DIY Healthy Crockpot Vegetable Stew Recipe

crockpot vegetable stew recipeIn my last blog post (Healthy Crockpot Dinners), I praised the wonder that is the crockpot or slow cooker for healthy, cost-effective meals. I wanted to include a healthy vegetable stew recipe but, rather than give you exact ingredients, I thought I would give you a basis for your recipe and offer lots of ideas on how you can adapt it. So here is a DIY healthy crockpot vegetable stew recipe – you choose the variations.

Start with Your Crockpot Vegetable Stew Recipe Basics

A good start to any stew recipe is to lightly fry some onion (and garlic, if you like it) in a frying pan until translucent.
Add your vegetables to the pot, depending on the required cooking time:

  • Root vegetables are excellent for slow cooking stews – add chopped carrots, swede, parsnips, turnips, red or russet potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, celeriac.
  • Although not strictly root vegetables as they are the bits above ground, I also like to add chopped celery and leeks.
  • Layer them so that the vegetables that take the longest to cook are at or near the bottom (carrots, turnips) and the ones that take less time are at the top (leeks, celery, squash).
  • If you want (and you’re available) you can add the quicker-cooking vegetables later but if you’re going to be busy then the layering method works well.
  • Add your stock and cook it on low all day (around 8 hours) or on high for a few hours.

How Much Stock Should You Add?

Slow cookers don’t require as much liquid as other forms of cooking because there is no evaporation and some vegetables release water while cooking. Also, make sure you don’t overfill your crockpot – two-thirds full is a good rule of thumb. When cooking vegetables, you need just enough stock to cover them. If you need to thicken the stew at the end of cooking, you can take a teaspoon or two of cornflour, mix it to a paste with a little cold water and stir through the stew – cook for another 15mins.

Some people like a more tomato base to their stews, in which case substitute some of the stock for chopped tinned or fresh tomatoes.

A splash or two of red wine can also add to the flavor.

Can I Use Non-Root Vegetables?

Root vegetables are ideal for a slow cooker because of the length of time it takes then to soften when cooked. You can add other vegetables, such as zucchini, cauliflower, peas, beans, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens but leave them until the final hour of cooking time, otherwise they can end up mushy, slimy and unappetizing. Spinach should be stirred in at the end and left just long enough for the leaves to wilt.

Best Herbs & Spices for Vegetable Stew

stew herbs and spicesMost herbs and spices should be added at the beginning (there are a few exceptions, especially if the herbs are fresh, such as fresh parsley, which can be added just before serving, or fresh thyme that can go in an hour before serving). Your choice of herbs and spices is really about your own personal tastes but my advice is not to try them all at once!

  • If you enjoy a spicier stew then cumin, chili, cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne (all the Cs!) are great choices.
  • For a “warming” stew without too much spice, add some paprika.
  • Tarragon and chervil work well with vegetables
  • Or you might want to get really adventurous and try turmeric, fennel, chopped cilantro/coriander or red chili flakes.
  • More traditional herbs include sage, thyme, and rosemary.
  • And don’t forget the bay leaves (but remember to spoon them out before serving).
  • From a PCOS health point of view, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, cayenne, sage and rosemary are all good anti-inflammatory herbs and spices.
  • Personally, I can never cook a stew (or most other winter dishes) without added a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins) too – it makes everything taste better!

Beans & Lentils

Beans and lentils are excellent additions to stews. Dried beans and lentils should be soaked and rinsed, added at the beginning and cooked on low for 8-10 hours. Some dried beans – such a kidney beans and cannellini beans – need cooking at a high temperature first to remove any toxins. Personally, for convenience, I prefer to throw in pre-cooked lentils and tins of chickpeas, butter beans and any other beans I have available. Always make sure you rinse well before adding and only add for the last half-hour to hour of cooking or they will turn to mush.

Additional Handy Hints:

If you or the family don’t like the idea of stew 2 days in a row, freeze in handy portions for future easy dinners and lunches. Or blitz the remainder in a food processor for a delicious vegetable soup.

To turn this into a meat stew, cube/chop and remove excess fat from the meat, brown or seal the meat in a little oil, and then add to the bottom of the crockpot. This will work with most meats but, depending on what you choose, you will want to review the herbs, spices and stock as to what will work best with each meat.

What are your favorite additions to a crockpot vegetable stew recipe? Any handy hints? Please share them on the PCOS Matters Facebook page.

 

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