Autumn has entered full steam, and with all the blustering leaves and windy rains outside, I like to fill the home with warm smells and full bellies. When I have a hankering for French onion soup, but I know I need to feed the kids, I go for this all in one stew that can be made with what I have on hand. You can easily caramelise the onions and mushrooms and then use them as a burger topper, base for a bolognese, marinade for chicken or just a chutney for sandwiches. Yesterday, I wanted to add some rump steak and baby potatoes I had on hand, rather than just adding beef stock to the sweet onions and mushrooms to make soup. The result was a sweet, savoury blend of creamy, tender potatoes and beef.
This is a one pot version that can be done with cubed chicken breast and broccoli with chicken stock in place of the beef, potato and beef stock for this recipe and it’s divine. As I mentioned, the caramelised onions can be used in any number of ways if you want to stop there: allow them to cool and store for up to two weeks in a sealed container in the fridge.
The pumpkin pudding is a crustless version that’s gluten free and baked in ramekins. It’s a five minute mix and into the oven; one of the easiest desserts ever. This time of year, I like to decorate the little pies with dark chocolate chips to make jack-o-lantern faces for the kids.
- 2 medium onions (I use one red and onion white)
- 1 TB vegetable oil of choice
- 1 TB salted butter
- 1-2 TB balsamic vinegar
- 1-2 cups sliced white mushrooms
- 1 lb cubed beef
- 10-12 Maris Piper/baby potatoes (I had some leftover from Sunday roast)
- 1 tsp beef stock concentrate
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried garlic
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1-2 cups water
- 1 cup single cream or half and half
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tin 425g pumpkin puree (available from American sections in larger supermarkets, or you can puree your own pumpkin)
- 1 tin 396g sweetened condensed milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 heaped tsp pumpkin pie spice (nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, salt)
Begin with slicing the onion into long strips and adding them with the oil to a wide pot over a medium heat. The onions will sweat and begin to brown after a few minutes of little stirring. Once they begin to brown slightly, try to stir more often so they don’t fry instead of sweetening.
After 10 to 15 minutes, you should begin to see them all browning, shrivelling and producing a lovely sweet aroma. You won’t need to add any sugar, these release their own natural sweetness that’s impressive.
Once the onions have produced a nice glaze, add the mushrooms and coat them with it. Add in the balsamic vinegar and tab of butter. Keep stirring until the mushrooms and onions are well blended.
The mushrooms stay nice and firm with this treatment, and make an excellent base for bolognese, marinade for creamy chicken, so a lovely burger topper if you stop here. I don’t blame you if the smells drive you to using this right now.
To finish the stew, add cubed beef and coat with the onion and mushroom mixture before allowing to sit and lightly brown. Depending on the quality of beef, I may reduce the temperature significantly at this point and add more water with the beef stock to tenderise.
Before the meat cooks through, add the beef stock, warm water to cover the meat and dry spices.
Next, add the potatoes to the watery pot. I used already cooked Maris Pipers I had on hand, but you can use raw potato if you quarter them and they cook quickly. If you don’t want to fuss with chopping, you can add more water to accommodate the time to cook them through, no problem. Allow the cooked potatoes to boil for at least fifteen minutes to warm through.
Allow the water to reduce by half, exposing the beef and potatoes, before adding the cream. Reduce the heat to avoid scorching, but allow the stew to bubble a bit before giving it a taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This shouldn’t take more than an hour from start to finish, with a prolonged simmer in the middle. I love meals that allow me to run after toddlers, maybe even get their bath in while it’s bubbling. This was served with a dollop of soured cream, my daughter’s favourite.
For the pumpkin pudding, preheat the oven to 350F/180C and pull out a medium sized mixing bowl.
Add the pumpkin puree, condensed milk, eggs and dry spice, and whisk together until smooth. I usually use a rubber spatula or fork, but you can use a hand mixer for about a minute if you prefer.
Ladle or spoon the mixture into 6-8 ramekins, about ¾ full. No preparation/grease required.
Bake the pumpkin custard for 20-25 minutes, or until it begins to come away from the edges.
Remove the ramekins from the oven and allow to cool. If you’d like to decorate, use a handful of chocolate chips to fashion a jack-o-lantern while they’re still slightly warm. You can even let the kids help with this super easy dessert!