Stifado is one of those classic dishes that every country should cherish with great pride. There must be a hundred different recipes for it, and each is probably fiercely defended in each region. Beautifully rich with red wine, sweetly scented with cinnamon and bay, it is a long braised stew that can contain any meat that will withstand a long cooking time. So certain cuts of lamb and beef are perfect. My version contains cheap stewing beef, but rabbit is actually the traditional meat.
The list of ingredients may seem long, but it takes no time to put together. The hardest bit is waiting for it to cook as the house will be full of tempting aromas making every stomach rumble with anticipation. Eat it with crusty bread and mashed potato to soak up the sensual juices, or perhaps some simple roasted vegetables and a green salad. It will fill the family and still cost less than a tenner.
Greek Beef Stifado
500g stewing beef, cut into chunks
1 onion, sliced
20-30 shallots, peeled and left whole
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
6 tomatoes, roughly chopped, or one tin of chopped tomatoes
200ml beef stock
500ml red wine
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 bay leaves
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 cinnamon sticks or a good pinch of cinnamon
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
1 pack of feta cheese
A handful of walnuts
Fresh mint, chopped
1 - Pre-heat your oven to 140C/Fan 120C/GM2. In a bowl, coat the cubes of meat in seasoned flour. Pour enough olive oil into a heavy based casserole dish to cover the bottom and heat up. Add the meat in batches and cook quickly to get a good golden brown crust all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and put aside. Do not be alarmed by the ever blackening crust forming on the bottom; once de-glazed this is essential for the flavour.
2 - Add the sliced onions and shallots and quickly brown. Add the garlic, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, chilli and oregano and cook for one minute. Return the meat to the pan along with any juices, then pour in the red wine and bring to the boil. Scrape away on the bottom with a wooden spatula to remove the flavoursome crust.
3 - Add the tomatoes, stock and vinegar. Bring to the boil, place the lid on and cook on the middle shelf of your oven for 3 hours, stirring halfway through the cooking time. If you feel that the sauce is too loose, remove the lid for half an hour to help thicken.
4 - Add the walnuts just before serving, then either crumble over the feta cheese or mix in. Either way, the salty hit from this delicious sour cheese should mean you don't need to add more salt. Sprinkle over the mint and serve in generous bowls.
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