Friday, April 13, 2007

Greek Stifado

After baking Greek bread I was sufficiently strengthened to rekindle the relationship with another familiar, Stifado. What went terribly wrong in January was rewarded now with a warm spicy bowl of meat, surrounded by a delicious sauce. I served this with rice and vegetables, away from the tradition but influenced by the beautiful spring weather we enjoyed today.

A little history on this dish which is said to have its origins on the isles of Greece; Corfu and/or Crete. The roots of the Stifado are firmly planted in the Mediteranian, the use of spices as cinnamon and cloves a Levantine influence, the name descending from the Italian "stufato" stewed meat (as in suffocate/suffusion, think of the lid on the pot) each lending an aspect to make this recipe a typical Greek household treasure, each family their own specifics adding walnuts or raisins, maybe cook in some feta....

I agree with you that stews have their place in autumn where you enjoy the embrace and comfort of braised meat paired with for instance potatoes or pasta, but I must say I don't mind eating this now. The sun is still shining, wind is coming up and the evening is getting chilly. Time for dinner! Think yourself under an olive tree, checkered table cloth on a rickety wooden table, bottle of strong red wine....


1-1.1/5 kg lean beef, cubed fairly large
500 gr small onions like shallots (peel and leave whole, or quarter)
approx. 1/2 bottle red wine
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 small leek, finely chopped
1 small celery stick, finely chopped
1 can of plum tomatoes, chopped, reserve liquid!
2 litres beef stock
sprig of rosemary
4 cloves
6 black pepper corns
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise (don't sub anise seed, totally different flavour!!)
modest sprinkle of coriander seeds
4 tbs olive oil
3 tbs very good balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/2 tsp piment

cornflour paste made of: 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbs cold water

Optional: packet button mushrooms quartered / 1 zuchini diced

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan (Creuset, Cousances) lightly brown the carrot, leek, shallot and celery. Throw in the tomatoes and their juice, the rosemary and cook together for a couple of minutes. Pour in half a bottle of wine and reduce on high heat until reduced by three quarters.

2. Add the meat to the pan with the stock, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, coriander seeds, piment pepper and vinegar. Make sure the meat is almost submersed in liquid, add a little stock if necessary. Stir well and simmer for 2 to 3 hours until the meat is tender. (I simmered for close to 3 hours and my meat was so soft I could have eaten it with a spoon. You could let this simmer in the oven, on a low temperature with the lid on, make sure your pan is suitable for that)

3.Ready a colander over a clean pan and carefully pour in the stew with the liquid, the sauce ends up in the clean pan. Now boil the sauce until reduced to about 1 to 1.5 litres, then stir in the cornflour paste. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring until thickened, should be the consistency of double cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add the meat and vegetables again to the sauce and stir, let simmer for a while to make sure everything is heated through and through.

As an option you could quickly fry the mushrooms in a little oil and add it the last three minutes in cooking. I added a diced zucchini 5 minutes before end of cooking time.
The entire dish can be frozen but in reheating leave the lid of the pan, otherwise your sauce will get all runny, equally delicious but there is an added quality to the thickness of a sauce.

Serve with rice or pasta (oven roasted potatoes are great too..) and a green salad on the side, and I think you will like to have a loaf of crusty bread stand by to mop up the delicious sauce! Would you like to drink wine with it, make it a full-bodied red. Enjoy!
(photo courtesy of John Hopkins University)


  1. Silly girl, Would I like to drink wine with it? !
    Autumn or spring, as the day cools, a warm spicy bowl of meat, surrounded by a delicious sauce and yes red wine of course!! and there must be bread to sop it up with. Sounds and looks loverly.

  2. Yum! I have to try that :) I need a good reason to use my le Creuset :)

  3. Karen,
    This sounds so good and the meat is so tender even an old lady with braces on her teeth could manage this meat!! Oh, the other half bottle of wine would be already gone and we would have to open another one for our meal! Your way of thickening the sauce with the corn meal paste is a new one to me and sounds like a great way to get a nice rich sauce. Loved the pictures of Greece. Never been there but hear it's lovely! Sue

  4. In de tijd dat de vaatwasmachine nog niet standaard in de keuken aanwezig was heb ik een voorliefde ontwikkeld voor "eenpanners" en daar hoort de Stifado ook absoluut bij.

    De tweede die zeer nadrukkelijk in mijn toplijstje staat is coq-au-vin, volgens mij heb jij daar nog speciale herinneringen aan (niet aan die van mij, maar aan je eerste afspraakje met DH).

    En heel snel volgt daarop de witlofsoep, heb ik al een hele tijd niet meer gegeten dus iets zegt me dat dat binnenkort weer ns op tafel komt.

    Mmmm, lekker!

  5. Wat heb je toch altijd lekkere stoofvlees gerechten. Ik ken deze niet, hier houden beide kinderen niet van 'draadjes'vlees en dan maak ik het ook maar zelden. Misschien toch wel een idee (o o, nog iets erbij op mijn te-maken-lijstje...waar vind ik de tijd?), zal hem vast uitprinten, dan vergeet ik het niet zo snel.

  6. I love stews too, even on warm spring days. And this stew seems especially appealing to me given the fact we are planning a family vacation to Crete this fall. I need to try this recipe out! Thanks :)

  7. Dat buiten opeten moet nu lukken- ok geen olijfboom erbij, maar de wijn, geruite kleedje...
    Nu nog even maken :-))
    En die foto: Santorini hè??

  8. Looks awesome!
    Couldn't you sit forever at that table and soak in the Greek sunshine...with a glass of red wine of course.

  9. MMm. Looks lovely. I am always wanting to serve rice with Greek food- it seems to call for it. I was surprised though, visiting Cyprus (the Greek part) several years ago- how many things were served instead with roasted potatoes.And it all went down very well. Oh yes.


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