Stew: (verb, transitive) To cook by simmering or boiling slowly
The word conjures up images of a warm, homey kitchen and steaming bowls of hot soupy goodness. Stew (in all its hearty forms) is the perfect meal for a loud, laughing family or a quiet night curled up in front of the television. I’m guessing that almost every culture has its version(s) of stew: we love Guinness stew in the UK, kare kare (peanuty meat stew) in the Philippines, French beef Bourgignon, and now, the wonderfully complex flavours in Greek beef stifado.
I chanced upon this recipe in Jamie Oliver’s Jamie Does…, which is a photo album-slash-pseudo-cookbook. I was intrigued by the photograph, to be completely honest, not the list of ingredients – which I thought were slightly over the top (three large red onions? Really?). But don’t let the interesting mix of ingredients scare you off; you’ll regret it if you do! I almost didn’t make this recipe because of the inclusion of raisins (I LOATHE raisins), but I’m so glad I gave it a shot. The raisins really do lend an appropriately sweet undertone to this rich stew. And this stew has been nothing but an absolute success among our friends.
In fact, I made a triple portion of this recipe as one of EIGHT main courses for a buffet luncheon for twelve people. That’s right; eight courses for twelve people. And to Jay’s growing horror, the twelve people completely polished off the beef stifado – leaving absolutely none for us as leftovers. So, yes, this stew has made the regular rotation of party dishes.
Whether you’re a strictly “meat and potatoes” person or a “I’ll try anything” kind of foodie, there is a stew for you! (“Please note the rhyme,” Linda says with a smug smile.) And this fantastic Greek stew has pleased all kinds of guests at our house – from the uberly-adventurous to the spice-shy. I can almost guarantee that you and your guest will love this stew!
Beef Stifado Recipe
Adapted from the recipe in Jamie Does…
Serves 4-6 people.
- 600 grams stewing beef, cut into cubes
- 600 grams pork shoulder, cut into cubes
- olive oil
- 3 red onions, peeled and chopped into chunks
- half a handful of raisins, roughly chopped
- 1 400 gram can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste or puree
- half a lemon (juice)
- flat leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 6 cloves
- salt and pepper (freshly ground is best)
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1 cinamon stick
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- about 1 cup of red wine, preferably Greek
Grind the allspice, cloves and salt in a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic cloves and keep grinding until you have a paste. You can also chop them very finely on a board and then carefully mash together with the flat of a chef’s knife. Mix the paste with the other marinade ingredients (except the red wine). Add the meat to the paste in a bowl and turn to distribute the spices. Add the red wine – just enough to coat the meat cubes. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Heat a few tablepoons of olive oil in a large pot or deep pan. Saute the red onion until the pieces are soft and lightly golden. Add the meat and marinade. Stir in the raisins, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in just enough water to barely cover everything. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Stew for about 1.5 hours. Then, uncover the stew and continue to cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour – until the sauce has reduced and become thick.
Chop the parsley. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Pick out the dried bay leaves and cinnamon sticks.
Serve hot with rice or bread.