This traditional-style stew is extremely healthy, low in fat, packed with good stuff and will comfort and warm you like a big, soft blanket. Wine-soaked jackfruit replaces the traditional beef and big chucks of root vegetables are perfectly softened by the thick, delicious gravy. A perfect dish to warm up on a fall evening.
Jackfruit are huge, spiky, intimidating things, and until recently my experience with them was limited to some jackfruit juice years ago and more recently, ogling the whole fruits at the produce stands in Chinatown. However, since being floored by the jackfruit tacos at Hot Beans in Toronto, the mysterious fruit has really been on my mind. If I hadn’t been in an all-vegan establishment, I would have honestly though I had been served meat tacos. The texture was fascinating. I knew right away after that taco experience that I needed to incorporate jackfruit into my own cooking.
A bit of reading online revealed that in south Asian countries, jackfruit is sometimes called “vegetable meat” and is commonly used in vegetarian cuisine. I also learned that if you’re planning to use jackfruit in savory cooking, it’s very important to learn the difference between the two types of canned fruit available. The ripe, sweet fruit packed in syrup is not suitable for this purpose; you need to get young, green, unripe jackfruit packed in brine. At my local No Frills, they only had the sweet stuff. I found the young-in-brine fruit at an Asian grocery and bought a few cans to experiment with.
I’ve been meaning to make a traditional-style stew (“like Mom used to make”) for a while, and had been planning to use seitan in it. I’m not always the biggest fan of seitan, so it was taking me a while to get around to making the stew. Then, lightbulb! I’ll use the jackfruit! After some consultation with my mom, I came up with this stew and it was perfect; so much like the stew I ate as an omnivorous child.
Yield: a really big pot of stew.
- For the jackfruit:
- 2 cans *young jackfruit in brine* (see note above)
- 1.5 cups red wine
- ~1/2 cup flour (maybe more)
- salt and pepper
- cooking oil appropriate for medium-high heat (i.e. not olive oil; I use canola)
- For the base:
- 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 smallish or 2 large portobello mushrooms, chopped to same size as celery
- 6-10 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 can stewed tomatoes
- 2-3 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce (or more, as you like)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- Root veggies:
- 4 red potatoes
- 2 large parsnips
- 1 turnip
- 4 carrots
- *All root veggies peeled and cut into large pieces. You can use any stew-y veggies that you like. I used about six cups total.*
Drain the jackfruit and press the pieces between the backs of two plates to squeeze as much liquid out as possible. If you like, you can trim some of the core (the more dense/solid part) off the chunks (this part doesn’t end up with as meaty a texture, but I didn’t mind and used the whole pieces). Place the fruit in a shallow dish and cover with the red wine. Marinate for 30 minutes to an hour. Drain and reserve ½ cup of red wine.
Heat a large heavy stockpot to med-high heat and add a good amount of oil. Season the fruit with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Using tongs, carefully add the jackfruit to the pot and sear for about 2 minutes, watching closely to avoid burning, then flip and give another minute or two on the second side. You may need to add more oil as you go along. Remove the fruit, turn the heat down to medium, and add more oil if needed to prepare the stew base.
Add the onion, celery, mushrooms and garlic to the pot over medium heat. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Add all remaining base ingredients (I suggest starting will 2 cups of broth and adding more as needed while the stew cooks), plus the reserved wine, and stir well. Add the root vegetables and the jackfruit. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let the stew cook uncovered to reduce for about 45 minutes before the next step. Use a rubber spatula to stir and scrape the bottom of the pot occasionally to make sure things don’t get stuck.
Once everything has been cooking for a while, it’s time to pull the jackfruit back out of the stew (I know, it’s messy, but the end result is worth it). Dig around in the stew and use tongs to remove all the big jackfruit pieces and place them on a large cutting board. Mash the fruit with a fork. If you kept the core bits in, you’ll need to push down harder to mash them. (See photo for how it should look at this point). Some seeds with probably pop out at this point (they look exactly like garlic cloves!). Just give them a quick mash; no need to remove them. Return the jackfruit to the stew (don’t worry, you won’t need to take it out again).
Simmer the stew for another hour at least, until the big root vegetables are soft. You may need to add more broth, depending on how much the liquid reduced previously.
That’s it! The reward for your hard work is a giant pot of delicious, warming stew that will taste even better the next day. I imagine you could freeze some, but it’s so delicious that R and I ate the whole pot within a couple of days, so I can’t attest to its freezability. Serve with warm crusty bread.