Braising or Stewing? Alison McKee
It can be a little confusing defining the culinary terms Braising, Stewing, Casseroling, Pot Roasting and Hot Pot. However, what they all have in common is long slow cooking in liquid making them perfect rich and hearty winter fare with the added bonus of being able to adapt them for slow cookers or crock-pot cooking.
One sign that braised or stewed meat has been heated gently and gradually is that the meat, although ‘well done’, retains a distinct red colour.
Casseroles originate from the ancient practice of stewing meat slowly in an oven and then serving it in its earthenware cooking container. Types of casseroles include ragout, cassoulet and carbonnade – a traditional Flemish beef stew made with onions and dark beer. Duck and Pork Cassoulet. Duck Ragout. Braising is similar to casseroling except the meat and vegetables are cut larger and are cooked in a smaller amount of liquid. Beef Braised with Onions and Mushrooms. Stewing is regarded as a cooking process whereby heat is applied to the bottom of a cooking vessel.
So where do Pot Roasts and Hot Pots fit in? Pot Roasting can be described as the cooking of a ‘roast’ sized piece of meat, usually beef, with root vegetables and small amount of liquid in a covered dish and again heat is applied to the bottom of the cooking vessel. In the early stages of cooking the meat exudes juices that gradually evaporate and the meat then begins to take on a rich roasted colour. Hot Pot, such as the traditional Lancashire Hot Pot, consists of lamb and root vegetables – as much food can be added as will fit in the pot – covered with sliced potato or pastry. Lamb Hot Pot. What makes these dishes even more attractive is that they use tougher and often, if you are prepared to shop around, cheaper cuts of meat.
There is nothing heartier than topping your casserole or stew with Dumplings or use your favourite scone dough with the addition of freshly chopped herbs, grated cheese or a dusting of paprika. Gremolata – finely chopped garlic, parsley and lemon zest – sprinkled on top of your ‘casserole’ just before serving adds a fresh zing. Vary your ‘mash’ – add wholegrain mustard or winter greens to potato. Substitute potatoes for mashed parsnip, celeriac or Jerusalem artichokes. Roast whole heads of garlic in olive oil until soft but still plump and serve halved and squeezed onto your favourite baked or brought artisan bread. Think soda bread, baguettes and cob loaves, and most of all enjoy sopping up the meat juices.