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Carrot stew with star anise

Jul 28, 2020 | Mains, Meat

Hearty stew for winter
Just the word ‘hearty’ is enough to get me excited. If it refers to a warm and comforting stew, even better. Colder weather makes us all feel like a warming, hearty meal and it’s no surprise then that stews are synonymous with winter.

There are endless combinations of ingredients and flavours to prepare a delicious stew with. In most recipes, cuts of meat like neck, shin, thick rib and shoulder are used. These require long, slow cooking methods in some or other liquid, ranging from water to wine, Rooibos tea or beer, to result in tender, flavourful meat. A variety of veggies and seasoning can be used and sometimes it’s the most basic of combinations which renders the best results. Firmer, longer cooking vegetables are perfect for a stew and I love adding some tender veggies towards the end, to add extra crunch and flavour.

A few things are sure to add that authentic flavour to a stew. Start with fresh and natural ingredients and make sure to brown the meat properly before simmering it. Sautéing onions, garlic, carrots and celery make for an aromatic base for almost any stew. Yes, a stew is not a quick supper and needs some planning and patience. It’s essential for stewing meat not to boil rapidly, but rather to simmer gently for at least 2 or more hours. The beauty is however, that once everything is in the pot, little attention is needed until you can tuck in. This recipe uses basic ingredients, with the addition of whole star anise to give it an aromatic flair. Star anise is delicious with both carrots, cabbage and beef or pork. One could easily play with different spices to ring the changes. Cumin seeds or even whole cloves and all spice berries are good options, or use a Chinese five spice mixture instead. All of these are available from most supermarkets or a spice store.

This recipe is from Make five and I shared it in the Muse magazine, a community magazine based in Cape Town, where I regularly contribute a recipe.


Carrot stew with star anise

From Make five/Maak vyf
Serves 4


30 ml (2 tbsp) olive or avocado oil

400 g pickling onions or baby onions, halved or quartered

2-3 small star anise

30 ml (2 tbsp) soft brown sugar

30 ml (2 tbsp) white grape vinegar

750 g beef or pork stewing meat, cut in cubes and excess fat removed

125 ml (½ cup) white wine or water

5 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced diagonally

2 celery stalks with the leaves, thickly sliced diagonally

30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh thyme leaves

1 small white cabbage, halved and thickly sliced

lemon juice, salt and pepper

60 ml (¼ cup) coarsely chopped Italian parsley



1. Heat the oil in a large, wide-based saucepan over medium heat. Fry onions, cut side down, until golden brown.

2. Add star anise, sugar and vinegar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for a few minutes and stir the onions until they are caramelised. Spoon onions out.

3. Sauté meat in the same saucepan, until golden brown. Add onions with wine or water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 1 hour.

4. Stir in the carrots, celery with the leaves and thyme and simmer gently for another hour with the lid on. At this stage, the meat should be tender.

5. Stir in the cabbage and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until cooked, but not too soft. Season to taste and stir in the parsley.

6. This stew is delicious on sweet potato mash or can be served as it is because of all the veggies.

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