The April Daring Cook’s challenge was a Brunswick stew. According to our reliable old friend Wikipedia, this stew originates from the Southern states of the USA, though both the Georgians and Virginians claim it as their own.
Traditionally, Brunswick stew is made with rabbit or squirrel but today, more common meats like chicken or pork are used. It also includes several vegetables such as lima beans, okra and tomatoes. There is no one definitive recipe, luckily for us, because our interpretation was fairly loose.
My first thought when reading the recipe was that it seemed kind of meaty for a semi-veg girl. I wasn’t entirely sure whether I wanted to participate. Then, after a little thinking, I thought that we could probably make a good vegetarian version with black turtle beans. I had made a pretty successful soup using black beans the week before, and still had half a packet of beans to use up!
On the forums, I asked the lovely Daring Cooks whether they had any good ideas regarding how to turn Brunswick Stew vegetarian. Thanks to everyone who replied – there were some extremely helpful suggestions, especially from the font of knowledge, Audax. The secret of converting a meaty dish into a vegetarian version is to add, add, add. Not simply exchange. Like it or not, beans just do not have the flavour of a good ol’ bunny.
This is how I decided to make our conversions:
- Replace the meat with soaked black turtle beans and dried mushrooms for a ‘meaty’ base.
- Replace the bacon with sprinkles of paprika, for ‘smokiness’.
- Replace the meat stock with vegetable stock.
- Add some spices such as cumin and thyme, for flavour.
- Add some red wine, for richness.
- Add some Vegemite, for mysterious umami (thanks Audax!)
- Fry up the onions and add garlic, for sweetness and flavour.
Our stew was relatively successful. It would be particularly good on a chilly Wintery night. And healthy. And a good way to use up spare vegetables. And possibly an easy way to feed a crowd. It would also probably work better with meat – though this version was still tasty!
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 dried red chilli, ground to flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp cumin, ground
The leaves from a few sprigs of thyme, fresh
250g black turtle beans, soaked overnight
A small handful of dried mushrooms (we used porcini)
500g waxy potatoes, diced (we used kipfler)
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 carrots, chopped
2 corn cobs, kernels removed
1-2 cans peeled tomatoes, crushed
½ cup red wine vinegar
A dash of white wine (we drank all the red!)
1 bay leaf
Tamari or salt, to taste
Vegemite, to taste
Pepper, to taste
250ml-1L Vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lemon
- We were in a bit of a hurry so we used a pressure cooker to make this meal. This could not be beat for convenience; all was done in half an hour. However, this could easily be done in a conventional pot on the stove.
- Fry up the onion, garlic, chilli, paprika, cumin and thyme on a low heat. Cook until the onion is soft, about 10-15 minutes.
- Chuck in all of the rest of the ingredients, apart from the lemon juice. We used 250ml of vegetable stock and only one can of tomatoes, as the pressure cooker doesn’t need much liquid. If this was being made on the stove, I would have used at least a litre of stock and 2 cans of tomatoes (plus some water).
- Cook for about an hour on a low heat if using the stove. Cook for about 20 minutes if using a pressure cooker.
- When ready, squeeze in lemon juice, to taste.
- Serve with some fresh herbs and crusty bread.
And finally, the obligatory blog checking lines: The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.
Thanks must go to Wolf for choosing this recipe. I enjoyed this challenge, even though it wasn’t something that I could eat in its original form! I also love learning about ‘traditional’ recipes from all around the world. The Daring Kitchen is pretty special, ain’t it?!