When it comes to warming up, not only our bodies but our kitchens, stews are at the top of the list. Just the smell of a simmering stew spells comfort and warmth. Soups can also give us this warm feeling, but be not confused - soups and stews are very different. Both are generally cooked on top of the stove or in a crock pot and both can contain meat and vegetables, but their liquid bases are different in many ways.
What is Stew?
The definition of a stew is solid food cooked in resilient gravy. Solid ingredients include meats, carrots, potatoes, celery and other types of vegetables. These meats and vegetables are chopped coarsely and added to a liquid. The liquid is thickened by flour or arrowroot after the stew simmers for a period of time.
Stews are simmered over low heat. The simmering time may be 3 hours to 8 hours depending on the type of stew. This simmering process allows the flavors of the stew ingredients to intermingle with each other. Often times extra spices are not necessary to give the stew its distinct comforting flavor and smell.
Where Did Stews Originate?
It is said that stews have long been a favorite in France. The French are known for making flavorful stews that are economical. When stew first originated it was considered a food for peasants. Stews were easily made with just a few ingredients and can be a dish that is served for more than just one sitting.
It didn’t take long for stews to become a dish of distinction. Today the French pride themselves on their vibrant and hearty stews. Yet France is not alone on their love for this type of dish. Polish too have their own form of stew known as “bigos” and the Germans consider goulash their favorite type of stew. The Americans are also true lovers of a good stew.
The Difference Between Stews & Soups
Even though both soups and stews warm the body, there are significant differences between the two.
Soups are often water based. Milk, or even fruit juices, can also be used to make a soup base. Soups can be served warm or cold and are usually served in a bowl due to the thin liquid soups are cooked in. Soups cook quickly compared to stews, which means the addition of more spices and seasonings are often times necessary to give a soup its distinct flavor.
Stews are much thicker and their liquids are often referred to as gravy. Stews are usually served as a main course. Soups can be both a main course or served as a starter for a meal. A good stew is always served hot and can be placed on a plate rather than in a bowl due to its thicker consistency. Stews are also much richer than soups and hold well when frozen and reheated.
Soups and stews can warm you up on a cold winter day and give a little comfort to fight off the winter blues. The differences between the may be quite distinctive, but the end result is still a warm comfort and great taste. Try simmering a hearty stew to see the difference for you.