How can you tell when spring is truly sprung? It’s not frolicking lambs or tulips bursting into bloom. It’s the rain, buckets of it, spilling across the nation and ensuring the first days of daylight saving begin and end in damp and drizzly sogginess.
One minute you’re drooling over the new season’s asparagus, the next you’re up to your ankles in an overflowing drain and your socks are sodden.
C’est la vie. The best thing for it is to dig out your gumboots, head out in search of some puddles and jump right in.
And make stew. Giant rib-sticking potfuls of it.
The following one-pot wonders are great spring warmers. Better yet, you don’t even have to brown the meat. Just chop everything up, bung it in the pot with water – look ma, no stock – and let it simmer ’til it’s done.
Aussie foodwriter Jill Dupleix’s tender lamb curry spiked with tangy lemon, mint and fresh coriander will look after itself while you’re splashing about in the rain. When you get back, all you’ll have to do is towel your hair and cook the rice.
And this Danish stew from British foodwriter Sophie Grigson is definitely not sophisticated food; it’s basic, filling, peasanty stuff, made of little more than meat and spuds all cooked up together in a large pot until the spuds go mushy and absorb the nice meaty gravy. It’s not pretty, but it tastes great.
450g chuck steak
675g floury potatoes
50g butter, plus extra to serve
1 large onion, chopped
3 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped spring onions
Cut the steak into 2.5cm cubes. Peel the potatoes and cut into 2.5cm cubes. Melt the butter in a heavy pan and add the chopped onion and meat. Cook gently, stirring, until the onion is tender but not browned.
Add the water, salt, bay leaves and pepper. Bring up to the boil, cover and simmer for one and a half hours.
Add the potatoes and continue simmering, half-covered, for a further 45 minutes or so, stirring every now and then until the potatoes disintegrate to thicken the stew. By the end of the cooking time you should have a thick mixture – soupier than mashed potatoes, but just about thick enough to eat with a fork.
If necessary, add a little more water as it cooks, or boil off some of the liquid at the end if it isn’t thick enough.
Adjust the seasoning and sprinkle with the spring onions. Serve in big dollops with a knob of butter on top of each and a hunk of dark and chewy rye bread on the side.