Greek Style Beef Stew
By Joseph Parish
Back in my military days I did a lot of traveling. One day I might be in Rome, another day heading towards Beirut or in a few fortunate times a lay over in beautiful Greece. For some strange and unusual reason every time our plane would transcend Greek airspace it developed a mechanical problem and forced us to land at Venizelos Airport for repairs, gee such a life.
Our ending location for the evening would be the lovely city of Athens with all her beauty and splendor. We would put up for the evening at one of the fine hotels and there usually was a stew brewing at one of the local eatery that evening. I don’t imagine that I will ever completely duplicate that fabulous stew but I have included my personal version in this article. More then likely the Greek version used Lamb as its meat of choice and judging from my grandfather who was from Greece there was likely mint added to its list of ingredients. Spices of particular note were cinnamon and cloves which are frequently employed to flavor much of Greek foods.
The Greek name for this particular stew is translated as stifatho. It is braised beef or possibly lamb with onions which is usually prepared differently according to the family who is cooking it. Every family has their own versions of this stew with each slightly different. This recipe would be considered typical of the Greek cooking so common in and around the city of Athens.
The satisfying tastes associated with this stew are perfect during the approaching cool weather. Keep in mind the recipe can be modified as you desire just as a Greek family would do. Perhaps you would wish to add carrots or potatoes the choice is entirely up to you.
2 pounds of lean beef or lamb stewing meat
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 Cups of water
1 can of tomato paste
3 tablespoons of Red wine vinegar
2 ½ teaspoons of Salt
½ teaspoon of Sugar
½ teaspoon of Ground pepper
½ teaspoon of Minced garlic
1 stick of cinnamon about 4 inches long or substitute ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
7 whole cloves or ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
2 pounds of small white pearl onions
Start by trimming all the excess fat from around the meat and then slice it into 1 inch chunk pieces. Pre-heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over a medium to high heat. Add the chunks of meat to the olive oil and brown the slices on all sides.
In another medium saucepan combine and whisk together the water, the can of tomato paste, salt, pepper, vinegar, sugar and garlic bringing the mixture to a rapid boil and pour immediately over the beef or lamb that is in the stock pot. Now, add the cinnamon stick or the ground cinnamon to the pot.
During this next step add the whole cloves into one of the small onions and place them into the mixture or if using ground cloves add it now. Cover the stock pot and simmer the mixture for 1 and a half hours.
Peel the remaining onions at this time and add them to the stew pot. Continue to cook for another 45 minutes until the onions and the beef become tender. Prior to serving remove the cinnamon stick as well as the clove stuffed onion. Serve your stew over rice or pasta complimented with a rustic crusty type bread. Your family will enjoy the unique nature of this Greek stew.
Copyright @2010 Joseph Parish