this deep pan of farmhouse chicken stew on just those occasions, it’s the definition of a hug in a bowl. Joyce was trained as a cook in her younger years whilst living in Hampshire and worked all the hours of the day with her friend and boss Mrs Symonds, which she would reminisce about. They regularly catered for the large estates, the “big” houses as they called them.
Mum’s speciality was pastry and her signature dish was Beef Wellington. Her most memorable guest to have chosen her Beef Wellington from the menu was the Queen, I think it was her proudest moment.
Since mum is sadly no longer with us, I’ve taken up the challenge of making her Special Farmhouse Stew for the generations to come. I see it as a way of passing on the baton, or passing on the hug.
Difference Between a Stew and Casserole
A stew is traditionally cooked in a large pot on top of the stove, heated from the base, where a casserole is cooked in a covered pot in the oven and the name casserole comes from the name of the pot it is cooked in. English, Welsh and Irish traditional dishes, which are especially warming and comforting foods in winter months have often been hearty pot dishes, another example is a Lancashire Hot Pot, a Welsh Cawl, a Scottish Stovie or a Dublin Coddle.
Nutritional and Cost Effective
Using lots of seasonal vegetables in a stew, a hearty soup, or casserole is a good way to boost your family daily vegetable intake. Not an exact quantity or variety either, a stew or casserole can be changed to suit taste and availability of ingredients, use up what you have to save waste. Seasonal vegetables can be more cost effective, healthy and fresh. When slow cooking meats, the final results are more flavoursome and tender, this can allow for less expensive cuts to be used in cooking while still having a delicious home cooked meal for the whole family to enjoy.
I like to serve a big flavoursome bowl of farmhouse stew with a chunk of my easy homemade olive and tomato speciality bread. The bread baking, so I’ve heard, was from my father’s genes, apparently, he was a good bread baker.
The olive bread goes well with this stew in flavour and in name, for my mum’s middle name was Olive! A recent recipe I have discovered for Irish soda bread goes perfectly with a winter stew or casserole.
When my four kids were little, she would always have bits and pieces handy in the cupboard for when they came over, like grandmas do! As for the vegetables in mum’s kitchen, Joyce would grow the vegetables herself, we always had a double allotment plot and grew copious amounts of all kinds of vegetables and fruit.
When she made her special farmhouse stew, she would add a small tin of spaghetti (that she’d put by for the grandkids) at the end, just before serving up in a deep bowl with some creamed potato. My lot still ask for grandma’s Special Farmhouse Stew even now, and the eldest 2 lads are grown up and flown the coop!
I can’t help but think, wouldn’t it be a shame if I didn’t pass this recipe along the generations, it’s already come a long way from my grandma Alice’s farmhouse kitchen in Hampshire and along the maternal line to my mum Joy who passed the recipe on to me although it was rarely written down and has changed a little through the ages, for example, I’m sure grandma Alice would have used lard in her cooking, not cooking oil and I know she wouldn’t have used peppers.
I think it’s good to pass on a hug whenever you can and for whatever reason one may be needed. Who needs a reason for a hug anyway? Enjoy a big warm hug in a bowl!