Pea stew, the recipe title doesn’t do this quick plant-based dinner justice. I can’t explain how peas, carrots, tomato sauce, cinnamon and smoked paprika create such magic, but whatever happens in the pot, I’m all in and grabbing a spoon.
On hand ingredients
Admittedly, I was drawn to the idea of pea stew because, well, I love frozen peas. I find them wonderfully sweet and I am always well stocked in the event I have an overwhelming urge for stovetop mac and peas or I’m making a special pot of chickpea dumpling stew. I’m also notorious for tossing in a handful of frozen peas along with a bit of bulgur or quinoa. Don’t give me those cans of peas people, I’ll just shove them in the back of the cupboard. I’m unabashedly a frozen pea superfan.
The idea of creating a simple plant-based dinner with ingredients I already have on hand, is nothing new. It describes several days a week. Pea stew is exactly this. If you have frozen peas, carrots (and you can even get away with those frozen), onions, garlic, tomato sauce and cinnamon, you have all the essential ingredients. Anything extra – lemon juice, chopped cilantro or sliced jalapenos are extras you can get by without.
Veggie broth versus veggie ‘cubes’ or bouillon
Speaking of ‘making do with what you have on hand, I added a veggie cube to the 2 ½ cups of water rather than a can or box of veggie broth. This has become my standard for several reasons. The first two are all about space, I simply can’t fit a lot of cans or boxes in my tiny Dutch kitchen and then there’s the ever-growing stack of recycled containers. My second rationale for this change is that there are some wonderful veggie cubes out there that are low in salt, contain no oil and are delicious. Finally, there is a definite cost difference between prepared broth and the stock cubes. Where I live, I can buy a high-quality box of cubes for a fraction of the price cup per cup.
I’m serious about this being the perfect recipe for anyone who feels cooking challenged or for those times when you just can’t face anything complicated. The ingredients are familiar, the prep is minimal and the process is straight forward. I have those a lot and here’s another recipe I’m adding to that list. This one involves one pot to which you will add onions, cook; add garlic and spices, cook; add carrots, tomatoes and broth, cook; add frozen peas, cook; add lemon and chopped cilantro, cook. Sounds smooth, doesn’t it? It is and here’s a way to make it even smoother.
Mise en place
No matter your level of cooking expertise, or what ingredients you are using, it’s always, always, always best to prepare all your ingredients before you turn on the stove. That’s the concept of mise en place (everything in place). This was by far the best thing I learned in any cooking course I’ve ever taken and it’s something I practice daily, no matter how easy or complicated the recipe.
What does mise en place look like for pea stew?
Pretty darned easy. Start by chopping the onions and set them aside in a small bowl, peel and crush the garlic and place them in a separate bowl. Then hit the carrots, get them peeled and sliced (you can chop them if you want smaller pieces for young children) and chop the cilantro which you’ll use in the stew and also as a garnish if you like. Be sure to grab your cinnamon, smoked paprika and black pepper, measure them out and add them in a small dish.
Next, measure out the tomato sauce. You’ll need 2 cups of sauce (more or less), so put that in a measuring cup if need be. If you’re adding vegetable broth, measure that out and if you’ll be using a vegetable broth cube with water, do that. Because this recipe cooks quickly, you can take the frozen peas out, measure 4 ½ cups and set them aside. Finally, cut the lemon in half, juice it or measure out about ½ cup of the pre-squeezed stuff.
Consider what’s in each ingredient (a.k.a. the salt patrol)
The first step in cooking is looking, really looking at your recipe. Not exclusively, but in particular, consider hidden sources of salt. In the case of our pea stew, the culprits will be the tomato sauce and the vegetable broth. If you already know for example, that your veggie broth will have added salt, then resist adding any additional salt until you have the dish finished. I’m playing that broken record again – you can always add salt, but you can never take it away.
The final steps
When I’m prepping a meal, my last mise en place step is to consider any sides garnishes I might want to use and the timing around those. For example, I decided to serve pea stew with quinoa because I wanted something with a bit more protein than rice (another good option). That takes 15 minutes and the entire pea stew about 30. So, I rinsed and measured it and started it right after I tossed the carrots in the pot. That worked the timing out.
I know this all sounds a bit involved and perhaps you are an organization-resistant kind of person, but if you take the time to get everything together before you start the cooking process, you’ll be amazed at how smooth and enjoyable cooking becomes. I’ve personally discovered that this bit of organization keeps my kitchen mess minimized. Likely, that’s because I’m not digging in the depths of the spice cabinet or doing a rush chop job on some ingredient that I overlooked.
In terms of garnish, we like pea stew with a bit of chopped cilantro and some extra lemon juice. I added fresh sliced jalapenos, but I don’t consider this a requirement. It just provides extra spice for those who want it, although a dash of dry red chili flakes would do that as well.
Being a bit to the right on the organizational spectrum, I was immediately drawn to concept of mise en place, it made complete sense to me. It was in direct contrast to the mania that sometimes overtook me as I was prepping, searching for spices and measuring all while that something I was trying to cook was getting darker or dryer as it lingered in the pan I was too busy to turn down. Fool that I was, I thought that if I got the pot going, dinner would be on the table quicker. Then I could sit down, take a deep breath and relax.
It wasn’t until put mise en place into practice and embraced it as a natural step in the cooking process to the point that is now habit and gathered my own proof about how much time it actually saved did I understand its impact on my cooking. That ‘prep time’ allows for contemplation and planning. Maybe that’s about timing the quinoa or realizing early on that I was missing an ingredient and deciding on a substitute. More importantly, ‘everything in place’ means that cooking is more deliberate, peaceful and simply more joyful.
Mise en place had a hugely positive impact on my life and upon reflection, many things have. We can all let clouds dwell on negative influences in our lives, but if we consider the positive - even if it’s just learning mise en place making cooking fun and joyful, we might be able to put the negatives in context and recognize that they don’t have to define our futures. Past is just that, in the past. If you’ve struggled to keep yourself on the plant-based track, right now at this moment, you can change your food future. I’m not minimizing the challenge, but we’re always prepped with choice. Peace.Print
Delectably simple pea stew with carrots, tomato sauce and cinnamon is the quick and healthy plant-based meal with the smile and clean plate guarantee.
- 2 medium onions chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. smoked (or regular) paprika
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- 2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced (about 4 medium carrots)
- 2 cups tomato sauce (tomato puree)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 4 ½ cups frozen peas
- Juice of 1 lemon (about ½ cup)
- 1 cup fresh cilantro (coriander)
- 1 tsp. salt (optional or to taste)
- Heat a medium pot over medium heat and then add the onions and saute them for about 5 minutes until they start to soften and brown.
- Add the garlic, cinnamon and pepper and stir for another minute until the onions are coated.
- Add the carrots, tomato puree and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook until the carrots are tender (about 10 minutes).
- Add the peas and cook for another 10 minutes until they are heated through.
- Add the lemon juice and ½ cup cilantro. Mix everything well and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Serve with rice, quinoa or another grain of your choice.
- Garnish with the remaining cilantro or additional lemon juice or diced jalapenos.
- Nutritional information does not include rice or quinoa. I used 1 1/2 cups dry quinoa to serve 6.
- Be mindful of the cooking time of quinoa, rice or any grain you are serving with your pea stew and plan when to start cooking them so they will be done with the pea stew. The stew can simmer at the end and you can always add additional vegetable broth if you need to thin it out.
- If you are not a fan of cilantro, flat-leaf (Italian) parsley is another good option. Alternatively, you can add a cup or two of chopped spinach. Add as soon as the frozen peas thaw.
- Category: Main Course
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Keywords: Pea Stew