A couple of weeks ago I decided to shop at a different grocery store. In downtown Toronto the major stores are Loblaws, No Frills, Metro, Sobey’s, Longo’s and Food Basics. Where I shop depends on a few things – cost, variety, and closeness to home. Most of the time I shop based on my budget. I would love to buy organic, local farmer’s market produce, and grass-fed, hormone-free meats, but that can close to double my weekly food bill.
I live in Cabbagetown where everything is within walking distance. With my trusty folding shopping cart I head out to one or more stops to buy my groceries in bulk. I decided to see if I could get everything I needed at Food Basics. I was impressed by the quality of their produce and some of the meats they had on sale. By the way, you can save a lot of money by buying what’s on sale, or buying meat that’s marked down 30% because it’s about to expire. So long as you intend to cook it that day or the next day, there’s nothing wrong with it.
That’s exactly what happened. They had veal on sale! Veal is usually at the top end of my budget and won’t appear on my table very often. I had a few types of squash at home so I chose a few more ingredients and decided upon making a veal butternut squash slow cooker stew.
Veal is more tender than beef, less fatty, and has a more “delicate” taste. It lends itself well to pan frying and takes on the flavours of a marinade or sauce very well.
These are the meals that I cooked in bulk for the week:
Squash is in season at the moment – it’s a healthy, hearty vegetable, and I’ve never used it in a stew. I thought it would be a tasty alternative to using potatoes in a stew. Paired with carrots, onion, garlic, Roma tomatoes and a few exotic spices, this turned out to be one winner of a perfect winter stew.
I’m so over making stews on the stove. Forget having to stir and wait for three hours. I don’t even bother to brown the meat. I’m going to experiment though – I want to make the same slow cooker recipe only changing one variable. In one recipe I will brown the meat in a cast iron pan and add it along with the oil to the slow cooker pot. In another I won’t brown the meat. Then we will have to have taste competition to see if they’re a difference.
My approach to cooking and meal planning is simplicity. Use the fewest amount of steps and ingredients possible, while still creating a healthy and delicious dish. This stew has a few more ingredients than usual, but don’t see that as overwhelming. The core spices are the Spanish paprika and the cumin. If you don’t have or can’t find cumin seed and coriander, you can omit these.
You can serve the stew can immediately when cooked or keep is safely in the fridge for about five days. It’s a hearty dish thanks to the squash. Serve it on its own in a large bowl as a complete meal or with a side salad. The stew would pair well with a small serving of plain quinoa or basmati rice.
You can liven up the flavour even more by adding a bunch of chopped fresh cilantro to the stew after it’s finished cooking. Save a few of the leaves to top the stew as garnish when you serve.
This is a perfect one-pot meal that you can pack up and take to work. Just a few minutes in the microwave, stir well, then heat for another minute and enjoy.
56ozPlum tomatoes2 large cans (28 fl oz/796 ml each)
1tspCeltic Sea Salt
1tspFresh Ground Pepperor to taste
Scrub or peel the carrots and wash the skins of the squash and lemon.
Cut off the ends of the squash and carrots.
Lay the squash on its side. Using a vegetable peeler hold the squash firmly and peel towards you.
Cut the squash in half across the width. Cut again down the length of each half. Remove the seeds.
Cut the squash parts into quarters along the length. Cube the squash and add to the slow cooker pot.
Slice the carrots as shown to make equally-sized cuts.
Use a lemon zester to cut thin strips of the peel as shown. If you don't have a zester you can use your vegetable peeler to get a larger amount of peel. Slice the peel into thin strips with your knife and then mince them into smaller pieces.
Cut the lemon in half and extract the juice.
Peel the onion, cut in half, remove the core and cut into large chunks.
Add the vegetables, lemon juice, rind, and spices to the slow cooker pot. Mix well.
Add the canned tomatoes and the veal, mixing well.
Put the crock pot in the slow cooker appliance and set to low for 10-12 hours.