Sunday, November 11, 2012

Greek Beef Stew (Stifatho)

Stifatho (also spelled Stifado) is a traditional Greek stew with meat, poultry, fish, game (rabbit or hare) or
vegetables. The main ingredient however is always: onions. In Greece special stifatho onions are sold; small, sweet firm onions that can withstand the long cooking time.

The word "stifado" comes from the word "stufado," brought to Greece by the Venetians in the 13th century, after the fall of Constantinople (1204) and before the Ottoman invasion. Older versions do not include tomato, which didn't appear in Greece until after the discovery of the Americas. Indeed tomatoes originate from South America and were only used as food in Europe from the 17th century onward. Food for thought, when talking about 'traditional' recipes.

Anyway, enough with the history lesson already. Let's see how to make traditional Greek Stifatho.


600gr Beef chuck
600gr small onions
1 can (400gr) peeled tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
6 cloves of garlic
4 spice cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper

Cut your beef into large cubes, approx same size as your onions. Brown the meat over high heat in some olive oil. Use a casserole or other cooking pot with a lid and thick bottom.

Once the meat is firmly brown, add the onions and sauté them along with the meat for 5 minutes.
Squeeze or chop the peeled tomatoes and add them to the meat, together with the tomato puree. Add the finely chopped garlic. Saute again for 5 minutes.
Add 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar and the other ingredients.
Add water until meat and onions are covered with liquid. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a very slow simmer. Only the occasional bubble should come up.After 2-3 hours, the onions should be cooked and the meat fork tender (depending on the meat you have used). Add salt and black pepper to taste.

You will find that stifatho is a real treat. The onions are immensely flavorful and delicious. 
This dish has a very distinct flavor from the spices, especially the cinnamon. 
In Greece, stifatho is served with hilopitakia, a square type of pasta, or long grained rice. 
I've chosen pappardelle, broad Italian pasta, a Greek salad and some bread.


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