Autumn is officially here.
The mornings are nippier, the evenings drenched in rich golden light, and we are digging out our knits and going into hibernation mode. Luckily, this time of year is when British produce really comes into its own. Seeing farmers’ markets packed with locally grown, multi-coloured fruit and veg is so exciting and we always go overboard with plans to make jams and pickles and chutneys galore. Thank you farmers for working so hard all summer.
With all this seasonal produce available, the most efficient way to use it is to cook a generous, bountiful vegetable stew. Enjoy it over the course of a weekend when you have many mouths to feed or pop it in the freezer in portioned batches to keep you going for the coming months. This recipe is our all-time favourite and we have been making variations of it for years — changing up the vegetables, adding chunks of lamb that fall apart or even some left-over roast chicken. The combination of sweet spices and herbs, apricots and wine, comes together into a bowl of nourishing happiness that is perfect with a dollop of lemon-spiked yoghurt. Enjoy the slow pace of the recipe. You really want to tenderise and soften your fennel over a long, low heat, and take time to sit down and enjoy what the harvest has given you.
Harvest Vegetable Stew
- 4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
- 4 onions, diced
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
- Bunch coriander, stalks chopped
- 1 tsp dried chilli
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, bashed
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, bashed
- 2 sticks celery, finely sliced
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 4 bulbs fennel, thinly sliced lengthways
- 250g dried apricots, diced
- 400ml white wine
- 1 litre stock (chicken or veg)
- Large pinch saffron
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 4 courgettes, diced
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 400g kale, shredded
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- Handful of coriander leaves
Heat the oil in a large pot, then add all the ingredients up to the dried apricots. Sauté over a medium heat for at least 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until tender and fragrant. It is important to cook everything down thoroughly to get the flavour in, so don’t rush. Then add the apricots and pour in the wine, stock and saffron. Balance a lid on slightly askew so that the steam can escape, and leave to bubble for two hours until the fennel is soft. Add more stock or water if it gets too dry.
When everything is soft and fragrant, add the sweet potato and cook for a further 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the grill. Put the courgette on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle over the cumin and season. Char under the hot grill for 10 minutes (you could also place in a hot oven for 20 minutes or fry until browned in a pan). Stir the kale into the pot with a squeeze of lemon and season well.
Ladle into bowls and top with the courgette and a generous scattering of coriander.