Posted in Recipes

Magic Stew

January 15, 2010 - 10:21 pm

While I was uploading recipes, I thought I would add several more of the house classics.  This is one that I learned from a wiccan friend in the Bay many, many years ago.  I have no idea of the original derivation of the recipe, and I’ve cooked it literally hundreds of times, so it’s certainly morphed along the way.

It’s one that always gets that amazed look when people first taste it, frequently associated with groans of pleasure.  The house smells wonderful for days after I’ve cooked it.  I try to have some always as leftovers in the freezer.  This defines comfort food for me, especially when I’m feeling a bit under the weather.  Healthy never tasted so good.

In its original incarnation it was vegan, but when I started eating meat, I re-worked it as a beef stew.  I still frequently make the vegan version, however.

Magic Stew Recipe

First off, you’re going to need a big pot.  I have one of those ginormous pasta pots I use, and it’s frequently filled 3/4 full.  Add to the pot:

  • one can each of red, black, and white beans.   Add the liquid that the beans have been canned in as well, because most of the soluble fiber from the beans is in that liquid.  If you would prefer to start with fresh beans by all means, but I’m rarely organized enough to remember to soak mine the day before I want to make stew.
  • two large cans of tomato sauce, or crushed tomatoes
  • one each of white, yellow, and red onions, chopped to 1/2″ square-ish pieces
  • 2 C or more of chopped carrots, chopped to fork sized pieces
  • 2 C or more of celery, chopped like the carrots
  • in season I add yellow beets (washed, peeled, and sliced into 1/4 rounds, and quartered.)
  • sometimes I also add bell peppers in various colors, or whatever other veggies look like they want to be stew.
  • 1 lb spinach, pureed in a food processor
  • 2 T pureed basil- I use the stuff in the jar unless I have it fresh in the garden
  • 4 T chopped garlic
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 T parsley, or 3 T fresh chopped
  • 1 t sage, or a few fresh leaves
  • 1 T rosemary, or a similar amount fresh, chopped fine
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 2 T coriander (your guest will thank you for this.  It works like Bean-o.)

Once you get everything in the pot and simmering, it may be that you need to add some water to get all the veggies covered.  Do what seems right.  Sometimes I add 2-3 cups, sometimes none.

While the stew is simmering, take out  a large skillet if you’re using beef, or a small one if you’re making the vegan version.  You’re going to burn the peppers and paprika just a little, which makes them more flavorful.  This can be a bit dangerous at worst and unpleasant at best if it’s not done correctly, because you don’t want to breath in the smoke from the peppers.  Trust me.  Inhaling capsaicin- the chemical that makes your mouth catch on fire- can do real damage to your airway.  The stew will still be tasty if you chicken out and just dump the peppers into the pot, but it will be better if you burn them.  🙂

Prepare stew beef by trimming off the fat and cutting into 1/2″ cubes. Have on a plate next to the stove top.  If I’m using beef, I’ll add two or three pounds.

Put about 2-3T of olive oil in the skillet, and heat the pan until the oil spits if you flick drops of water into it.  Be careful with this trick though.  If you use too much water the oil will splatter you, and can burn you badly.  If you have a stove hood, turn it on high.


  • 3T of paprika
  • 2t of cayenne
  • 2t black pepper
  • 2t white pepper

Stir the spices into the oil, keep stirring constantly, and allow to heat until they start to darken and  JUST start to smoke.

IMMEDIATELY add the meat, or a couple ladles of stew to quench the skillet.

Brown the meat, or stir the spices around in the stew you added to the skillet until the spices have all been incorporated.

Add back into to the stew, and simmer until done!

This is a recipe that *really* improves after resting for a day or two and then getting reheated.  I serve it with cheese bread, or garlic toast, or sometimes ladled over garlic mashed potatoes.

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