Vietnamese – Italian Fusion

  • Recipe(s): The best stew with potato and arugula cushions (page 105)
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste: Good

We had quite a few fails during the year that we made every recipe from Jamie Oliver’s, ‘Cook with Jamie…’, however the one that I made on this occasion may have taken the cake.

To make a long story short I tried to take a shortcut and bought, what I thought were, fresh pasta sheets from Save on Foods. Needless to say, while they were ‘Fresh’, they were not pliable at all. I thought I’d be able to mold these sheets similar to the way you can mold fresh pasta dough. I knew right when I opened the package this would not be the case. Of course I’d already started the stew and didn’t have time to make fresh pasta dough, nor did I have all of the ingredients to make dough so I had to improvise…

I scoured the cupboards to find a suitable substitute. Low and behold on the top shelf I found some rice paper that I’d used to make spring rolls in the past. While it’s not even remotely close to pasta dough, it did serve the purpose required and allowed us to make the recipe in full.

So, as you can probably tell, the prep got off to a poor start. Aside from the original debacle of not having pasta dough, the rest of the prep wasn’t too hard. Do be prepared that this recipe will take some time to complete. I mean, you are making a stew and those who have made stew before know that going low and slow is the key. So it’s best to get the stew started, pour yourself a glass of red and sit back while it cooks away on the stove-top.

In addition to substituting rice paper for pasta dough we also substituted bison for veal. In hindsight, we probably should have used beef as we both found the bison was a touch too lean for this recipe. Because of its leanness, it seemed to dry out a lot faster than beef would, which was quite unfortunate. The sauce for the stew was nice and rich. It had the classic flavour that you would expect from a stew and was cooked to the perfect consistency.

Rice paper aside, I actually liked the stuffed dumplings that we made. They resembled more of a spring roll than anything. I guess you could call this meal an Italian/Asian Fusion? Maybe I’m onto something here. Anyway, the filling was very tasty. If you have read any of my other posts you know that I’m a fan of arugula. I really enjoy the peppery flavour that it adds as an ingredient – this, combined with nutmeg, butter, lemon zest and potato was delightful and something that I would definitely try again. I do wonder how it would have been in a nice fresh pasta blanket…

While it looked nothing like the picture from the cookbook, it still tasted good in the end. I would probably try making it again with the proper ingredients because I do think that it could be very good.

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Super Stew and Risotto

  • Recipe(s): Leftover stew risotto (page 134) & Melt-in-your-mouth shin stew (page 151)
  • Prep: Easy & Easy
  • Taste: Good & Excellent

One thing that I love….a recipe that is essentially two in one. This is exactly what you get when you make the melt-in-your-mouth shin stew. You get a great stew (1) and you get the base for a pretty decent risotto (2). You just need to make sure that you don’t wait too long to make the risotto, unless you freeze the stew that is required for that recipe. We actually made them less than a week apart from one another, so there was not issue for us.

The prep on the risotto, in this case, was easy. I say this because the stew is already made. All that I needed to do was chop up a little celery and onion, fry it off, add some rice and wine (my favourite) and then the stewed meat. Easy-peazy-lemon-squeezy. Now you may be saying, ‘ya but how easy is the stew to prep?’ It is actually even easier than the risotto. This was probably the easiest stew to prep that I have ever seen. There are minimal ingredients required, which was different from the stews of my childhood, which definitely helped on the prep time. All you do is chop a few veggies, throw them in the pan with some herbs, fry them a bit and toss in the tomatoes, red wine (take a sip for yourself) and the floured beef, and then you are good to go. I was surprised that you don’t fry the meat like you do in most stewing recipes. I anticipated the meat to dry out but it actually didn’t at all.

The stew was excellent. It had a combination of flavours that I had never had in a stew before, which created a nice rich taste. The cinnamon was the star for me. It added a sweetness that is not typical of a basic stew. This combined well with the earthiness of the rosemary and bay leaves. The porcini mushrooms added to the earthiness and the red wine brought everything together, not to mention it tasted lovely on its own! Due to the simplicity of the prep and the excellent flavours that came out of it we would definitely make this stew again.

As the main ingredient for the risotto was the same stew from above it garnered a good rating for taste. While the stew portion was great the rest of the risotto was lacking in flavour. This is definitely not the recipe’s fault but my own. I mean all that the recipe entailed was to fry some veg, add some white wine, rice and stock. I think I messed it up when adding the stock. I personally do not think that I added enough stock mix to the hot water, meaning it was not concentrated enough so the dish lacked a little flavour. Unfortunately, even though the stew was excellent it was not good enough to overcome my error and elevate the flavour of the dish. While it was easy to make I may not try this again as there were other risotto recipes from the book that were better.

We have now completed all of the risotto recipes in the book. I am looking forwarding to completing a few more categories in the weeks to come!