I’m sharing this warming, absolutely scrumptious seasonal stew garnished with delicately crunchy kale chips today, as well as some tips on how to make your soups of stews this season taste restaurant-quality (not flat, mushy, mild or just plain boring).
How to Make Soups & Stews Taste Great (I’m talking *restaurant-quality*!)
Have a flavour base: Pick a cuisine/region/location and dive into its flavours. I’ve chosen Tunisian harissa paste and orange, which play nicely by teasing out the best in each other.
Use a few different cooking techniques: To add another dimension to your soups and stews, why not try roasting the vegetables before you put them in? Or how about sautéing them over a slightly higher heat for a touch of char? These small steps add a world of character to the finished dish.
Play with texture: Soups and stews, even pureed ones need a contrasting texture. In this recipe, soft chickpeas, squash and onions are lifted by a crunchy kale chip garnish.
Let it mellow: Soups and stews, like chili and braises, all taste better the second day. The flavours have a chance to do a little howdy-do, shaking hands and whatnot. Think of this step as a built-in excuse to make meals ahead of time. The next day, all that’s left to do is reheat your masterpiece.
Add some acidity: I cannot emphasis this enough. If you’re working with stewed vegetables, beans, meats, etc., they need acid to keep the dish from becoming flat. Beans especially need a hit of acid to reach their full potential. In this stew recipe, before you reach for the salt, adjust the seasoning in this stew with a squeeze of lemon or additional orange juice.
Add some sweetness: Squash is mild and delicate, onions are earthy, garlic is pungent and kale is vegetal. Everything needs a helping hand to become extra tasty from a touch of sugar. In this recipe, I’ve used orange juice (which also doubled as a member of the acidity squad mentioned above), but adding up to 1 tbsp of liquid sweetener such as maple syrup or honey would work a treat. A little bit goes a long way. Soups and stews should never taste as sweet as a cookie; you’re going for balance, not dessert.
What I love about keeping recipes like this in my refrigerator this time of year is that they make an easy, fresh, substantial, healthy lunch. It packs like a dream if you work outside of the home and can be reheated in the microwave or taken in a thermal container. I work from home, so I just pop it in a saucepan on the stove (or in the microwave on particularly busy days), reheat, transfer to a bowl and enjoy.
The kale chips will stay crispy for a few days left on the counter in an uncovered bowl. However, the happy accident that was stirring the chips into the stew after the photoshoot added a fabulous richness just cooking the raw kale in the stew (without baking into a chip) wouldn’t add. Turn into a chip, then soften in the stew. Dare to dream and go that extra mile with this step!
It’s about time we thought of soups and stews as more than tame and mild, and this harissa veggie number happily shakes up the game. Sit back, cuddle up with a bowl and let the season of all things braised begin.
My homemade harissa paste recipe from Whole Bowls can be found here.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons harissa paste (my easy recipe is from Whole Bowls; found online here)
- 1 (2–3 pound) creamy-fleshed pumpkin such as kabocha or red kuri or buttercup (NOT butternut, which is too stringy for this recipe), seeded, peeled, and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas (from 1 (19 oz.) can)
- 2 to 3 cups water
- ½ cup orange juice
- Salt, to taste
- ½ bunch (4 cups) curly kale, de-stemmed and torn
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425ºF.
- In a large pot, heat oil and harissa over medium heat. Once fragrant, add squash, onion and garlic; sauté for 8 minutes. Add chickpeas, 2 cups water, orange juice and season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring once or twice, for 15 minutes, until squash is tender. Add additional water if a thinner consistency is desired. Adjust seasoning.
- Meanwhile, on a large rimmed baking sheet or two medium baking sheet, massage kale with oil and salt. Spread into a single layer (they need room – no layering – or they won't crisp). Roast for 5 minutes, toss, roast for 5 more minutes, toss, and roast for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until all chips are fully crisped. Turn off oven and leave oven door ajar with kale chips up to 15 minutes (optional; this ensures they're very dry if making ahead).
- To serve, ladle stew into bowls and garnish with a mound of kale chips. Enjoy immediately.