Simmering Stews From Around the World

March 3, 2017

Stew is one of those dishes many of us turn to when the weather gets cold. Simmering stew on the stovetop or in a slow cooker gives the whole house a warm feel and a delicious aroma.

While typically we think of vegetable beef stew when it comes to what to pop in the pot, you can make deliciously different stews with some simple ingredient swaps and use of different spices.

Much Ado About Stew

Stew might just be one of the oldest dishes we have. After all, tossing a variety of vegetables and meats together in a clay pot or urn to make a flavourful thick gravy and thus a hearty and healthy meal made sense to our ancestors for the same reasons it does today. Archaeological evidence has shown even primitive humans used things like turtle shells or large sea shells to cook foods together over fire. 

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Stew is, by definition, are a boiled broth or gravy filled with an array of solid foods. The ingredients you put into it make it different and unique across regions and cultures; Stroganoff, Goulash, and Coq au Vin are all multicultural versions of what we call stew. We’ll now take a look at some other exotic takes on traditional beef stew.

Take a Trip to Morocco

The fragrant flavours of Morocco make this stew recipe from Epicurious both sweet and savoury.  With both olives and raisins, plus spices like cinnamon and cumin it's a major twist on typical beef stew.

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Moroccan Beef Stew

3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 3/4 lb beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup halved pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp lemon peel

Heat 2 tbsp oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper.

Working in batches, add beef to pan and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer to plate. Add remaining 1 tbsp oil, onion, carrot, and garlic to pan. Cook until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add spices; stir 1 minute.

Add broth, olives, raisins, garbanzo beans, and cilantro; bring to boil. Simmer until juices thicken, about 5 minutes.

Add beef and any accumulated juices and lemon peel to pan. Stir to warm through and serve.

Hearty Spanish Stew

The next dish you’ll want to try has it's origins in northern Spain, and versions of it have made their way into cultures across Latin America. Some might call it a soup rather than a stew as it does have a thinner broth, but the addition of vegetables, greens, beans and spicy chorizo sausage make it very hearty. I learned how to make this dish during a stint in the Galician region of Spain and there, potatoes are added too, so I’ve modified this recipe from to add potatoes (replacing turnips in the original).

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Spanish Caldo Gallego

2 cans white beans
6 cups water
1 large chunk salt pork
2 potatoes, cubed
2 spanish chorizo, cubed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic,minced
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb kale; leaves only/chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf, whole

In a large pot heat the olive oil and sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic, chorizo, and the salted pork and simmer until lightly browned and fragrant. Add in beans and water. Allow the water to reduce a little bit before adding the turnips (about 45 minutes). Add potatoes and cook for another 25-30 mins on medium heat or until potatoes are tender. Add kale and simmer another 5 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Try Mexican Flavours

Switching up the traditional beef for pork and adding familiar Mexican spices makes this Yucatan stew different than the everyday. Adding bright flavours such as lime juice, cilantro and jalapeños also give it a depth and interesting complexity.

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Yucatán Pork Stew with Ancho Chiles and Lime Juice

1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 1/2 lb trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large white onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 garlic cloves, smashed
1 lb carrots, cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths
3 ancho chiles, seeded and cut into very thin strips with scissors
3 bay leaves
Pinch of ground cloves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
6 cups chicken stock
6 plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Steamed white rice and sliced jalapeños, for serving

In a very large enamelled cast-iron casserole, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Season the pork with salt and black pepper and add half of it to the casserole. Cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a plate. Brown the remaining pork.

Return all of the pork to the casserole along with any accumulated juices. Stir in the onions, garlic, carrots, chiles, bay leaves, cloves, lime juice and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, nestling them into the liquid. Cover and cook over low heat until the pork is very tender and the carrots are cooked through, about 3 hours. Discard the bay leaves and stir in the cilantro. Serve with rice and sliced jalapeños.

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Mix Things Up!

Whether your preference is for a sweet and savoury Middle Eastern flavour, Mexican heat or something hearty and rich, switching up the flavours in your stew can brighten up a dull winter day.



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