Sunday, May 17, 2009

pantry stew (a cautionary tale)

Doesn't this stew look awesome? Too bad it doesn't taste that awesome. But don't worry - it's not because this recipe is no good. It's because I can't seem to stop burning things, lately. Usually while I'm goofing around on Twitter. I need to make one of those red circles with a line through it and the Twitter bird and a stove in the background. "Don't tweet and cook." Or something.

Anyhow, I made up this recipe on the spur of the moment when I was hungry last night and wanted to cook something with ingredients that I had on hand. Hence the title (pantry stew). You could also call this "too lazy to go to the grocery store" stew.

Actually, the main motivating factor behind making this stew was that I had a bunch of yellow-eyed peas in my fridge that I'd cooked Thursday night in my crockpot, and I was afraid they'd go bad if I didn't MAKE SOMETHING WITH THEM ALMOST IMMEDIATELY. I'm a little averse to the fart-like rotting food smell that too-old cooked beans make, y'know? I also wanted the stew to be somehow tomato-y, but the only kind of tomato ingredient I had on hand was a jar of spaghetti sauce. Done. But I didn't want a stew that TASTED like spaghetti sauce, so I had to think up some weird new flavour twist to explore. More on that later.

So I started by chopping one sweet Vidalia onion. I think you could use any kind of onion - I just happened to have sweet Vidalias on hand - thanks to my Mom, who had two big bags of them, and was giving some away. I think she might have got them from the Shriners. Whatever - you probably don't need to know why I was using a Vidalia.

I also chopped about five or six stalks of celery, but crap, I forgot to photograph that part. To be honest, this entire recipe is kind of light on informative photos. Above is the chopped celery and onion, sauteeing in olive oil in my soup pot.

Once the celery and onion were a little soft, I added the cooked yellow-eyed peas. You could use any kind of cooked beans in this stew - or even a mixture of beans. If you cook your beans from scratch, use one average-sized package of dried beans. Don't ask me how much that is. Just average-sized, okay? If you're using cooked beans, I'm guessing you'd need about three cans of beans for this recipe, although by all means use less if you're not too fond of beans. Wimp.

Next I peeled and chopped about four large carrots, I think. I didn't want to chop them the same shape as the onions and celery - hence the rounds. Whatever. Add the carrots to the pot.

The infamous jar of spaghetti sauce. Add a jar or can of spaghetti sauce to the pot.

Now comes the interesting part. I decided to add a tablespoon of curry powder to the stew.

And a tablespoon of garam masala (which is an Indian spice mixture, and my latest favorite spice).

These tortilla chips have absolutely nothing to do with the recipe. I just had them sitting on my counter while I was cooking, and thought they looked pretty. So I took a picture of them. I think they would totally taste good with this stew, though, come to think of it. Too bad I ate all of them before the stew was done.

Finally I added a bit of water to the stew, until it reached the consistency I wanted. Don't ask me how much water I added - all I can tell you is it looked like this when I was done.

Awesome, eh? The above picture would be the bottom of the soup pot after I spent too much time on Twitter and accidentally burned my stew. Also, I dropped my camera - really hard - rushing to take this photograph. Good thing my second (and current) camera is a shock-resistant one, eh? (Guess how I destroyed my first camera...)

In an effort to salvage things, I dumped the hot (but not totally cooked) stew into another container, and then went to work on the bottom of the soup pot. Fun stuff. Do I know how to rock my Saturday nights, or what?

Was not too impressed to discover (after scrubbing the pot for five minutes) that the pot seemed permanently stained with burnt. Awesome. Like I need to be reminded, every time I make a new recipe, that I totally sucked at cooking one night. (Epilogue: I got the rest of the burnt marks off the pot this morning. Yay.)

Okay, a little tangent: I blame my stove for all my cooking mishaps. Twitter notwithstanding, if my cute little vintage stove actually WORKED PROPERLY, I wouldn't burn so much food. But this charming antique has only two temperatures: lukewarm, and EXTREMELY HOT. And the burners won't work at all unless you turn them to EXTREMELY HOT first, and then turn them down to lukewarm once they start to heat up.

Perhaps I'm a little lazy, but I figure if the burner is already on EXTREMELY HOT, I might as well get some use out of all that power. So I usually let the pot heat up until the food is bubbling, and only then turn it down to lukewarm. Kind of as a time-saving measure, see? (Mom, you don't have to tell me: I've turned into my father, haven't I?)

I had a friend over today, and she wondered why I didn't ask my landlord for a new stove. But see - a new stove wouldn't look this cute, would it? Nevermind.

After I got the pot cleaned up, I finished cooking the (now smoke-flavoured) stew, and added Herbamare to taste. Which was kind of burnt. The taste, that is. Reminded me of nothing more than campfire food, and I haven't been camping since I was a kid. Also, my apartment smelled like cooked BBQ. Which was not so charming, considering that I'm a vegetarian.

The finished stew. Finally ate some for supper tonight. (Oh - and last night's supper? The rest of the bag of Tostitos and a slab of fudge while I cleaned up the stew fiasco. True.) The stew actually didn't taste that bad, if you plugged your nose to avoid the topnote of burnt. The curry and garam masala really give it a lot of depth. Or something. I'm guessing I would totally love this stew if it wasn't burnt. So there you go. You're welcome.


Lisa said...

When you get a bad "burnt" on the bottom of a pot (after removing what's salvageable), fill with 2-4" water. Bring to a boil. Fling in a HANDFUL of BAKING SODA.

It will bubble-up. Not to worry. Let it boil for a bit.

Most of the "burnt" will lift itself off the bottom of the pan, and the remaining residue is much easier to remove, after the baking soda treatment.

Lisl Armstrong said...


I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog!


Lisl Armstrong