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April 2017
Healthy eating
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This is the classic ‘humid’ cooking method that, at low temperatures, allows you to cook foods without affecting any of the organoleptic and nutritious features and without losing hydrosoluble elements and minerals.

The verb ‘to stew’ probably derives from the stove that our ancestors used to warm up their surroundings, especially the kitchen, and by using continuous heat, which made the house very cosy, it was possible to cook many foods all at once, saving on fuel. In some cases, stewing was carried out using embers and this is where the terming ‘braising’ comes from and is why some places call braising stewing and vice versa.

Stewing consists of cooking foods for quite a long period of time (this changes according to the food), at relatively low temperatures, in a container with a lid on which keeps the heat inside. Stewed foods cook in their own juices and fats, therefore there is no need to add condiments, and the foods do not lose nutrients as they stay in the sauce. Furthermore, by cooking foods in a closed container, the foods really absorb the aromas, whilst the cooking liquid (the juices and fats) is enriched and flavoured by the fats and soluble elements released by the food itself. Almost all foods can be stewed and come out well by simply adjusting the technique according to the ingredients.

In order to make very good stews (or braises), use cuts of red meat that are not too lean and are quite rich in connective tissues so that the sauce is thicker and more flavoursome. Before stewing meat, it is best to brown it on both sides first, after which you can proceed with the salting process and addition of liquids for cooking (stock, wine, etcetera). For the classic stews from Piedmont, the meat has to be marinated in wine and various aromas first, and then the same wine is used for cooking. By using smaller pieces of meat, you can make smaller stews that save time and fuel costs!

Not all fish lends itself to stewing and precious fish, like white fish with few bones, such as bream, sea bass, and so on, are best cooked on the grill or in the oven with no, or little, condiments. On the other hand, and as is confirmed by our many recipes, cuttlefish and octopus come out very well in a stew (cooked with tomatoes and seasonal vegetables) as well as baccalà (dried, salt-cured cod) and stockfish, for which there are numerous, regional recipes, ‘red’ fish, like mullet and scorpion fish, and fish that comes in steaks (like monkfish, dogfish and swordfish). In general, fish does not need to be browned off in advance and it is stewed for quite a brief time in a sauce (tomato based) which should be prepared beforehand.

Vegetables and pulses
Almost every type of vegetable can be stewed and the nutrients and flavours are almost unchanged by this cooking method. Usually vegetables are cooked ‘cold’, that is in very little sauce (or sometimes in tomato), and cooked on a low heat for the necessary time. Remember that vegetables must be cooked for the smallest amount of time possible so as to maintain their flavour, appearance and nutrients. In some cases, and if you so wish, you can aromatise the condiment (oil usually) before cooking by browning of a garlic clove, chopped garlic and parsley and then adding the vegetables that are to be cooked. Usually, it is not necessary to add water as vegetables release enough water themselves to cook in. However, do not take this to be the case all the time; check your vegetable stew from time to time so that the vegetables do not get too dry.

In general, fruit is eaten raw. Some fruit lends itself very well to stewing though, especially if used as part of, or as, sweet and sour sauces to accompany roasted meat. You can stew apples with lemon juice in order to make a creamy sauce to go with roasted duck, or briefly cook strawberries in lemon juice and bit of sugar to make a strawberry sauce to accompany desserts, or even roasted game.


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