Half a lifetime ago when I studied Geology at University, I decided to do my thesis mapping project in Cyprus – I feel the main reason was I was fed up of the cold & rain of Scottish geology field trips! I was staying in a little village in the mountains near Paphos, & the local taverna did a wonderful Stifado, or beef stew. It’s a recipe I come back to now & again & was probably my introduction to using spices in savoury dishes when cooking.
It’s real slow cooked comfort food, with melt in the mouth meat, soft & unctuous onions & an intense sauce. There’s a bit of prep, but then it’s a case of throw it in the oven & forget about it till ready.
1.2kg stewing beef, cut into large (4-7cm) chunks
500g shallots or baby onions, outer skin removed
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
3 – 4 tbsp olive oil
125ml red wine
50ml red wine vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 bay leaves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
Add all the marinade ingredients to a large bowl, add the beef & mix well. Cover & refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180 °C / 160 °C fan / gas mark 4. Take the meat out of the marinade with a slotted spoon, reserving the marinade for later. Place a casserole dish over a high heat & add a tbsp. of olive oil (use a frying pan if your casserole dish isn’t suitable for use on a hob). Add some of the meat, & brown well – you don’t want to overcrowd the pan, otherwise it boils, not browns. Also, browning takes longer than may you think, & you’re looking for the meat to really take on colour, not just stop being red, so about 10 mins. Take this meat out of the casserole dish & place in a bowl, add some more olive oil & brown the next batch till all is done.
When the meat is done, add a final tbsp. of oil & fry the shallots over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add the meat & it’s juices back into the dish, & add the tomatoes, tomato puree, marinade & enough water to just cover the meat. Stir, bring to the boil then cover & place in the oven for 2 ½ hours, by which time the sauce should have thickened