Make Ahead Monday: Pork Stew with Indian Flavors

It’s Monday, y’all!  I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and a fun, relaxing holiday weekend.  And since it is Monday, that can only mean one thing – yes, it is time for  Make Ahead Monday!

Nope, I still haven’t figured out the “cut and paste code” thing, but that’s okay.  Come on, food bloggers – I know you’re out there, so link up a recipe that can be made ahead!   It doesn’t have to be posted on your blog today – any time in the past will work.  All I ask is that you link back to this post and make sure it’s all real food ingredients.

As for my recipe, this is one of those dishes that benefits from sitting in the refrigerator overnight, for it is even better the next day.  And don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients; they’re mostly spices, and this dish is quite simple to prepare.  If you don’t want to have to tend the stew on the stove, simplify it even further and just combine all of the ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

The stew itself is very rich and very filling – the recipe says it serves 10, and that’s pretty accurate; the servings are substantial, but not huge, but they don’t need to be.  Nor is it sweet, despite the addition of the squash and the raisins.  Because of the long cooking, the butternut squash cooks down into a thick and creamy sauce, eliminating the need for additional thickeners.  This is quite delicious served over steamed jasmine rice, or grated cauliflower “rice” if you’re watching your carbs or avoiding grains.  I also served this with oven-roasted asparagus, and it was a big hit.

If you don’t eat pork, this would be quite good with cubed boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Pork Stew with Indian Flavors

Pork Stew with Indian Flavors

serves 10

2 tablespoons lard or other cooking fat
2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder or picnic roast, cut into 2″ cubes
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
1 medium onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 pinch allspice
1 pinch ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup raisins
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 can (15 oz) coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the lard or cooking fat in a large Dutch oven, preferably cast iron, over medium high heat. Add the pork and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until pork is nicely browned and the onion is soft. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the garlic and spices and continue cooking until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock to the Dutch oven, then the coconut milk; stir in the butternut squash, followed by the raisins. Reduce the heat to low; cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender and the mixture is thick and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over steamed jasmine rice or grated cauliflower “rice.”

Nutrition (per serving): 511 calories, 35.8g total fat, 85.8mg cholesterol, 227mg sodium, 981.4mg potassium, 26g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 8.4g sugar, 23.7g protein.

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Make Ahead Monday: Shepherd’s Pie with Asian Flavors

After one of my readers asked that I develop some slow cooker recipes (hi, Jen!!), Beloved started suggesting I do a weekly blog carnival featuring meals that can be made ahead, either in terms of something you can put in the slow cooker in the morning or something that can be made ahead, say on the weekend, and reheated or fully cooked later in the week, that others can link up to.

So I give you Make Ahead Mondays.

I don’t expect a lot of participation right away (frankly, I’ll be amazed if I get any links today), but I intend to be patient and keep this up for awhile.  I know that a lot of my readers are working people who often find it difficult to find the time to cook nutritious meals every evening, especially during the week.  If this idea catches on, it will be a great way for those of us with blogs to exchange ideas for meals that can be made ahead and served quickly on a busy weeknight, and for those readers without blogs to find inspiration.

My first entry is Shepherd’s Pie, a pretty easy casserole that classically was made with the meat leftover from a Sunday roast (and you can still go that route if you like – it’d be a great way to use those leftovers).  However, I made this with 2 pounds of grass-fed ground beef that I’d taken out of the freezer and just didn’t know what to do with; neither meatloaf nor hamburgers sounded all that appealing.  And since Shepherd’s Pie recipes are fairly ubiquitous on the internet – and basically the same – I decided to mix things up a little bit, giving it an Asian flair.

I cannot even begin to describe how delicious this was.  I wasn’t sure how well the Asian flavors would translate into what is traditionally a British dish, but it really could not have come out any better – warm, comforting, hearty and still slightly exotic, but not unduly so.  Folks, this is my idea of comfort food, and Beloved loved it too.  And since it reheats so well – we ate it for lunch for the next two days – it seemed a logical choice for my first Make Ahead Monday post.

If you decide to freeze it, either thaw it and allow it to come to room temperature before placing it in the hot oven, or you can leave it frozen and place it in a cold oven that your bring up to the correct temperature – 350 F – but you will likely double, if not triple, the baking time.

Please don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients or the lengthy directions – this really came together quite quickly and easily.

Shepherd’s Pie with Asian Ingredients

Shepherd’s Pie with Asian Flavors

serves 8

3 pounds sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 large)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon tallow or other cooking fat
2 pounds ground beef
2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
1 cup carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the bias
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup onions, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with water; add a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and place in a food processor with the ginger and coconut oil. Whisk the coconut milk and water together in a large measuring cup; process the potatoes, adding the coconut milk mixture in a steady stream until the potatoes are a smooth but thick puree. Taste, season with salt and pepper as needed and set aside.

Melt the tallow in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan in a single layer and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef to the skillet, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula. As the meat browns, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked through and the onions are beginning to soften. Drain the fat from the pan and discard.

Return the browned mushrooms to the pan, and toss in the carrots and celery; pour in the beef stock and soy sauce. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Whisk the arrowroot into the water and stir into the mixture in the pan; cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened. Taste, and season as needed with salt and pepper.

Pour the meat/vegetable mixture into a 2-quart casserole. Carefully spread the sweet potato puree evenly over the top. (At this point, the casserole can be tightly covered and refrigerated or frozen.) Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the sweet potatoes lightly browned on the top. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 559 calories, 32g total fat, 86.8mg cholesterol, 580.8mg sodium, 1170.3mg potassium, 42.3g carbohydrates, 6.4g fiber, 9.6g sugar, 25.4g protein.

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PLEASE – post recipes with whole, real food ingredients only. Dairy, sprouted grains and legumes and natural sweeteners are allowed, but recipes containing processed or refined ingredients or vegetable oils will be removed. Thanks for your cooperation!

Tajaditas Dulces de Platano

As the voting for Shape.com’s Best Healthy Eating Blog competition winds down, I am now a “front-runner” (apparently 7th place out of 20 makes me a front-runner) and have been asked to submit a short essay about myself and my blog (thank you SO MUCH for your help, Jen!!) which I’ll post here as soon as they tell me what format to submit in.

Aw, to hell with it – they’re getting a Word document.  I just hope they can read it.

This week, I’m going to talk a bit about something called The 80/20 Rule.  Popularized by Mark Sisson (sorry, Beloved, I know you’re upset with him because he hasn’t mentioned the Shape.com contest), it’s the idea that if you eat “cleanly” 80% of the time, you can eat less desirable foods the remaining 20%.  For some people, that means not necessarily sticking to their diet when they go out to eat, for some it includes things like the occasional beer and pizza, and for a few it means potato chips, ice cream and candy bars.

Because I simply cannot tolerate gluten-bearing grains or cow’s dairy at all, for us it means things like using more natural sweeteners than we probably should and occasionally consuming legumes, white rice, corn and white potatoes.  The corn and potatoes are mostly seasonal additions to our diet – we eat them two or three times in the fall when they’re at their peak – and the white rice is almost exclusively an indulgence when eating at our favorite Japanese restaurant.  Legumes, mostly in the form of properly prepared dried beans, have become a recent occasional indulgence – but more on that in a couple of days.

Another part of the 20% in our household is indulging in the occasional non-local (but still organic and sustainably grown/sourced) food.  This weekend we visited a marvelous natural foods store in Akron and purchased squid, sea scallops and 3 large plantains.  The squid and scallops are on the menu for later this week, and the most ripe of the plantains became part of breakfast Sunday morning in the form of this delicious South American/Caribbean side dish.

Tajaditas Dulces de Plantano roughly translates into sauteed sweet plantains (tajaditas is the diminutive form of tajadas, which means “slice” or “slab”).  Rather than sauteed, these are fried in coconut oil but you can also use a combination of olive oil and butter if you prefer.   Make sure your plantains are very ripe, or the taste and texture of the dish will suffer.

Tajaditas Dulces de Platano

Tajaditas Dulces de Platano

serves 3

¼ cup coconut oil
1 large very ripe plantain, peeled and cut in 1-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
kosher or sea salt, to taste

Heat coconut oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Gently toss plantain slices with brown sugar, then place into hot oil. Fry until the plantains begin to turn golden brown and the sugar begins to caramelize, about 2 or 3 minutes per side.

Drain plantains on a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt before serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 161 calories, 9.3g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 2.4mg sodium, 297.7mg potassium, 21.4g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 11.3g sugar, <1g protein.

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Beef and Butternut Squash Stew with Moroccan Spices

Rumor has it that today and tomorrow are going to be the two coldest days of the year.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems to be true here – it is 11 degrees this morning (that’s -12 to all my Canadian/European readers) here in Podunk and is supposed to drop to a whopping 1 degree (-18) tonight.

Brrrr.

So, here’s a bold little stew to help keep you warm.  I used butternut squash in it because it’s what I had on hand, but you could use any root vegetable, tuber or winter squash you have lying around.  However, the sweetness of the butternut squash was really complimented by the spices; the raisins were a nice touch, too.  This also reheats very well.

And have a lovely Wednesday, y’all.

Beef and Butternut Squash Stew with Moroccan Spices

Beef and Butternut Squash Stew with Moroccan Spices

serves 6

2 pounds round roast, cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons beef tallow
4 cups beef stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 large onion coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 pound butternut squash peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup golden raisins

Melt the beef tallow or other fat in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the meat and sear, stirring frequently, until the cubes are browned on all sides. Season with the salt and pepper.

Lower the heat to medium; add the onion and cook until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the paprika, cumin and cinnamon to the meat/onion mixture in the Dutch oven. Cook, stirring frequently, for a minute or two until the mixture becomes very fragrant.

Stir the beef stock into the mixture in the Dutch oven. Cover and reduce the heat to low.

Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat becomes fork tender. Uncover and increase the heat to medium; add the butternut squash and raisins and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until the squash is easily pierced with a fork and the liquid has reduced, giving the dish a stew-like consistency.

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Posted in participation with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday