Extreme makeover: Hearty meat stews

Extreme makeover: Hearty meat stews

Some simple tricks to make your favourite meat stew healthier.

  • Choose lean meats: The advantage of stewing is that cheaper cuts of meat work well, because the long slow cooking breaks down connective tissue leaving delicious, tender meat. Remove all visible fat before cooking.

  • Choose a healthy oil for browning meat: Since butter contains saturated fats, it is not a good choice for heart health. Heart-friendly oils such as olive or canola are good choices.

  • Use minimal oil: In most stews 1-2 tablespoons of oil is all you need to brown meat and vegetables. Remember, each tablespoon of oil adds around 14 grams of fat (520kJ) to your stew.

  • Add lots of vegetables: Vegetables add essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Because they are naturally low in kilojoules, they also 'dilute' the number of kilojoules per serve by adding significantly to the volume while not contributing many kilojoules. Carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, pumpkin, kumara and tomatoes add taste, colour and texture as well as nutritional value to a stew. As a guide, add at least the same volume of vegetables as meat.

  • Add pulses: Lentils can be added directly to a stew during cooking. Cooked pulses such as red kidney beans or chickpeas (canned versions are fine) also extend and enhance stews. Pulses add taste and texture and provide extra protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals without additional fat.

  • Resist the temptation to add cream: Where a recipe calls for cream or sour cream (eg beef stroganoff or Hungarian goulash), look for substitutes or use less. Thick plain yoghurt mixed with a little plain flour and added at the last minute works well instead of cream. Or use light sour cream and reduce the quantity. Try our HFG beef stroganoff recipe.

  • Boost the flavour: Trimming fat from a recipe also trims flavour. To give your stew good flavour, use rich-flavoured stocks and ingredients such as tomato paste, mustard, fresh chilli or chilli sauce, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, and add fresh or dry herbs and spices.

First published: Jun 2007

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