Chef Ameya Mahajani of Aromas Cafe tells us why this ancient method of slow cooking brings out the best flavours
Vegetable stew with crusty bread at Aromas Cafe. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Bring out your crockpots and a good book to read while your meats get gently cooked in a small amount of flavourful stock. An ancient method of cooking, stewing is a long, slow method where meat, veggies or fruits are cooked with minimum water or stock to retain its moisture and flavour. While temperatures between 93 to 148 degrees Celsius are considered ideal for stewing, Ameya Mahajani, consultant chef, Aromas Café insists that you "start with low heat as it will allow even cooking".
For fruits, he recommends adding butter in a slow-heated pan and allowing it to melt gradually. "But, don't let the butter burn or turn brown. You need that dewy, golden colour for the perfect taste," he says. To avoid caramelisation of sugar, you can add some cream. "Ensure that there's enough butter and sugar in the pan so that the liquid covers the fruits throughout the stewing process."
Chef Ameya Mahajani at the Bandra kitchen
He warns against adding them later because that would interrupt the cooking process and affect the taste. While stewing fruits takes five minutes, veggies take 20 minutes and meats usually require an hour. "At the outset, cut the meat in uniform size. Then sear it in a pan before adding stock. The uniform size ensures the meat is not cooked differently and the searing allows for better juices to flow." Overcooking during the searing process, he warns, will leave a bad taste.
Another good idea is to use homemade stock for meats and veggies, which, he believes, adds more flavour than plain water or the store-brought stocks. "Also, if you dust slight flour on the meat before stewing, the resultant stock will thicken and the stew gets a smoother consistency," says Mahajani. Considering stewing is a lot about mingling of flavours, it requires patience. Therefore, never rush. "Once you add the stock, let it come to a boil and then let it simmer well. Give it time," he says.
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