Red boots, Wintergreen, and a warming Spanish stew

This past weekend, I made a wonderful, slow-cooked Spanish stew –  a recipe I first discovered during my time volunteering in the kitchen at Wintergreen Studios.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Wintergreen – it’s a not-for-profit, off-grid education and retreat centre on a couple of hundred, beautiful, pristine acres of the Canadian Shield – wild rolling land that is alternately forest and field, rocky granite outcrops and deep, clear lakes.

At the heart of Wintergreen is the lodge itself – the hub of activities at Wintergreen – and a smattering of small cabins. You can read much more about Wintergreen – the ethos, retreats and programs, and much more here.

I first discovered Wintergreen in 2010 when I did a writing workshop with the prodigiously talented Canadian writer, Helen Humphreys. There are a million sources of information on Helen online but I’ve been lucky enough to write about her a couple of times including this short little interview here in Kingston Life magazine.

Like so many who attend Wintergreen, I fell in love with the place – with the rugged, terrain, the sense of community, and the time away from the buzz of regular life. For a couple of years, I went back as a volunteer, working in the kitchen. This culminated in the cookbook, A Taste of Wintergreen, a compilation of recipes we made during my time in the kitchen. I’m still involved with Wintergreen, albeit in a new role; now I sit on the board for Wintergreen Studios Press.

This weekend Wintergreen is holding a special event at Kingston’s City Hall – the Red  Boot Benefit – a fund-raising auction with live music courtesy of the Swamp Ward Orchestra, readings by famed Canadian poet and memoirist Lorna Crozier, food from a variety of Kingston’s trendiest restaurants, and some truly, fabulous auction items. If you live anywhere in the Kingston area – please consider supporting sustainability and attending the Red Boot Festival. Find all the details here.

For a taste of Wintergreen in your own kitchen – this Catalan inspired beef stew is a perfect winter dish. You can use a slow-cooker as I did – or make it as we did at Wintergreen – on the wood-stove – where it simmered all afternoon.

Wintergreen’s Catalan Beef Stew

(serves 6 along with rice and a green vegetable or salad)
2 lbs (or approximately 1 kg) of stew beef – we used round steak, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups of chopped onions (about 5 to 6 small brown onions)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 cloves garlic
1-2 cups of stewed tomatoes (I used bottled rather than tinned tomatoes)
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 tbsp capers
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp mild smoked Spanish paprika
black pepper to taste

Begin by frying the onion in half the olive oil. Cook until browned – then add the balsamic vinegar and garlic and continue to cook for another minute or two. Transfer to either the crockpot or a large, heavy pan depending on how you are cooking this.

Add the remaining olive oil to the fry pan and add the beef – turning until the beef is browned. Add to the onion mixture.

Stir in the tomatoes, salt, pepper and paprika.

Crockpot – cook on low for about 5-6 hours. Then add the olives and capers and cook another hour.

Oven – simmer over low-medium heat in a large, heavy pot for 2-3 hours. Then add the olives and capers and cook a further 20 minutes.

Serve over rice or mashed potatoes with a green vegetable on the side. Sautéed green beans with lemon, or buttered peas and carrots are perfect accompaniments.

Catalan Beef Stew (2)


38 thoughts on “Red boots, Wintergreen, and a warming Spanish stew

  1. Cannot wait to try this one, Lindy…. My girls and I love hearty stews. Think it would go over very well!

    1. You know what Suzanne – sometimes I think comfort food is all I do! And yes, you would love Wintergreen. The lodge itself is just beautiful – straw bale construction; the most handsome, open, industrial kitchen; stacks of books; an ancient massive threadbare Persian rug; an antique woodstove for heating and cooking; a big kitchen garden; and views across the land from all the windows. A little patch of heaven.

    1. I’m glad you think that – it is a pretty remarkable place. I love the Canadian Shield – the pines and the lakes and the rocky outcrops everywhere. And I love cooking in a big handsome kitchen! I’ll bet you do too.

  2. Not that I know Catalonia very well outside of Barcelona but the food generally is really good. The same applies to SE France, too. As it’s considered Catalan as well. Anyway, interesting to read about the Wintergreen studios. Must go and have a nosy…

    1. I did not know that SE France was considered Catalan but it makes sense – they pretty much overlap. I want to go there next. I’d love to walk all or part of the Camino. And I’d love to explore Spanish cuisine. Have you been Johnny?

      1. I think he must mean SW France don’t you think? I couldn’t understand anyone who spoke Catalan in Spain, even tho they claim it’s half French and half Spanish. No recognition whatsoever! This stew is beautiful!

      2. Hmmm – interesting. I had to go look at the map. Catalonia appears to be directly below the centre of the South of France. I haven’t been in that area and have never been to Spain. On my travel bucket list. (Inspired by yours!)

  3. I loved learning more about Wintergreen! And the stew sounds wonderful — perfect for the weather. And funny, since I posted a beef stout stew recipe this morning and then headed to the reader to discover that we were on the same wavelength!

  4. What a stew! I just started a stew on the stove an hour ago! I’ve been in a stew mood for several days now and I’m putting your recipe at the top to try. I really like the idea of kalamata olives in the mix. Your photograph is beautiful. I remember poking around the Wintergreen website when I first discovered your blog. It sounds like a heavenly place.

    1. Pretty sure I’ve gone insane. I definitely replied to this earlier and the reply is just as definitely not here. It’s likely gone to the same place as my prescription glasses. (They disappeared earlier this week along with a galvanized pail… Who loses a pail?). I was about to put the small pot of daffodils in the pail. It’s been a week like that. But I am so happy about your photography comment because I really struggle with photographs. So – thank you! And yes, Wintergreen is truly special. Something wonderful about the rugged landscape and being off-grid.

  5. Stew always makes things a little warmer, especially in the heart of winter. Wintergreen sounds like an incredible place. My family’s home is near Kingston, and although I’ve never heard of Wintergreen, knowing the area, I can assume it is incredibly beautiful, green, and peaceful. And being “disconnected” from our “world” in the end makes you so much more connected to everything. A place that allows you to leave our intense internet driven mindset and enter into a realm that is filled with humans instead of machines is a place that should be kept going, lest we become drones in this world. Perhaps I sound a bit like a crazy person, but I do really believe in being disconnected, and thus more connected to the world that actually matters.

    1. You don’t sound one bit crazy. I love that line you wrote – that “being disconnected from our world in the end makes you so much more connected to everything.” Yes! To everything real. I could not agree more. How wonderful. If you have family in the area Eliza – please, please come and visit me sometime.

  6. Also, I myself have been contemplating a writer’s retreat since my background is in creative writing and oddly Spanish literature. This post and this dish are a combination of who I am.

    1. Amanda – you’d love Wintergreen. A writing retreat is such a wonderful, beautiful luxury. Having the time to do nothing but read, write, and think is powerful. I’m so glad you liked this post. I hope you end up making the dish. xo

  7. This is such a wonderful recipe Lindy. Especially so with the amazing backdrop of Wintergreen behind it. I love stew and would love to try it out soon. 🙂 Warmly, Danny

      1. Hi Lindy, I hope the snow storm has gone away on your side. Now my turn…temperature has dropped to 10 degrees today. Too cold for me who has been living on sunny island all my life. Lol!

      2. Hi Danny! How I would love to be able to say that I have been living on a sunny island all my life! But instead – I’m heading out to walk on a frozen lake. Beautiful in its own right.

    1. Thanks Kathryn! You are a very long way from Wintergreen and I imagine you have similar things under the Texan sun. But I love the idea of land conservation and the sense of community. One holiday season I stayed at Wintergreen with my family – and we had an off-grid Christmas together. It was one of the best Christmases ever. No phones, not tv, no computers, no electricity. We lit the fire and the candles, walked in the snow, played games, and cooked beautiful food. At night we were in bed by 9pm and slept through until morning. Not easy to do in this connected world anymore – but so restorative.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s