This month, private chef Christos shares his recipe for a true comfort food – a traditional Greek casserole. Here Christos uses beef but the original recipe would prob-ably have used rabbit or pork, alternatively you could use chicken thighs. Whichever meat you decide to use you’ll definitely want the onions as these are always present in a stifado.
Beef stifado is a delicious Greek ragu with shallots in a rich aromatic tomato sauce. My preferred cut of meat for this is chuck steak, but you can use any inexpensive cut of beef suitable for braising. The secret to the melt-in-the-mouth tender dish is a good quality local beef and more importantly the long cooking time at a low temperature.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can change the side dishes with the season; creamy mashed potatoes, pilaf rice, pasta or my absolute favourite but not so healthy homemade chips! Most semi hard cheese works with this Greek stew – Kefalotyri, Pecorino, Parmesan or anything similar but not Cheddar!
You can use chicken thighs if you prefer but cook it for less time or remove the chicken from the pot and let the sauce simmer until it is nearly thickened, then return the chicken when ready.
For vegan or vegetarian versions, you can use mushrooms, lentils, cauliflower etc but omit the tomato purée.
- 1kg good quality diced braising beef
- 1kg pearl onions (this is the only ingredient which is
- time consuming at this recipe)
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- I knorr chicken stock cube
- I knorr vegetable stock cube
- I knorr beef stock cube (you can buy from your local butcher or supermarket ready-made stock if you prefer)
- 1 can chopped tomatoes whizz or use tomato passata
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 2 bay leaves
- 4-6 allspice or 1 teaspoon ground all spice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Water enough to cover by 2 fingers the meat
- 500ml full bodied red wine (not fruity)
- Heat the oil in a pot at a moderate heat and then sear the beef. Do this in batches so that the temperature of the oil doesn’t drop – you want to brown the meat and if there is too much in the pan it will steam and not go brown. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside. Return the pan to the heat.
- Add the peeled onions and cook for 10 minutes until caramelised but not browned.
- Return the beef at the saucepan.
- Add the dry spices and herbs, tomato purée, garlic and honey and stir.
- Cook for a couple of minutes and add the red wine. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.
- Add the tomatoes or passata and stir well.
- Cook for few minutes and add the water along with the stock cubes or liquid stock.
- At this stage I choose to place the stew into a deep roasting tray. Cover first with baking parchment and then a layer of foil then put in the oven at 160 degrees for 3 hours. (If you prefer to cook it in the pot you will need to check the water level occasionally to avoid the stew drying out and burning).
- When it is ready and tender and the beef melting at the touch of the fork, return it to the saucepan and keep cooking for few minutes until the sauce is thicker, then taste for seasoning and enjoy.
- I’m a big fan of cooking stews or pie mixes at low temperature in the oven or even over-night very often as the flavour develops better and I don’t have to keep checking the pot every 10 minutes for water (this method works perfectly with beef, pork, lamb and game stews/pies).
- When it is ready and tender and the beef melting at the touch of the folk, return it at the saucepan and keep cooking for few minutes until the sauce is thicker, taste for seasoning and enjoy 😉
- Add extra peas or any greens for extra flavours
- Use the stew as a pie with short crust pastry or puff pastry
- Blanch the onions in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then pinch each onion at its stem end and the peel will come right off
- And of course, don’t forget some crusty bread to dig into all this delicious sauce