So it's taken me about 2 years to get to the stage where I have come up with a clear method for a nice all -purpose supper that lasts for a few days. It's basically a development of the stew from the early phases of the GAPS Diet. I do use herbs. Our kid likes her eggs so much that I leave them out of the stews and serve them in the mornings for breakfast. So if you're in the early stages of the diet, this should be fine, depending on what your food sensitivities are.
At least for us, the key is saturated animal fat - ghee and drippings, mainly. We also use olive oil, but it's not as healing as the other two. We can't have lard, so generally it's tallow or schmaltz and the gelatinous leavings from whatever roast or simmer I've made. To our early 21st century eyes and palettes these recipes look frighteningly out of whack with the mainstream dietary advice you'll get from your doctor, but I've found that it is the perfect balance of fat to flavor for dealing with our allergies, migraines, general health and digestion, including sugar digestion. This is a meal after which our kid almost NEVER asks for dessert.
I try to coordinate the making of a soup and a roast so that I can use the fresh drippings in the soup. Occasionally my cooking will be out of sync and I'll store the stuff in a jar, then use it from there. It still tastes good. I've included a simple and thrifty ground beef simmer in this post. The reason I make the meat separate from the rest of the stew is that we opt for meatless meals after 3 or 5pm. This works well whether I'm working late and eating alone or on regular weeknights when Snackboy gets home from work at 7. We include the actual meat for lunch or breakfast, but leave it out for dinner. (Both the stew and the meat make nice additions for breakfast scrambles, too.)
The recipe also takes for granted that the day or so before you've made your week's worth of ghee (which for us is a full 2 cups!) and your week's worth of broth. I also have either storebought or home made sauerkraut ready. If we could we'd alternate with a good sour cream dollop instead, but that's not happening with us for a while. :)
By the way, the big news is that Little Moo has nearly made it to the end of her second food trial with her favorite treat, sheep's milk yogurt, with nary a spot on her, a sniffle or an "ahem." Good news! This is after I forgot her dose of enzymes before her breakfast this morning and suddenly remembered it mid-meal. So tomorrow, unbeknownst to her, she gets another two large teaspoons full. Joy will ensue. It's been over a year. Yay!
So here it is...I'm sure that you will come up with your own fun variations. Try different veggies - midwinter's a good time for hard greens and roots. Those can get interesting. We're just starting to see new spring veggies come in. Asparagus, peas and string beans are nice additions. Just remember that the softer the vegetable, the closer to the end you add it. If it's a very tender vegetable, you might want to do a quick or even flash steam and add it at the very end to the hot soup so as not to overcook it. The warmth of the broth will continue to steam it at a nicely low temperature so that the color, texture and flavor stay put.
Lastly, you'll notice that the stew only has 1/2 teaspoon of salt, even though it's a pretty big pot-full. The reasoning for this is that it's meant to be served with a ferment which adds tang or saltiness at the end.
Ground Beef Simmer & The Ultimate GAPS Vegetable Stew
Ingredients for simmer:
2 teaspoons ghee
1 medium (or so) onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon unprocessed sea salt
1 lb organic, full-fat, pastured ground beef
1/4 cup broth (we use chicken or beef - I think it's tastier with the chicken, but it's whatever you'd like)
(optional) 1/2 cup or so well-cooked gizzards from the last long-simmered chicken soup, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Ingredients for soup:
3-4 tablespoons ghee
1 large onion or two small, sliced
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon unprocessed sea salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 small leaf of dried sage or a small pinch of the bottled stuff
drippings from the simmer
2 stalks celery
1/2 to 1 cup mushrooms
1/2 head of yellow cabbage
1 BIG bunch of hard winter greens or a blend of a few. (Kales, collards are both nice - chard is sweet and pretty, especially if you have a pinkophile like we do. Mustard and dandilion are kind of bitter, but can be offset with the high fat content or by blending a small amount with a bunch of something sweeter. We stay away from spinach for calcium absorption reasons, but this can also be a nice addition. Don't cook it as much as the harder greens.)
1/2 gallon (or so) broth
(optional) a softer spring vegetable: peas, chopped string beans or asparagus
sauerkraut or sour cream
Get out 2 pots. One should be like a large skillet our round-belly saucepan for the simmer. The other big enough for a soup - either Dutch oven or spaghetti-sized. (I recommend NOT using iron for the beef, the reason being that at the end you'll have to lift it and pour out the drippings. If you have wrists of steel, go for it. Consider it part of your weightlifting regimen. :) Iron makes tastier simmers, anyway.)
If your beef is frozen start defrosting it in a bowl of warm water.
Melt the ghee for each recipe in the corresponding pan at medium-low temperature. Chop or slice the onion for the stew. Chop the onion for the simmer. Put into the corresponding pot. Set your timer for 15 minutes, minimum, cover the pots and stir occasionally. The longer the simmer on the onion, the sweeter it gets and the less structured. If you like nice solid onions, continue the recipe at 15 minutes. Everyone else, turn the heat down a bit and keep simmering.
Okay, so you're waiting now. If you're like me, you stop for a bit to blog or procrastinate. So here we are.
I keep hearing that onion is good for both digestive and immune systems if simmered between 25 and 35 minutes in ghee. I also read a post on Dr. Mercola's page recently where, below all the usual hype he revealed that there had been some study somewhere that showed that onions eaten regularly help boost calcium absorption. (No word on how to cook them, or why onions do that, or if the onion eaters were also doing weight-bearing exercise, eating well otherwise, standing on their heads chanting a sea chanty etc...so take with a grain of salt! So to speak. Sorry for the pun.)
Back to the recipe.
Once you've safely turned down your onion simmers, crush your garlic into each pot, then add the salt. Add the herbs and any previously stored drippings to the soup pot. Keep both on the lowest temperature. No worries about overcooking - there's no rush. Just keep it low. Turn it off and keep covered if you're concerned about burning. Let it steep.
If you have time, pots and space, bring your quart of broth to a boil, then turn it down to simmer. I often don't have any of those three things so I add it cold, but I don't think that's necessarily the best way to do it.
Get out a big bowl, fill it with filtered water and a teaspoon of vinegar or 2 teaspoons sea salt and prepare your greens. Different greens need different prep - kale gets the ribs stripped clean away, mustard gets some of the ribs stripped. Dandelion ribs are fine. So are chard. Go for it. Have fun. Put them to soak in the bowl. The salt or vinegar will encourage any freeloaders to jump ship. Set aside ribs for another broth at another time if you wish.
Chop the harder veggies first. I like carrots either in small dices or half-rounds, roots like turnip or rutabaga in dices, and celery in slices but there are no rules. Keep the pieces to a small bite size and try to make them more or less the same size with the harder vegetables smaller or added earlier. One exception to this rule is mushrooms. I like to add them early, sliced or coarsely chopped, since they are twice as amazing when they've absorbed the herb-scented ghee before the broth.
So you should be nearly done chopping, slicing and dicing by now. Your timer may have gone off, or you may be like me right now and have let the onion mixtures steep for a while in the ghee. Get the temperature of the skillet or round belly pot up a bit, then add the beef. Chop it up with a fork for a bit, then add the lemon juice - it breaks down the fat in the meat so that it starts to break up a bit. Add the chopped gizzards if you are using them. Then add the broth and blend well. Cover and simmer on low, stirring occasionally until done - about 10 minutes. Be careful once you add the meat not to overcook. Even the fattiest pastured meats cook much quicker and drier than the feedlot stuff. If you got good, clean, grass-fed meat it should be fine with a bit of pink. If you don't have that option, cook it until the pink is gone. Turn it off and set aside.
Meanwhile, back on the ranch...
Bring the heat back to a cooking temperature on your stew pot. Heft up that pot of meat and pour the drippings into the onion/garlic/herb mixture. Add the mushrooms. Stir well and allow them to absorb the niceness in the pot. Yum. Then add the hard veggies - carrots, roots, cabbage. Follow with celery, zucchini, string beans and other medium-hard vegetables. Stir and coat. Put the top back on. Chop the well-washed greens to a nice bite-size and add them on top of the rest of the mixture. They should just about fill the Dutch oven. It will look like they're taking over. Don't worry. They shrink. Stir to coat and put the top back on for about 5 minutes or until the greens look a bit wilty. (At this point either add your soft vegetables or put them on to steam.) Add the broth. Bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer. Simmer well for about 15-25 minutes depending on how long you've simmered previously. Take your steamed soft veggies - asparagus, peas, pea greens, etc - and add before serving.
A nice way to re-make the stew in its meaty hearty version is to take a dollop of the meat and a nice portion of the stew in a third pot (this is assuming that it's the next day or the day after and you're pulling out a nice instantaneous lunch that you can get from fridge to table in - get this - FIVE MINUTES, yes indeedy,) and heat them up together so that they blend nicely. If you do eat starches you can pour the mixture over rice, but if you're a hard-core GAPS follower, eat it as is topped with sauerkraut or sour cream.
Enjoy. I'm going to go chop vegetables now. :)