Friday, September 10, 2010

Browned Flour Stew.

Browned flour stew isn't quite a family recipe. It's more of a family technique. My version of this stew (which I occasionally bake in the oven and call a casserole, as per these photos) is very different to my mother's. And, undoubtedly, hers is different to the recipe that she learned from her beloved Granny Jane, who lived with her family and cooked for the entire brood. We are all a product of the times and places in which we live. Which is why this recipe suddenly adopted kohlrabi when I came to Germany, and why my version has lentils where my mother's has beef. My mother serves green beens on the side as a refreshing vegetable - hers came frozen, from a packet, through most of my childhood. I use fresh ones, and often include them in the stew itself.

The basic premise of a browned-flour gravy, however, remains the same. Ordinary white flour is toasted in a dry pan to make a lovely brown powder, that once mixed into this stew, both flavours and thickens. This is one of those hearty cold-weather recipes that is both filling and economical, which matters to a student such as yours truly. Not that I'd ever run the risk of starving, because I can eat nearly anyone under the table, but it's a nice recipe to use to feed a crowd. It's also really good over rice, if you're a carb monster like I am.

Browned Flour Stew
1/2 cup white flour
4 lge carrots
4 lge potatoes
3 lge stalks celery
1 lge kohl rabi (optional)
2 cups brown lentils, cooked (boil in water, 20 mins, drain)
1 lge onion
400g green beans
2 bay leaves
1 sachet bouquet garni (or make your own)
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper

Brown the flour in a dry frying pan until very toasted. It takes quite a while to start browning, but keep stirring it constantly. Sometimes it does catch a little on the pan as the flour loses any residual moisture, but constant stirring will prevent it from burning. You want it to be medium-brown and smelling like dark toast.
Cut your vegetables into large chunks - maybe 3-4cm across. Cut the beans into similar lengths.
Sautee the onions in a little oil until softened. Add the potatoes, carrots and kohl rabi, and cook until beginning to soften.
Add the herbs, plus a generous helping of salt and pepper. Don't be shy with your pepper.
Add enough water to barely cover the vegetables, and simmer for 15ish minutes, until they're almost tender.
Add the green beans, and simmer for another few minutes, until they're just tender. Remove the bouquet garni (and the bay leaves, if you must*) and slowly sprinkle in the browned flour, stirring constantly, until fully encorporated. Don't throw it in too fast, or it will clump.
Allow the mixture to cook for another few minutes, until the flour has thickened the sauce enough to form a thick gravy.
Serve over rice, with crusty bread to mop up the sauce. Alternately, put into an oven-safe dish, add paper-thin slices of potato over the top (I ran ridiculously short in the photo - you want the slices to overlap!), brush with melted butter or margarine, and grill until the potatoes are browned.

*I realise that people don't always like finding a bay leaf in their food, but I do. It's supposed to be good luck if you're the one who finds the bay leaf from a communal meal!

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