The happy casserole

Warm up with these recipes for wintertime stews.

Stew 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Stew 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
All though winter here is a far cry from the miserable cold our fellow humans are suffering from throughout Europe, it’s still chilly in the evenings and there’s nothing like a soothing hot casserole to comfort and sustain us. Here are two that I’ve recently served my family, to rave reviews.
IRAQI TABIT “Tabit” is the Iraqi answer to hamin or cholent – chicken stuffed with rice, slow-cooked or baked till the chicken virtually melts in your mouth. Since most Iraqi recipes that I have seen make preparation a complicated procedure, I decided to create a simplified and healthier version, substituting brown rice for the white.
NOTE: Baharat spice mixture is available in spice stores.
Serves 6 to 8 ✔ 2 large onions, chopped ✔ 3 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 4 chicken thighs with drumsticks ✔ 100 gr. tomato paste ✔ 1 cup fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped ✔ 1 Tbsp. cardamom seeds, lightly crushed ✔ 1 Tbsp. baharat ✔ 1 tsp. each: salt, paprika, black pepper ✔ 5 cups boiling water ✔ 21⁄2 cups long-grain brown rice, rinsed ✔ Salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a very large frying pan and brown the chicken pieces slowly on both sides over medium heat. Remove from the frying pan and set aside.
Transfer liquids remaining in the frying pan to a large oven-proof stew pot and sauté onion till golden. Add baharat, salt, pepper and lightly crushed cardamom seeds and saute another minute while stirring.
Add tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, chicken, two cups of boiling water and bring to a boil. Cook, covered, over medium heat 30 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan and layer the bottom with the rice. Place the chicken on top.
Add the rest of the water; bring to a boil and place in a preheated 200º oven for 30 minutes. Lower heat to 150º and bake, covered, an additional 3 hours or more.
If the mixture is dry, add some boiling water. If too watery, remove the cover and continue baking until most of the liquids are absorbed.
ROOT VEGETABLE AND SPELT IN MUSHROOMS AND WINE Spelt is one of the original strains of wheat produced before the advent of hybridization. Considered less allergenic, tastier and more nutritious than regular wheat, it also has a lower crop yield and is therefore more expensive. You can find spelt berries and panda beans in health food stores like Nitzat Haduvdevan. Regular wheat berries and other beans may be substituted.
Dried mushrooms are produced by Tekoa and sold in supermarkets.
Serves 8 Casserole: ✔ 1 cup panda beans, soaked overnight ✔ 2 cups spelt berries, soaked 1 hour in cold water ✔ 1 packet (20 gr.) dried champignon or porcini mushrooms, or 6-7 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water till soft ✔ 2 medium-large red onions, chopped ✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 2 bay leaves ✔ 1 Tbsp. dried oregano, or more to taste
Root vegetables:✔5 cups of peeled and cubed carrot, beet, kohlrabi, unpeeled potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes ✔ 25 gr. butter ✔ 11⁄2 tsp. each dried oregano and thyme ✔ Salt and pepper to taste
Seasonings: ✔ 2 large garlic cloves, crushed ✔ 2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard ✔ 1⁄3 cup dry red wine, or more to taste ✔ 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh coriander, parsley or dill
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large pot with a heavy bottom and cook onion over medium-high heat, stirring often, until softened. Drain and save soaking water from the spelt berries and mushrooms. Add berries, mushrooms and drained panda beans, bay leaves and oregano to the pot.
Measure berry and mushroom soaking water and add enough water to make 5 cups. Add to the pot, bring to a boil, cover and cook over medium heat 60-90 minutes until the beans are soft. Add boiling water if too dry, or remove the cover and evaporate most of the liquids if watery. Stir occasionally.
In the meantime, melt the butter in a large pan and sauté the vegetable cubes with oregano and thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. When they start to brown, remove half and add to the stew pot and cook an additional 20 minutes to blend flavors. Continue sautéing the remaining vegetables till golden and tender (they will be used as a garnish).
Stir in garlic, mustard and wine last 5 minutes of cooking. Taste and correct seasoning. Divide between serving bowls and garnish with reserved sautéed vegetables and coriander.
TIP: Instead of soaking beans overnight, cover them with cold water and bring to a boil. Boil to minutes , cover and soak for 1 hour. Voila!