Autumn vegetable stew
"Despite the falling leaves, there’s still a place for lighter, fresher meals – although I’ve called this a stew, it is delicate, colourful and brimming with vibrant vegetables," says Gill Meller. This is an edited extract from Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower by Gill Meller (Hardie Grant Books, $49.99) and is available where all good books are sold.
- 400g can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
- 1 large butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeds discarded, cut into 3cm chunks
- 3 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cut into 6 wedges
- 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 750g large ripe tomatoes
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
- 4 celery stalks, sliced 2cm thick
- Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 thyme sprigs
- Juice & pared zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup (250ml) vegetable stock
- 1 1/4 cups (310ml) red wine
- 1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/4 bunch dill, chopped
If you’re using dried beans, soak them in a bowl of water for 6 hours or overnight. Then, drain them and transfer the beans to a pan. Cover with water and bring to the simmer. Cook for 35-40 minutes until they are almost tender. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oven to 200°C.
Place the pumpkin and fennel in a roasting pan. Drizzle over half the olive oil and season to taste. Tumble everything together, cover loosely with baking paper or foil and roast for 50-60 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking, until the vegetables are nice and tender.
Meanwhile, prick the tomatoes with a knife, then place them in large heatproof bowl. Pour over boiling water to cover and leave them to stand for 3-4 minutes to loosen the skins. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes from the water and when the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel away as much skin as you can and discard in the compost. Roughly chop the tomatoes and set aside.
When the fennel and pumpkin are ready, heat a large cast-iron casserole over a medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tbs olive oil and, when it’s hot, add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, celery, chilli flakes, if using, bay leaves, thyme, pared strips of lemon zest, and some salt and pepper. Stir the vegetables as they soften, for about 12-15 minutes, taking care that they don’t burn. When they are sweet and tender, add the chopped tomato and stir well.
Add the cannellini beans, the roasted fennel and squash, the stock and the red wine. Bring to the simmer and cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring gently every so often, until you have a nice thick, rich sauce and the vegetables and beans are meltingly tender. Then, add the lemon juice and plenty of salt and pepper to taste. When you’re happy with the balance, remove the casserole from the stove and stir in the parsley and dill. Drizzle over some olive oil to serve.