I consider myself a full-blooded Edmontonian. I cheer for the Oilers no matter how many times they break my heart. I’ve driven around town with my windows rolled down when it was only 10 degrees. I’ve suffered up the river valley stairs by the High Level Bridge. And I’ve spent the better part of an entire paycheque at the Downtown Farmers’ Market on a sunny Saturday morning. If it’s quintessentially Edmontonian, I’ve either done it or planned to do it, then cancelled because it’s too cold to go outside.
But, confession time: I was neither born, nor raised in Edmonton, or even Alberta. I’m actually a good, old-fashioned BC hippie. And not just any BC hippie. I grew up in the Okanagan Valley, which, for those of you who’ve never vacationed there in the summer (as it seems the vast majority of Western Canada has), is an orchard-laden, winery-rife land of plenty with mild winters and long summers.
The key here is not the mild winters of my upbringing, but the long summers. Although I’ve been in Edmonton for more than six years, my body is still not accustomed to spending a half year under three feet of snow. For me, by the time we get to mid-February and certainly March, it should be pretty much Spring. I don’t care if it’s minus 20 or colder from Halloween to Groundhog Day, but come Valentine’s Day I’ve had pretty much enough. The temperature should be rising and the snow should be melting.
Of course, in Edmonton, land that I love, this is rarely the case. Never the case, actually. Ever. There’s always a period in March or April where it gets super warm and sunny enough to give us all a false sense of hope that this winter will be different. But then a giant snowstorm hits and we all head back inside for a few more months.
So, how do we cope? Why do we continue to live here, year after year, cheering for a hockey team that’s consistently at the bottom of the standings? Well, apart from the smug sense of self-satisfaction we get from bragging about how we survive the extreme cold and quoting our past Stanley Cup victories, we eat. Comfort food, mostly. Warm, hearty soups, casseroles, pastas and stews.
This is my stew of choice because it’s simple (slow cooker for the win) and full of all the delicious carbs, beef and gravy your body craves while it’s trying to keep itself warm.
If you’re starting to yearn for blue skies and green grass, but are facing the drab reality that the snow and grey clouds are here for a while longer, give this simple stew a try. You’ll feel better. Promise.
I actually made this yesterday to feed a crowd of Top Gear-watching, card-playing friends and I’m happy to say it tastes even better the second day. Make sure you taste and see if it needs a little more salt and pepper before you serve it.
Simple Beef Stew with Root Vegetables and Peas
- 1 kg stewing beef cubes
- 1/2 cup flour, separated
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4-5 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 potatoes, cubed
- 3 cups beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- A few sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tsp dried marjoram
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups frozen peas
In a large bowl, toss beef with 1/4 cup flour. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown beef and transfer to slow cooker.
Add 1/2 cup red wine to skillet. Bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits. Scrape into slow cooker and add onions, carrots and potatoes. Stir in broth, bay leaves, thyme, marjoram and salt and pepper.
Cover and cook on low 7 to 8 hours, until beef and vegetables are tender. Move meat and vegetables to one side of slow cooker. Which remaining 1/4 cup flour with 1/3 cup water. Whisk into slow cooker and stir in peas. Cover for a few more minutes until heated through. Discard bay leaves and thyme and serve.