In Chapter 4 of Book 4 in the Lord of the Rings – Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit, we see Gollum, formerly known as Sméagol, trying to trick the hobbits, particularly Frodo, into trusting him by bringing the group some rabbits to eat. Since this act is crucial in portraying the faltering of Frodo’s trust in Sam as they journey through Mordor, it is also portrayed in the film.
I decided it would be fun to make a Shire/country-style stew with po-ta-toes. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as some may see it!), it is close to impossible in the part of the world I live in to get rabbit meat that is fit for eating – nor would I be very keen on eating rabbit anyway. I decided to replace the “rabbit” part of the stew with carrots. Essentially, this is a sort of vegetable stew with what I think is a Shire-like homeliness to it.
A Shire-Style Vegetable Stew (feeds 3 normal people or 2 hobbits)
Preparing & Cooking Time – about a total of 40 minutes
- 2 Russett potatoes
- 2 medium sized carrots
- 3 stalks of long beans
- a handful of mushrooms (baby shiitakes were used in this recipe)
- half a large onion (more onions = sweeter stew)
- some milk (about 250~300ml)
- a little butter (about 10g)
- a pinch of salt
- Wash all of the fresh ingredients except for the mushrooms.
- Prepare the fresh ingredients by peeling the carrots, slicing the onions, and chopping the long beans into sticks of about 3cm long. Slice one carrot.
- Boil the potatoes and the unsliced carrot – it is fine to boil them together. If you are short of time, you can also microwave them, although this is decidedly less hobbity. You will have to boil the carrots for about 5 minutes and the potatoes for about 10 minutes.
- While (3) is boiling, stir-fry the sliced carrots, chopped long beans, mushrooms, and sliced onions in a soup pot with a dash of cooking oil. Fry the carrots and long beans first, then add the rest in order to prevent burning. Once everything is cooked, turn off the flame and set this aside. Do not wash the soup pot yet – there’s plenty of flavour stuck to the bottom that we’ll need in (7).
- Take the boiled potatoes from (3) and peel them (you can leave the skin on if you prefer). Dice them, and set aside.
- Take the boiled carrot from (3) and slice it into smaller pieces. Put it in the blender with a small amount of milk in order to make a sort of milky carrot purée.
- Put the stir-fried vegetables from (4), the boiled potatoes from (5), and the carrot purée from (6) into the soup pot from (4), and put on medium heat. Add a thin slice of butter for some aroma, and stir. Pour in some milk until the mixture reaches a stew-like consistency.
- Simmer for at least 5 minutes, or until some of the potatoes have disintegrated into the stew, giving it a potage-like consistency. Stir frequently to prevent burning (thick liquids burn easily!). If the stew is too thick, add some more milk. Finally, add salt to taste and serve with some bread.
And that’s all! This is a hearty meal that is perfect for a quick and easy dinner. This really was more delicious than expected, and proved that you don’t need to go out and buy fancy stocks to make a decent stew!
I do realise that there are no herbs in it despite my reference to “Of Herbs and Rabbit Stew” earlier, but herbs are quite unnecessary in this stew since the onions and the mushrooms bring out a lot of flavour. If you prefer, though, you could add in some bay leaves and thyme for that extra oomph.
- Make it Richer: I didn’t put in any meat in this stew because we are (more or less) vegetarian, or at least, try to go easy on the meat, in our household. If you’d prefer to have some meat though, you can always throw in some diced chicken or pork into this stew. Simply stir-fry it with the vegetables in step (4).
- No Blender?: Have no fear! The blending step is just to add some more consistency and colour to the stew. If you don’t have a blender, or simply cannot be bothered to blend the carrots just for the sake of a brighter and thicker stew, then you can skip this step altogether.