Stews and casseroles are classic comfort food, great for filling bellies and batching to cook once and eat twice. Plus, they are affordable, simple, adaptable and easy to add more veg to! We’ve gathered some expert tips and small steps for you to take your stew from good to great.
Why are stews so great?
A stew (or casserole – which is just a stew cooked in the oven instead of on the stove!) is a simple, filling, affordable and flavour-rich dish to feed a family during the cooler months.
It’s a classic comfort food, and easy to adapt to bring in new flavours and veggies in a subtle way.
Once you have mastered a basic stew, it’s simple to adapt and is always filling for little bellies, not to mention easy to batch and make more for later in the week (or month) so you can cook once and eat twice!
Use the basic recipe and tips below to take your stews from good to better!
How are your stew skills?
I’m just starting out.
I’m ready to take it to the next level.
How can I get my kids involved and interested?
A stew (or casserole – which is just a stew cooked in the oven instead of on the stove!)
is a simple, filling, affordable and flavour-rich dish to feed up a family during the cooler months.
Here is a simple recipe for stew which you can use as a base and build on over time…
Meat/veggie alternative (cheap cuts such as stewing beef/shin, skinless chicken thighs on the bone, or diced pork work well here as they do well with being cooked low and slow)
Optional casserole veg (bag of frozen casserole mix, root veg, or any frozen mixed veg)
Stock (and/or tomato sauce)
optional dried mixed herbs for extra flavour
Cook the meat/veggie alternative according to package instructions if using (usually this is just frying in a little oil until lightly golden, cooked through and piping hot). Add the veg, if using, and pour over the stock or sauce (and herbs, if using), then turn the heat up until your stew is bubbling.
Turn the heat back down to simmer the stew, covered with a lid, for an hour, or until everything is cooked through and soft, checking occasionally and stirring, even adding a little extra stock or sauce if needed to stop it sticking.
For a casserole, instead of simmering on the stove, preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 while you are bringing the stew to the boil, then cover the (ovenproof) pan with a lid and pop in the oven for an hour or until ready.
If your stew looks too dry when you check on it, add a little more stock and/or sauce. If it looks too thin at the end, then mix 1 tbsp cornflour with 1 tbsp water in a bowl and stir in a few spoonfuls of the stew, then add it into the pan and cook for another 5-10 mins uncovered, stirring regularly, until thickened.
There is no need to go any further with this recipe until you are confident with it and feel up for the next step.
Feeling ready? Let’s see how you can get your next small victory without battles…
Kids who engage regularly with veg through veg-themed activities, such as arts and crafts, sensory experiences, growing and cooking are shown to be more likely to eat the veg they engage with. Encouraging kids to engage and play with veg is the handy first step to them developing a good relationship with veg and life-long healthy eating.
Kids in the kitchen
The eventual aim, if possible, is to get kids in the kitchen. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to mean they are with you from start-to-end creating mess and rising stress levels! It can be as simple as giving them one small job (stirring, measuring, pouring, grating, chopping…) ideally involving veg. They can come in to do their little bit, and have fun with you for a few minutes. Getting them involved, making it playful and praising them plenty for their involvement, perhaps even serving it as dinner they “made”, makes it much more likely they will eat the food offered, not to mention teaching them important life skills. Find ideas, safety tips, videos and even a free chart in our Kids in the Kitchen section here.
While getting kids to interact with veggies for real and using their senses to explore them is best, encouraging hands off activities like arts & crafts, puzzles & games or at-home science experiments can be a great start, particularly for those who are fussier eaters or struggle with anything too sensory. Use these veg-themed activities as a stepping stone to interacting with the veg themselves. We have loads of crafty downloads here, puzzles here, and quirky science with veg here.
Once you feel your child is ready to engage a little more, you can show them how to explore the veg you have on hand with their senses, coming up with playful silly descriptions of how a veg smells, feels, looks, sounds and perhaps even tastes. Find ideas, videos and some simple sensory education session ideas to get you started here.
The moments before food is offered can be a perfect opportunity for engagement that can help make it more likely a child will eat it! Giving children a sense of ownership in the meal can make a big difference to their feelings going into it and the pride they take in it. You know your child best, but if you aren’t sure where to start, we have some fun and simple ideas for easy roles you can give them in the serving process over here.
I Want To Improve My Stew
If you are feeling confident with your favourite stew recipe, but you’re wondering if there are some small tweaks you could make for the better, this is for you.
We’ve outlined some simple stages for continually improving on a basic stew to get you from good to great. Find where you feel your current recipe sits and see if the next step is something you could aim for. You don’t have to go any further, but if you choose to, make sure you are feeling confident with this new stage before you try the next one.
And remember, the MOST important thing is that the family enjoys the meal! These changes and swaps can take as long as is needed if your family isn’t ready for big changes all in one go. Small simple improvements over time may not even be noticed.
Play is essential!
Think of children helping in the kitchen as a role play game with plenty of fun for maximum effect. One of the best ways to develop a love of veg in kids is to get them involved in the prep of the veg. Not only is cooking an essential life skill for kids to learn, but it’s a great, fun way to get them engaging with healthy foods!
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