“If you can boil water you can make a good stew,” says Richard Blunt. And it’s just the thing for frosty evenings, with a slab of warm bread on the side. The article in Backwoods Home offers several recipes, but even a novice cook can make stew without a recipe at all.

The basic cooking technique for making stew is very simple. Take a piece of meat, any tough old meat you find on sale will do, and cut it into bite-sized chunks, and dredge the pieces with seasoned flour. Go for at least 3 pounds of meat, because you’ll want to make lots of stew. It’s always better re-heated on the second day!

Brown the meat on top of the stove in a little bit of fat — oil, margarine, butter, or brownings from a previous roast, any kind of cooking fat will do. A big heavy Dutch oven is good to use if, like me, you don’t have a slow-cooker or crockpot.

Next, cut up your vegetables: it doesn’t matter what kind or how many, just whatever you like and have on hand. Autumn root vegetables are our favourites — carrots, turnip, parsnips, potatoes — with plenty of sliced onion and a couple cloves of garlic diced fine. Throw them in the pot with the meat, add a good pinch of salt and a bay leaf if you have one, then pour in enough water or broth (or a combination of these) to just cover the chunk ingredients.

Simmer for at least two hours, adding more liquid as (and if) needed. My grandmother used to set the stew pot on the back of the woodstove that heated her house, and it sat there from noon until supper time, giving off a delicious aroma and turning a chunk of tough old venison into the most delicious rich tender dish that you could imagine. Comfort food, pure and simple.

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