Monday, my spiritual Sunday, is slow cooking day. Today I made a bacon, parsnip and borlotti bean stew. Regular recipe reading means I know these days that all good stews start with a carrot/celery/onion/bay/thyme base, but sadly it took me a while to spot that pattern. I wish someone – Delia, Nigel, my Mum – had pointed these basics out, though Nigel did teach me the great trick of adding a parmesan rind to the pot for depth of flavour.
Bacon, parsnip and borlotti bean stew
Serves six, takes 45 mins minimum (15mins prep + 5 mins frying + 15 mins simmering + 5 mins finishing)
Veg: 1 large onion, 2 sticks celery, 2 carrots, 3 parsnips, head of english greens / a savoy cabbage
Herbs: 2 bay leaves, few sprigs of thyme, large bunch of parsley
Meat: 4 rashers of bacon
Basics: 25g butter, 2tbsp olive oil, 2 litres of stock, 2 tins of borlotti beans
Odd extra: parmesan rind
Prep: Finely chop the onion, and cut the celery and carrot into small cubes. Peel the parsnips and chop into bigger cubes, about an inch square. Roughly chop the bacon (doing the meat last saves on washing up).
Heat the butter in a saucepan (big enough eventually to hold everything) until it foams and starts to smell slightly nutty. Add the bacon. Coat in the butter and fry for a few minutes, until the fat starts to get a little bit golden and crisp, but stir only occasionally, otherwise the delicious crusty bits won’t form. Then turn down the heat to the low side of medium, add the olive oil, wait a few secs till it heats up, then throw in the bay and thyme, and tip in the onion, celery and carrot. Leave to slowly swelter for ten minutes, and in the meantime, make up the stock.
When the veg are soft, stir in the parnsip chunks – to coat in the flavoured fat – then pour in the stock, plop in the parmesan and season. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for a minimum of 15 mins (so the parsnip is cooked), but the longer it cooks, the deeper the flavour.
Ten minutes before you want to eat, drain and rinse the beans, slice the greens/cabbage into thick ribbons and roughly chop the parsley. Add the beans and greens to the pot (to warm through and wilt respectively) and continue to simmer for five minutes. Check for seasoning and serve with more parsley on top than your instincts tell you should be enough.