The other day I bought three pumpkins at the local supermarket. I guess that’s a perfectly normal thing to do this time of year if it hadn’t been for the fact that our porch and front steps were already packed with little orange, green and yellow pumpkin faces. But I simply couldn’t resist buying just a few more of these gorgeous little veggie heads. And the great thing about pumpkins is that not only do they light up your home and mood on cold and dark days, they make for wonderful food too.
Now, I’m not a big fan of winter, but one of my great consolations this time of year is that it is the season for comfort food and slow cooking. To me it seems like pure magic that you do something as simple at putting meat, veggies, herbs, some tomatoes, stock and maybe wine in a pot and after an hour or two of stewing, you are rewarded with the most deliciously aromatic and tasty food that makes you forget all about the cold. I really like how the pumpkin adds sweetness to balance the richness and spiciness of this stew, and the gremolata is a little extra treat that accentuates the flavors as well as giving a finishing touch of freshness and texture. Serve the stew either with nice pappardelle pasta or a creamy, buttery potato mash. That is wholesome food! (And healthy too :))
Pumpkin and beef stew, red wine and gremolata (serves 6)
For the stew:
2 tbsp butter or canola (rapeseed) oil
2 lbs (1 kg) stewing beef cut into cubes
1 small pumpkin (Hokkaido, butternut squash or the like) cut into bite size cubes
2 large onions, diced
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cans tomatoes (about 25 oz /800 ml). I prefer to use heirloom as they are richer in taste.
1 pack of concentrated liquid beef stock (or 1 cube of good quality beef stock)
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp crushed, dried chili
1/2 bottle red wine
Salt and pepper
For the gremolata:
1 bunch of parsley
1 organic lemon (zest only)
5 oz (150 g) pecorino or parmesan cheese
1. Start by browning the cubed beef in the butter or oil in a large pot. Use high heat to make sure the meat browns properly and the meat taste (umami) is released. Add the diced onions and fry until the onions are clear.
2. Chop the rosemary, sage and thyme coarsely and add to the meat together with the crushed garlic and chili. Throw in the pumpkin as well as a good pinch of salt and stir for a minute or two.
3. Now pour in the canned tomatoes, the wine, bay leaves and the concentrated liquid (or cube of) beef stock (no need to dissolve it in water, the juices from the tomatoes and the wine will do that). When it starts boiling, turn the heat down low and leave it to simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.
4. For the gremolata, chop the parsley finely, add the grated lemon zest and the grated cheese and it’s ready to be served as a topping when the stew is ready.
5. While the stew is simmering away prepare a potato mash or get ready to cook the pappardelle pasta, and all you then need to do is taste the stew when its done and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.