Onion. Celery. Carrots.
The French name this basic, common-place start to a braised stew after an aristocrat the duc de Lévis-Mirepoix to be precise. In Italy it’s called a soffritto. In Spain a sofrito. In Germany it’s known as suppengrün. Every cuisine – British, French, Italian, Spanish, German, British, Chinese, Mexican, Creole – start their stews by gently frying an onion with two or three other aromatics either celery, leeks, carrots, swedes, turnips etc. Why? Because these ingredients impart a unique flavour that enhances any stew be it a meaty lamb hot-pot, a light fish pie or a vegetable bake.
Like the stock recipes listed above these steps are simple enough to prepare and the cook is rewarded with a dish packed with natural nutrients and flavour.
To get the best results in terms of texture, flavour and nutrients chop the aromatics into small fine pieces. Begin by gently frying the onion in some animal fat until it has softened. When the onion has relaxed and begun to turn transparent add the celery and continue frying on a gentle heat. Finally add the diced carrots. The trick is not to over-cook and brown the vegetables but to soften their sharp edges and to gently coax their flavours out of the hard plants cells so that they leak it into the ensuing stew.