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Gentle cooking can preserve both the vitamins and the flavour
Foods cooked and served in their own juices can enhance the flavour and retain all the good nutrients. Taste the difference when stewing meat, fish or vegetables.
Stewing involves cooking meat, fish, vegetables or fruit in their own juices, or in a small amount of additional liquid. Compared to boiling, stewing preserves more of the nutrients and flavour of the food. Additionally, this particular cooking method requires a smaller amount of fat than frying. The difference between stewing and steaming is that when steaming, the food does not come into contact with the water. You can simply rest a sieve above a pot of boiling water and the water vapour alone will cook the food.
Stewing requires no appliances or special techniques, just make sure to use a pot or a pan with a well-fitting lid. Vegetables are particularly well suited to stewing because this method retains the nutritional content. Stewing should be done on a medium temperature – if it is too high, the liquid will vaporise too quickly and the content will burn.
To avoid burning, a good idea is to give the pot a quick shake to make sure the liquid is evenly distributed. It is best to avoid stirring the content too often as each time you remove the lid, the steam escapes. This steam plays a large role in stewing so it is best to try and retain as much of it as possible. If there is not enough water, simply add some more.
Stewing is to cook something in its own juices, but sometimes the juices are just not enough and certain foods can have a low water content. To prevent burning, add some additional water, stock, broth or wine, just so the bottom of the pot is covered in liquid. When using foods with a high water content like tomatoes, you can spare on the amount of liquid added. Generally speaking, vegetables like carrots and cauliflower usually require some extra liquid.
Using oil or butter for stewing can be more flavourful than a dash of water. Carrots, for example, are delicious when caramelised first in butter and sugar and then cooked with some more water to prevent them from drying out or burning. Stewed apples can be made in the same way, but, instead of water, add some white wine or calvados for even more flavour.
Fish also lends itself well to this cooking method. Use a small amount of water, fish stock or white wine and cook at a medium heat. Another delicious method is to toss some onions, carrots, fennel and butter in a pan, then add some white wine and fish, and let it stew. A medium heat is enough to gently cook the fish thoroughly.
Poultry and delicate pieces of meat, such as fillet of beef, can be prepared in a relatively short time by pot roasting. This is a combination of both roasting and stewing. With the low temperature, and the short roasting time, a lot of the nutrients are preserved. Plus, this method allows the flavour of the meat to shine, without overpowering it with roast aroma.
When pot roasting poultry, for example, simply place the bird in a roasting dish, or any oven-proof dish with a lid. Add some butter or oil. First roast the meat with the lid on at 150°C, while intermittently spooning the fat over the meat so that it stays juicy. Near the end of the cooking time, remove the lid and increase the temperature a bit – this gives the meat a brown colour and a slightly crispy skin.
For even more flavour, add some vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery into the pot. The drippings, or the leftover juices, can be used for a delicious sauce or gravy. As soon as the meat and vegetables are ready, cook the drippings together with some stock or wine and let it reduce down. If you’d like to thicken and bind the sauce, add a few of the vegetables and puree the sauce.
The biggest advantage to stewing is that it retains most of the important vitamins and nutrients. Since the liquid also contains some of the goodness, make sure to drizzle it over your plate and use it as a sauce.
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