This past weekend, I made a wonderful, slow-cooked Spanish stew – a recipe I first discovered during my time volunteering in the kitchen at Wintergreen Studios.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Wintergreen – it’s a not-for-profit, off-grid education and retreat centre on a couple of hundred, beautiful, pristine acres of the Canadian Shield – wild rolling land that is alternately forest and field, rocky granite outcrops and deep, clear lakes.
At the heart of Wintergreen is the lodge itself – the hub of activities at Wintergreen – and a smattering of small cabins. You can read much more about Wintergreen – the ethos, retreats and programs, and much more here.
I first discovered Wintergreen in 2010 when I did a writing workshop with the prodigiously talented Canadian writer, Helen Humphreys. There are a million sources of information on Helen online but I’ve been lucky enough to write about her a couple of times including this short little interview here in Kingston Life magazine.
Like so many who attend Wintergreen, I fell in love with the place – with the rugged, terrain, the sense of community, and the time away from the buzz of regular life. For a couple of years, I went back as a volunteer, working in the kitchen. This culminated in the cookbook, A Taste of Wintergreen, a compilation of recipes we made during my time in the kitchen. I’m still involved with Wintergreen, albeit in a new role; now I sit on the board for Wintergreen Studios Press.
This weekend Wintergreen is holding a special event at Kingston’s City Hall – the Red Boot Benefit – a fund-raising auction with live music courtesy of the Swamp Ward Orchestra, readings by famed Canadian poet and memoirist Lorna Crozier, food from a variety of Kingston’s trendiest restaurants, and some truly, fabulous auction items. If you live anywhere in the Kingston area – please consider supporting sustainability and attending the Red Boot Festival. Find all the details here.
For a taste of Wintergreen in your own kitchen – this Catalan inspired beef stew is a perfect winter dish. You can use a slow-cooker as I did – or make it as we did at Wintergreen – on the wood-stove – where it simmered all afternoon.
Wintergreen’s Catalan Beef Stew
(serves 6 along with rice and a green vegetable or salad)
2 lbs (or approximately 1 kg) of stew beef – we used round steak, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups of chopped onions (about 5 to 6 small brown onions)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 cloves garlic
1-2 cups of stewed tomatoes (I used bottled rather than tinned tomatoes)
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 tbsp capers
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp mild smoked Spanish paprika
black pepper to taste
Begin by frying the onion in half the olive oil. Cook until browned – then add the balsamic vinegar and garlic and continue to cook for another minute or two. Transfer to either the crockpot or a large, heavy pan depending on how you are cooking this.
Add the remaining olive oil to the fry pan and add the beef – turning until the beef is browned. Add to the onion mixture.
Stir in the tomatoes, salt, pepper and paprika.
Crockpot – cook on low for about 5-6 hours. Then add the olives and capers and cook another hour.
Oven – simmer over low-medium heat in a large, heavy pot for 2-3 hours. Then add the olives and capers and cook a further 20 minutes.
Serve over rice or mashed potatoes with a green vegetable on the side. Sautéed green beans with lemon, or buttered peas and carrots are perfect accompaniments.