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Beef and Chicken Stews

Updated on January 7, 2010
Herodotus Image Credit: Google Images
Herodotus Image Credit: Google Images

Stew History


A stew is nothing more than two or three different foods boiled together. Every culture, ancient or present, has its own version of a stew. The truly wonderful aspect of the dish is in being able to experiment with various ingredients and create your own specialty. It’s very economical as you can gather leftovers together and produce supper, and because vegetables make up the bulk of stew you know it’s healthy.

Stew goes back a long way. Archaeology tells us that as far back as 8000 years ago cultures were boiling a combination of foods together in large clam shells. In the Old Testament Esau sold his birth right to his brother Jacob for a lentil stew. Herodotus writes about the Scythians who added water to an animal paunch and boiled the meat. “In this way,” Herodotus informs, “an ox, or any other sacrificial beast, is ingeniously made to boil itself”.  The first cookbook written between 100BCE and 200 AD by a Roman lists stews and similar dishes. The chef Guillaume Tirel (1310-1395) includes ragouts and stews in one of the oldest French cookbooks. Stews are a time honoured tradition everywhere.

There is no limit to the ingredients. Vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, beans, corn, peas, peppers or tomatoes can be combined with proteins including fish, beef, sausage, pork or chicken. While many consider water to be the traditional stewing liquid, wine, stock and beer are also used. What counts in your creation is that the ingredients are simmered at a low temperature where the individual flavours merge to make a healthy meal. The following recipes are basic beef and chicken stews that I have used for many years.

Beef Stew

1 pound beef

½ onion

Clove of garlic

2 bay leaves

Beef and Chicken stock

3 peeled and cubed potatoes

1 large carrot peeled and sliced

1 cup mixed peppers

Variety of mixed vegetables

1 8 ounce can of mushrooms

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Flour/water mix to thicken

Salt and pepper to taste


Use a cheaper cut of meat. The beef will tenderise as it simmers. Brown the beef with the onion and garlic. Once browned add at least one cup of beef stock and one cup of chicken stock and the bay leaves. Simmer for one and half hours. Remove the bay leaves and add in all raw vegetables and peppers and bring to a boil. Before you add your vegetables you may have to add more stock. Cook until the vegetables are tender. At this stage you can add in any leftover or frozen vegetables and the mushrooms. Cook until the frozen vegetables are tender. Add your brown sugar. If you desire a thicker gravy, mix water and flour together to the consistency of white liquid glue and add to the stew stirring constantly until well mixed and thickened. If it becomes too thick, add water and stir. Your stew is ready, although the longer it sits, the more flavour it will gather.

Beef Stew. Image
Beef Stew. Image

Chicken Stew

1 pound cooked and cubed chicken

½ onion

1 clove garlic

Chicken stock

Pinch of ground sage and pinch of poultry seasoning

3 potatoes peeled and cubed

1 large carrot peeled and sliced

1 cup mixed peppers

Variety of mixed vegetables

8 ounce can mushrooms

Flour/water mix to thicken

Salt and pepper to taste


Cook the chicken separately. If you stew it like the beef recipe, it will shred and fall apart. I use either leftover chicken or buy legs/thighs that are cheaper. In a large pot add onion, garlic, two to three cups of chicken stock, seasonings, raw vegetables, peppers, salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are tender. Add the frozen and/or leftover vegetables, mushrooms and chicken, cooking until frozen vegetables are tender. Thicken with flour and water mixture. Remove from heat and allow to sit for a couple of hours if possible.

The following recipes can round out your stew experience.

Oldest known cookbook 'Apicius de re Coquinaria'
Oldest known cookbook 'Apicius de re Coquinaria'




1 cup of flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

2 tablespoons salad oil


Sift dry ingredients together. Mix milk and oil together and add all at once to flour mixture. Stir until moistened. Drop with a tablespoon into bubbling stew. Cover pot and let stew return to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook dumplings for 15 minutes. Makes about 10.


Baking Powder Drop Biscuits


2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shortening

1 cup milk


Combine dry ingredients with shortening until you have the texture of coarse crumbs. Add milk and stir quickly. Should be a loose dough that  you can drop from a spoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Makes about 8 to 10 biscuits. Cook at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.


Both stews can be frozen, however if you plan to freeze leave out the potatoes and cook separately as potatoes do not freeze well. Any of the above combinations can make a hearty, healthy and simple meal – especially on a cold winter day. Experiment with your own vegetable preferences. You are limited only by your imagination.


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    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 7 years ago from Michigan

      Very interesting about the clam shells! These recipes look very good :)

    • Delaney Boling profile image

      Delaney Boling 7 years ago

      Good hub. I like the way you focused on the actual history of stew and how every culture had their own version. I was trained by French Chefs in regards to my culinary background so I know all about "Pot-a-feu". However, it is fascinating to learn about how certain cooking techniques (such as stewing) sprang up in numerous civilizations around the same time. Keep up the good writing!