The beauty of stews is that no two can taste the same because it’s over to you, the cook and creator, to put your stamp on the contents of that simmering pot. Stifatho, or stifado, is a delicious Greek stew made with red wine, tomatoes, onions and cinnamon.
I have made it many times and it’s always comforting and the aroma enticing as the spicy, warm and earthy aroma of cinnamon envelops the kitchen.
While this lovely dish is typically made with beef, which is cooked until fall-apart tender, I used ostrich after I saw some beautiful pieces of steak marinading in red wine and bay leaves on special at my local super-market the other day.
And while the Greek original typically does not call for potatoes or carrots, their inclusion along with diced green beans adds to the heartiness.
800 g beef or ostrich
2 onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and halved and then sliced.
4 carrots, sliced
4 large potatoes, cut into chunks
1 large handful washed, topped and tailed green beans, cut into 5cm pieces
1 tsp paprika
2 sticks cinnamon – don’t use the ground spice
2 bay leaves
1 handful fresh oreganum stripped from the sprig or 2 tsp dried oreganum
500ml good quality beef stock
1-2 glasses red wine
Juice of half an orange and peel, thinly sliced
1 small tin tomato paste
500 g passata (smooth Italian crushed tomatoes) or 1 tin of crushed tomatoes
Cut the meat into 2.5cm cubes and coat with flour. Pour a glug of olive oil into a large pot and brown the meat in batches until it has a deep golden colour.
There’s no need to remove the meat from the pot, simply add the onions and garlic to the pot.
Add the beef stock, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, orange juice, peel, oreganum and the vegetables.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and paprika and add the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves.
Pour in the wine and allow the pot to simmer over a very low heat or gas flame. It should cook for about three hours until the meat is meltingly soft.
Check the pot every now and then to ensure it does not dry out and stir and add water (and wine) and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
I served mine with couscous and sweet corn:
1 mug couscous
1/2 cup finely chopped spring onion
extra virgin olive oil
Boil the kettle and put 1 mug couscous in a large bowl.
Pour 1 mug of boiling water over the couscous and gently stir with a fork until the couscous swells and has absorbed all the water. Remove the corn kernels from the husks and add into the couscous. Add a very generous couple of glugs of olive oil and stir again gently, finally adding in the spring onion and salt and pepper to taste.
For each serving, take a small bowl and pack down the couscous into the bowl, turn upside down on a dinner plate.
Spoon over the stew. If you want to side step the couscous, the Greeks traditionally serve their stifatho with chunks of bread and crumbled feta.