Like they say, “A stitch in time saves nine”, similarly, “a stew in time saves you from the cold”. Come the chilly weather, everyone starts bringing in their best hot bowls to slurp and sip while the cold winds blow past their faces. Personally, I love a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter night. Be it the light clear soup, a creamy sweet corn or mushroom or a spicy manchow/hot and sour variety, there’s not a single bowl of soup I can say no to. In fact, Sunday dinners at my household during winters generally consist of soups and breadsticks. Moreover, homemade soups are the best kind, without any preservatives or additional starch. 

This reminds me of a recent conversation with a friend wherein she said that she’s having kadhi for dinner instead of soup because it is also hot and has a soupy texture which makes her feel warm in winters. Come to think of it, there are plenty of Indian dishes which have a similar texture and consistency, making them perfect for the chilly weather. India is often referred to as a land of curries. The gravy-like dishes serve as a great alternative for soups and even stews. This brings us to the question of what’s it like to be in a soup and a stew? 

Used interchangeably in most cases, the image of soups and stews has become almost identical in our heads. However, the fact is that soups are different from stews on various standpoints. For the uninitiated, a soup is prepared by simmering ingredients like vegetables and meat in a whole lot of water, such that they get immersed in it. This liquid-y consistency of the soup is maintained and it is cooked in an open-lid pot. The ultimate outcome is a liquid-like mixture which has retained most of the water in which it was cooked. 

On the other hand, stews can be thought of as a thick soup. They are braised rather than simmered over a slow flame. The vegetables, meat, seafood etc. are added to just the right amount of liquid which is needed to cook the ingredients. The gravy-like consistency of stews is lent to it by the less amount of liquid that remains in the end. While soups can be concocted in a matter of a few minutes, stews have a longer cooking time and are covered with a lid to be cooked slowly. In case of the latter, liquid can be anything from water to wine and other forms of alcohol unlike water or stock in case of the former. 

With chunkier meats and not-so tender cuts, stews are sipped and eaten around the world in a variety of ways. Here are some of the stews you can relish this winter season at home. 

1.  Rogan Josh 

Oh yes, don’t look that surprised. Like we mentioned earlier, a lot of Indian dishes consist of gravies, Rogan Josh is one such meaty delight that features as a stew in Indian cuisine. The magic of Kashmiri red chillies lend the Kashmiri dish a vibrant red hue and the use of garlic, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon add to the complex flavours of this hearty stew. It can be paired with special Kashmiri rotis or steamed rice. 

2.  Coq Au Vin 

The French have got their classic French onion soup to feature in the soup category but how can they leave the stews section blank. The famous and legendary coq au vin is a classic dish of French cuisine that consists of wine-braised chicken, mushrooms and bacon. The ingredients may vary from place to place but the aroma of a freshly-prepared coq au vin is a treat to the taste buds. 

3.  Bratwurst Stew 

Potatoes and bratwurst cooked in a chicken broth turn into a creamy stew with the addition of cornstarch and cream. This smooth and thick stew is a heavenly combination of vegetables like carrots and chunky bratwurst links. A German specialty, this stew is all things creamy and heavenly. 

4.  Bamia 

Hailing from the Middle-East, this rich and meaty stew is vibrant in appearance as well as taste. The beef, okra, tomato and onion combination is concocted into a stew to be served on chilly cold nights as well as during Easter celebrations in countries like Cyprus and Greece. Since it is a time-consuming process, frozen okra is used in the preparation of this stew. 

5.  Beef Stroganoff 

Stews pop up in a variety of cuisines and in a variety of ways. This creamy and rich combination of meat and vegetables is a Russian inheritance. The Stroganoff is considered to be named after the then ruling class but the claims have been contested. Although the origins of the dish are not very clear, it is definitely worth a try.