Cajun Stew

I get these moments when I'm at Lim's, my favourite joint for picking up fresh fruit and vegetables. That day, I had potato asparagus, beetroot, courgette, tomato, beef... All ingredients for a different dish. I then spotted something they didn't usually have, and isn't commonly available where I am. OKRA. To me, a mystical little vegetable, full of potential. My mind conjured up ghostly flavours of cajun deliciousness and I came up with this little number...

Ingredients (makes heaps, like 8-10 servings)

For the spice mix

- 2 Tbsp Onion Powder

- 2 Tbsp Onion Flakes

- 3-4 Medium Bay Leaves (fresh, better. I didn't have any, all good still.)

- 3 Tbsp Dried Oregano

- 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

- 1 Tbsp Dried Rosemary

- 2 Tsp Himalayan Pink Salt

- 1 thumb fresh Turmeric (if you don't have this, you can use ginger, just half the amount

- 1 Tsp Hot Paprika

- 2 Tsp Smoked Paprika

- 2 Tsp Black Pepper

- 8 Garlic Cloves, minced

- Butter

- Oil

Stewing Ingredients

- 3 Red onions

- 10 Okra, half sliced lengthways, half roughly chopped crossways

- 200gms White button mushrooms

- 3 Medium courgettes

- 5 Medium/Large Potatoes, preferably agria or similar, cubed.

- 3 Spears of Asapargus per serving

- 1 Medium Beetroot, cubed.

- 800gms of Beef Brisket, more if you're feeling really carniverous. Slice small if you're shorter on time, bigger if not.

- Molasses

- Lime Juice (about 1/4 cup)

- 1 Tin of Tomatoes

Tools

Stock Pot

Chopping Board

Bowl for Blanching

Frying Pan

Wooden Spoon, or other stirring tool.

Method

Roughly Chop your red onions. Just some advice for the rest of the recipe: roughly chop everything - in my opinion, size matters when it comes to a stew. Given the length of cooking, things can dissolve and lose their presence in the dish. Chop rough for texture, and big for distinction of flavour.

Saute your red onions with a lug of oil and a tablespoon of butter. Lower heat once softened, add all of your spices, and 3 tablespoons of molasses. Fry off your spices as you would a curry.

Brown your beef in batches in the frying pan with a little oil. Add the beef to to the spices and onion.

Fill with water, add two tablespoons of molasses and the tin of tomatoes. Cover, and gently simmer until meat is tender (about 2 hours).

Time for vegetables. You're adding the roughly chopped beetroot, potatoes and okra at this point. Add water to cover. The okra should thicken up the stew nicely, the fresh beetroot should darken it to a beautiful crimson hue and the potato will give it a bit of heft. When the potato and beetroot are nearly cooked, throw in your courgette and mushrooms. I like to rip my mushrooms. I think it looks cool. These last two won't take long.

Simmer your stew (low heat, lid off). Stir occasionally: This meal has bit more sugar than your average stew; you don't want it sticking. But don't stir too much, you don't want it breaking down your ingredients too much.

Mix together equal parts molasses and lime juice, (1/4 cup each is fine). This is your dressing. Drizzle that tangy sweet awesomeness over your meal when you go to serve.

Your stew is ready when your meat breaks apart when pressed with a fork, and your potatoes and beetroot are tender. A lot of other stews put everything in at once (crockpot devilry) but I think the staggering of ingredients brings a bit of subtly to something that can be quite... mono-textural and mono-flavoured.

Season well before serving, salt and pepper.

Serve with some crusty bread (personally I like a few lumps of white bread dried out in a warm oven - chewy, slightly crisp, holds together well when soaking up juices.

Drizzle some molasses mixture over for a bit of zing.

Enjoy!

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