In my meat-eating days of yore, I remember making a beef stew that was absolutely delicious. It was sort of a throw-together meal: leftover cubed steak, potatoes, onions, carrots, broth, and some various herbs. But what I remember most is the wonderful, warming, homey feeling I got while eating it. It was perfect. So of course, I had to re-create that, vegan style.
This is, however, no traditional "beef" stew. It's easy to make, but it's spiced in such a way that makes you think of Moroccan or Mediterranean cuisine: pungent, smoky, warm, aromatic, and exotic. It's a little spicy, and there's a hint of sweetness from both the carrots and cinnamon.
Although the original recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice, I just adapted my own using a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice (because really, that's all it is). About 2-3 shallots (depending on the size) will yield enough for lots of pungent flavor, and for the sake of ease, I used a bag of petite-cut baby carrots. The flour will help to perfectly thicken the stew, and the broth will darken and develop a richer color as it cooks. The mint isn't too noticeable (at least the amount added in the stew), but the fresh chopped leaves on top add a nice freshness that contrasts the warm spices.
As with most stews, this definitely gets better the longer it sits, so next-day leftovers are sure to pack extra flavor. It's important to get a good crispy sear on the "beef" before adding it to the stew, as you don't want it to get soggy. I served mine on top of couscous, but it would be good on its own too.
Spiced Beef Stew with Carrots and Mint
(adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2007)