Stifado is a traditional Greek dish served up by virtually every Greek Island taverna. Beef stifado is a nourishing meaty stew made with shallot onions and should be pronounced stifatho rather than stifado with emphasis on the 'fa'. The meat is usually beef but it can be lamb, rabbit or any sort of game. The flavour is in the thick sauce made slightly sweet by the added shallots.
The secret of a good Greek beef stifado is the slow cooking which should result in deliciously flaky, melt-in-your mouth beef and a richly infused thick sauce.
The only danger with slow cooking beef stifado is that the sauce may dry out. It is important to cover the casserole with a heavy lid or use a couple of layers of thick foil. I sometimes do both. If the sauce looks like drying out then simply add some hot water.
Here is the best recipe I have used for a traditional Greek beef stifado:
Ingredients to serve 4-6
1. Put the chopped onions in a large skillet with the olive oil and cook on a low heat until the onions soften.
2. Cube the beef and add to the skillet turning up the heat until the meat is sealed.
3. Turn down the heat and add finely chopped garlic, chopped tomatoes, crushed nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, rosemary and a good pinch of black pepper.
4. Stir on a moderate heat for 2 mins then add the wine and tomato paste.
5. Add a generous splash of cider vinegar and stir well.
6. Turn out into a casserole dish an add enough warm water to cover the meat.
7. Cover with foil and cook in oven at 180°C for 40 minutes.
8. Peel the shallots and shallow fry on a low heat until soft - don't let them burn.
9. Remove casserole from the oven and spoon in the shallots (not the oil).
10. Return to oven at 150°C for another hour or until the meat is soft and tender.
Crown with some spinach leaves and serve with creamy mashed potato (use creme fraiche if you are weight conscious), with plain white rice or just some warm crusty bread.
Traditional Greek beef stifado is a very filling meal and, you know what, is best eaten out of doors to give it that true Greek stifado flavour.
Words by Karen Mills
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