Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fall Means Batch Cooking - Part I - Stews (Chili and Curry)

So, it's getting chillier at night, sweaters are coming out of storage and thoughts of warming comfort food are replacing obsessions with grills and smoke.

Now, my favourite type of cooking when not using the BBQ is also pretty much the easiest: Get a big pot, throw ingredients in the pot, cook and stir for a few hours, serve piping hot. Pretty damn simple, right? And the great thing is that if you're a single guy like me, you can feed yourself for almost a week on one batch! That's if you don't mind repeated leftovers... Lord knows I don't.

Batch cooking basically involves three S foods: soups, stews and sauces. A good thick soup makes as satifying a meal as any steak ever could. A hearty stew filled with all kinds of veggies and meat sometimes makes the difference between hiding under blankets all day or hiking in autumnal splendour (or heading out drinking with the boys). And what is life without the occasional heaping plate/bowl of pasta drowning in a rich tomato-based sauce?

Now over the years I've developed some favourite "bunch-of-food-in-a-pot" recipes that I want to share with you. So let's give 'er!

1 - Chili

Let's start with EVERYONE's fall favourite. Who can deny the joy of a hot bowl of chili on a blustery Sunday watching football? With a cold one on the side and some fresh bread, you have an epic afternoon/evening sown up! Let's just hope your lady/gentleman friend aren't averse to gas...

Chili is as personalized as your dental records; no one makes it the same as anyone else. And usually no one makes it the same way twice. I find chili is the ultimate experimental recipe. You can throw all kinds of neat stuff in there and it'll generally still be delicious. There are some basic ingredients you need: kidney beans, meat (unless you're making vegetarian chili), garlic, onions, tomatoes, chili powder, and tomato paste. Everything else is up to you. What I present to you today is the basics of the chili I've been making for years, but I've since made several tweaks. More on that after the recipe...

Nick’s Chili – large order


2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg. medium ground beef (or ½ kg. ground beef & 300-400 g. cubed steak)
5 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 red, & 1 yellow or orange pepper, diced thickly
2 large onions, diced
4-6 ripe tomatoes, pureed
2 cans tomato paste
3 cans red kidney beans (rinse most of the juice from beans, add a small amount to chili)
1-2 cups Creemore lager (or your favourite beer)
1 cup veg. juice (e.g. V-8, if required, for liquid)
chili powder to taste
3 tbsp salt
hot sauce to taste
1-2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp dry coriander
3 tsp cayenne (more to add desired heat)


- in a large pot, sauté meat and garlic in olive oil
- add some chili powder and cayenne
- after 5 mins., stir in beans, tomato, tomato paste and beer (and veg. juice if needed)
- cook until everything begins to boil together, approx. 15 mins.
- add peppers and onion and rest of spices
- simmer until desired consistency is reached (about 90 mins. – in order to keep veggies slightly crisp, more if you like them mushier), stirring every few minutes.

Now, since I first wrote out this recipe, I've since taken to using a mix of chili powder and berbere spice. Also, I like to add some frozen corn and, if I'm feeling really carnivorous, sliced pieces of sausage (I add the sausage at the beginning with the beef, the corn goes in near the end). Some other tweaks: a tablespoon or so of maple syrup, a few drops of liquid smoke, the juice of half a lime. Maybe try a wild and crazy hot sauce if you really like it hot? Or some chopped jalapeno? It's up to you, dude!

2 - Curry

Indian cooking was never really something that came up growing up at my house, but when I met my ex-fiancée, she declared a strong love of the cuisine and I had the pleasure of trying lots of yummy different curries in restos and through friends. But I didn't give much thought to making it myself.

Fast forward a few years and here I am, single and cooking for one, with a powerful craving for Indian food, but no desire to eat out by myself. With that desperate inspiration, I literally pulled the next recipe out of thin air. This event, not to boast, cemented that I have a knack for cooking, because I pulled it out of thin air and it was delicious on the first go. I must admit that I looked up a couple of recipes for ideas, but mostly it was "Hmmmm, I feel like curry, but not butter chicken. I want beef. What goes with beef? Sweet potatoes!" and a legend was born...

Beef-Sweet Potato Curry

You'll notice a lot of variable ingredient levels with this one. Well, that's because it's a matter of taste. Some of us want the ginger or garlic or cayenne at milder levels, others want to be kicked in the face by them. So, play with your levels as you see fit. When in doubt, use the smaller amount. These are all still very flavourful ingredients and it will by no means be bland.


1 package stewing beef, cubed (around 350 g)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 small red onions, quartered and sliceed (or 1 medium sweet onion)
1-2 medium sized tomato (ripe), diced
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, minced finely
1-2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced finely
4-6 tbsp plain yogurt (it all depends on your spice and/or yogurt tolerance levels)
1/3 - 2/3 cups butter, divided into 3 equal parts (more or less depending on taste)
3 tbsp curry powder (to taste)
2 tsp salt (to taste)
1 tbsp black pepper (to taste)
2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
Juice from 2 lemon wedges
Juice from 1/2 clementine (or ¼ regular orange)


- In a stewing pot, melt 1 part butter on medium heat
- Add beef, sweet potato, garlic, ginger, 1 tbsp curry and cayenne
- Cover pot and cook for about 10-15 mins.
- Add remaining ingredients except yogurt and cilantro
- Reduce heat and simmer for approx. 30 mins.
- Add yogurt and simmer for 10 more mins.
- Stir in cilantro and remove from heat

-- Serve garnished with more fresh cilantro, if you like (I DO!)--
- best served with Basmati rice or naan bread, if you have it –


- add 350-400 g cubed chicken and 1 can chick peas (drained and rinsed) and omit beef, sweet potato and juice from clementine

In the next post, we'll deal with soup and pasta sauce.


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