Stews that won't make your diet go to pot

Barbara Wilson

There’s nothing like a big bowl of stew or casserole to fight off those winter blues. And although stews might have a reputation for being heavy, they don’t have to be full of fat or calories:

- try to use lean cuts of meat, trim off excess fat and avoid very fatty meats such as lamb, cured meats such as salami or sausage in the casserole.

- replace some of the meat with pulses such as lentils, chickpeas and all kinds of beans to cut out even more fat and still get the protein you need.

-try to use homemade stock in place of stock cubes which are very salty and skim off fat from the surface before using it.

- use plenty of herbs and spices in place of salt.

- add dried fruit such as apricots and prunes to stews to add flavour, a touch of sweetness and extra fibre.

- put plenty of veggies in the pot along with a starchy food such as potatoes, rice, pearl barley, pasta or even sweet potatoes to add bulk to your meal and make it low Gi without adding too many excess calories.

Try these recipes for stews and casseroles to help see you through the winter months!

Chicken casserole with dumplings

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a large saucepan and gently brown 3 sliced chicken fillets. Add a chopped onion, a sliced pepper and a crushed clove of garlic and cook until softened. Sprinkle over 2 tbs plain flour and 2 tbs paprika and cook briefly.

Stir in a 400g tin of tomatoes, 2 tbs tomato puree, 2 tbs balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp brown sugar, a pint of vegetables stock (either homemade or made from a stock cube), a bay leaf and a tsp dried mixed herbs (or use 1 tbs of fresh herbs if available). Now add 3 medium-sized parsnips and 4 carrots, cut into chunks, season with pepper, cover and simmer for around 35 minutes, adding a little more water or stock if necessary.

Meanwhile, sieve 100g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 1 heaped tsp baking powder and ½ a tsp mustard powder into a large bowl. Stir in 50g grated reduced fat Cheddar or Edam cheese and season with black pepper and fresh (2 tbs) or dried (2 tsp) mixed herbs. Pour in 75ml of skimmed milk and combine all the ingredients with a fork to form a soft dough. Transfer this to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for a few minutes. Divide into 10 and roll each portion into a round dumpling.

Add around 300g frozen green beans to the casserole, top with the dumplings and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes or until the dumplings have risen.

Serve topped with a spoonful of low fat natural yoghurt.

Makes 5 servings. Nutritional information: 340 calories, 7.4g of fat and 45g carbs per serving.

Mediterranean bean stew

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a large pan and gently cook 1 chopped onion and 2 sliced celery stalks until softened. Add 1 pint (570 ml) of vegetable stock, a 400g tin of tomatoes, a green and a red pepper, sliced, a tsp dried (or 1 tbs fresh) mixed herbs and 100g red lentils. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in 200g frozen peas and 400g canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed. Cover and simmer for a further 15 minutes.

Serve with thick slices of wholemeal bread.

Makes 4 servings. Nutritional information: 295 calories, 4.6g of fat and 48g carbs per serving.

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