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With the coming of Halloween, I was asked to do an event at Outlaws Yacht Club to prelude the showing of Italian horror film Suspiria. With the brief of pumpkin stew, I decided to hollow out mini pumpkins and roast them with one pumpkin served per person. These were filled with pumpkin, lentil and lime stew and was one of my best stews to date. The roasted pumpkins were gooey inside and the aim was to scrape the flesh into the stew. Lovely!

pumpkin stew

The Humble Stew

 

A true Blighty autumnal season is not one without hearty food. After a long day’s work, the battle to get home commences. Through fields of crunching leaves, conkers and of course a healthy dose of rain, you walk through the front door and leave behind that fresh nip in the air and the all-important extra scarf (or two).  What better way to reward yourself than indulging in the humble stew.

 

Stew, like the autumn season, brings memories, food and people together. For Britons it can encompass something simple: potato and beef, gravy and carrot. But let’s not give simple such a bad name. Stew is a combination of flavours, smells, ingredients; it transcends borders, regions, nations and it expands across cultures, between languages and over time. Even within the small masses of land that is the British Isles stew has so much diversity; from Irish stew to Lancashire Hotpot to our adopted Chicken Tikka Masala, all forms of stew but each with their own identity and story. Being the magpie nation that we are, we have a history of embracing other cuisines and there’s still so much more we can learn.

 

Stew can be the simplest method of cooking known, but also may offer so much individual flair and variety that it is seen in some guise, one way or another, the world over. The beautiful combination of beef and coconut in the Indonesian Kalio stew is a mouth-watering example of using local, readily available ingredients that are close at hand to create something unique and a dish to represent a nation. On another spectrum, the classic French Cassoulet, although in essence the same method of cooking as the Kalio, is wildly different but again quintessentially representative of a whole population. A final example is a dish donned by the wicked cartoon cat Sylvester, in his words sufferin’ succotash, a staple peasant supper from the mid west USA made of seasonal gluts of beans and sweetcorn, again like any regional dish across the earth, made up of food which is easily obtainable to the local people.

 

Recipes are passed down from generation to generation, through families and friends, and strangers, food blog to cookbook, television to magazine. Stew is just one of those rare recipes that people hold dearly, the secret recipe.  The nostalgic stew can bring back memories of childhood and memories of places.  The communal stew can bring together people of all backgrounds and creeds. The humble stew is what it is, and we should celebrate that.

 

Cooking should be collaborative and experimental. It should celebrate the seasons using the freshest ingredients available, interesting combinations and flavours, creating dishes spawned from knowledge and ideas gathered through sharing.

 

Stew should be inventive, individual and acknowledge the five flavour groups with the perfect balance. With this in mind, stew does not have to be that typical winter warmer for those drab, cold days. In this current age we have access to a world of food and much is now available on our doorstep. Stew is for the season and should use those ingredients at hand throughout the year. Stew should be creative, unique and interesting but also reminiscent of times past. With any luck this passage will inspire readers to create their own unique stew and the flavour table below will hopefully help.

 

Sweet

Sour

Bitter

Salty

Umami

Pungent

Sweetcorn

Lemon

Ale

Olives

Tomatoes

Chilli

Honey

Tamarind

Charred veg

Capers

Mushrooms

Mustard

Squash

Vinegar

Kale

Sea salt

Potatoes

Horseradish

Cooked onions

Rhubarb

Cranberry

Anchovy

carrot

Ginger

 

The humble stew whatever the weather: Reminisce. Invent. Indulge. 

From selling batches of stew to a few spots around Leeds, I have now stepped it up a gear.  I am aiming to get into the street food scene serving stew across Leeds through events, pop-ups and festivals and have been given the opportunity to work with an established street food trader, Fish& in order to progress. 

Initially I will be working for Fish& at The Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen and The Bridge in Kirkstall. My stews will be available at both these venues as well as Outlaws Yacht Club with more set in the pipeline as well as one-off events.

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There will also be collaborations with Fish& with the first fish stew going on sale last week. There will soon be more items to follow. Realising that to many, no matter how hard I try, stew is seasonal and made for the winter months, I need to diversify over summer and will base the food offerings around slow-cooking.

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I am also in the process of looking for a van to trade out of, and if plans go ahead, I have a very exciting vehicle in mind. If I gain funding I hope to start trading early next year. 

I hope the next post is enjoyable. I was asked by Food&_ to write a piece about stew. So here it is.

This post is late coming but I thought it’s worth an update anyway. Back in July I was asked to help out with the food for contributors for the launch of new online culinary journal Food&_. The brief was communal eating, simplicity and fun.

Lord Whitney (look them up, they’re amazing!) transformed their studio, an old converted mill just off the outskirts of Leeds city centre, into a dining hall with a long banquet table fitted out for around twenty five guests.

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I thought making our own pasta would be a great way for all the contributors, many who had not yet met, to get chatting and have a hand in making something that they may not have tried before.  Along with Carl Fleischer of Laynes Espresso and the editor Ross Featherstone we created a simple two course meal. To start with we served bruschetta with various toppings including ricotta, sun-dried tomato and basil and crushed pea, pecorino and mint.

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For the main course the idea was for everyone to come and have a go at making their own pasta but we soon found it easier for the production line and to satisfy hungry bellies as quickly as possible to stick with a select few. This was served with vegetarian or non-vegetarian ragu, courtesy of Ross.

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Friends of Ham helped out with the late arrivals by supplying a hefty amount of meat and cheese washed down with some quaffable pale ale from Quaffing Gravy, a brand new brewery in town.

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All in all a top notch evening and good luck to Food&_. Have a look at their website, it’s a treat!

 

 

Moving into Leeds city centre, there were so many apartment buildings to choose from, but one stood out from the rest, the new development Saxton, the main reason being I get an allotment!

saxton

Age 25 and my first attempt at growing my own. Who knew it would be so fun and rewarding! As the spawn of gardeners, one would expect green fingers to run though my blood and modestly I’m quite the dab-hand at the quintessential British past-time of ‘allotmenting’.

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After nurturing my babies through the cold Spring, everything is going mental.  The first crop was made up of potatoes, rainbow chard, rhubarb, spring onions, baby courgettes and radishes, with an array of herbs to make into a light summery salad.

allotment on board

I love beetroot and even better than beetroot is beetroot stalk. Often thrown away, I found a pile of stalks in the compost and rescued them for my lunch. Waste not want not I say.

allotment salad

So the first dish grown and made by Jim – Charred baby courgettes and chard leaves, radish, spring onion and beetroot stalks with crumbled feta and an extra virgin rapeseed oil, lemon and mint dressing.

Followed by a humble rhubarb crumble , Saxton residents were very happy!

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This is a story of the inquisitive journey of Made by Jim’s strange association with delicious cuisine. The hunt through fog-bound Leeds for taste and flavour continues to reveal Made by Jim’s ‘damnable young’ counterpart Hot Stu, together in an endless exploration of humanity’s basest capacity and desire for tantalising recipes.

One might question the extent to which Made By Jim and Hot Stu are in fact a single character, the two personas seem nothing alike – the well-liked, respectable cook and the hideous, depraved devil in the kitchen are almost opposite in type and personality.  Every human being contains opposite forces within him or her, an alter ego that hides behind one’s polite facade.

This may be an analogy to a famous piece of literature by a certain Mr. Stevenson but nevertheless the association is fitting. Although very rewarding after months of maturing my preserves, I have found the whole process quite restrictive.  I needed to break out of the jar in order to experiment and create. Stew enabled this lid to be popped and every weekend @Outlawsyachtclub and @cafe164 trialled a series of strange stews, all vegetarian, vegan and gluten free, some popular, some just a bit too weird.

cauliflower, caper, lentil stewCharred cauliflower, caper and red lentil stew

After a few weeks, Outlaws started to take on the stews full time and meat stews were also introduced. This lead to one happy regular, Ross Featherstone of @madebyrefresh to get in touch and, with the launch of a food blog he co-created, Food&_ (www.foodand.co.uk) we produced a recipe book which included ten of the stew recipes to coincide with the annual food festival, Leeds Loves Food.

swede anise stewSwede, anise and spinach stew

Although the initial range was popular and I got great feedback, day to day Laynes Espresso and other outlets wanted chutney and preserves rather than my offerings.  I decided to change to suit the market and now chutney was my game. This lead to farmers markets and with the aid of a fancy banner from @bannersandmash to kit out my stall I had a range of preserves to sell.

With the help of http://www.hannahcordingley.com  I had photos of my new range plus some slightly embarrassing photography of me.

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I then started selling to @Outlawsyachtclub and @FriendsofHam, and through @DanScallington I got involved with organising the food for a charity event at Hope House Gallery.  A new avenue in food began, the birth of Made By Jim Stew, and gave me the opportunity to experiment with unusual ingredient combinations. And so the age of stew commenced.