Monday, 19 May 2014

Stifado - a Greek braise with baby onions in a fragrant tomato and red wine sauce.

A traditional Greek dish, stifado was originally made with hare or rabbit, and now also commonly made with beef.

Marinating the meat overnight really infuses it with the flavours of the dish, and then low and slow cooking results in tender chunks of meat, in a rich and fragrant sauce, with juicy, caramelised onions / shallots.

Authentic beef stifado recipe

Traditionally served with orzo pasta (tiny pieces of pasta shaped like pointy rice-grains, as in the photo), and maybe some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Serves 8 to 10, easily halved and freezes very well, 229 calories for a tenth serving, 285 calories for an eighth.

[Calories in square brackets, if you're counting]

1 kg good stewing/braising beef* or rose veal (or 3 rabbits / 2 hares, skinned and gutted - about 1.5kg) [1,360]
2 tbsp plain flour (you can use gluten free flour) [60]
Olive oil (1 tbsp if counting calories) [135]
800g baby onions or shallots, peeled** [192]
1 large onion (160g, or 2 small onions) [66]
4 fat garlic cloves, sliced [24]
3-4 large vine tomatoes (peeled, about 400g) [80]
400g tinned tomatoes*** [100]
4 tbsp (60g) tomato puree (double concentrate) [60]
Salt and freshly ground black pepper [1]

For the marinade
300ml red wine [((258-57)*5%)+57=67 calories after cooking]
2 tbsp red wine vinegar [7]
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil [135]
4 (fresh) bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches long)
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 tsp allspice berries
4 cloves

Cut the beef into nice chunky cubes, about 1.5 inches wide (or joint your rabbits/hares if using into about 10 pieces - there's a good video here on how to do it - just cut the hind legs into two pieces in addition to this). Mix all the marinade ingredients together and submerge the meat in it, marinating overnight, or for up to 2 days, turning occasionally (if you have a small piece of muslin to loosely tie the peppercorns, allspice and cloves in, this will make it easier to remove them later).

Drain the meat, reserving the marinade and set the meat aside, patting dry. Keep the bay leaves and cinammon stick, but discard the other whole spices.

Dice the onion, slice the garlic and core and roughly chop the tomatoes. You can take the very tops and tails off the baby onions / shallots now too, or do it while the meat is slow-cooking, but be careful to only trim off the smallest amount or the layers will start sliding out of each other when they're cooking. If you want to slow cook the stifado in the oven (this is my personal preference), pre-heat the oven to gas mark 2 / 150C (130C fan) / 300F, otherwise you can cook it on the hob.

Season the meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss in the flour to coat. Heat half of the oil in a really good non-stick pan over a high heat and quickly brown the meat in batches - be careful not to cook it through, and avoid over-crowding the pan otherwise you'll end up boiling the meat instead of browning it. Set aside each batch once browned. I find it easiest to do this using tongs to turn and remove the meat. Don't worry if you start to get some browning juices on the bottom of the pan, as this will give flavour later on - you just don't want it to go beyond dark brown to black! If you happen to find you need more oil (I didn't), just remember that every teaspoon is about 45 calories, which when you're making a dish this size is no biggie, so you need to add on an extra 4.5 calories per portion (between ten) for each teaspoon.

Once the meat is all browned turn the heat right down to low, and add the diced onions (not the baby onions
/ shallots), sliced garlic, reserved bay leaves and cinammon stick and cook gently for several minutes until softened. Add the reserved marinade to the pan and gently scrape up any browned juices from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the meat back to the pan together with the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and stir in.

Add enough hot water to cover everything (300 to 400ml should be plenty) and bring to a simmer, then either put a lid on the pan and continue to cook over a very low heat for another hour and a half on the hob (half an hour only for rabbit or hare), stirring occasionally and ensuring it is not sticking on the bottom, or (my preference) transfer to the oven in a lidded casserole dish and cook in the oven for a couple of hours (one hour only for rabbit or hare). If it seems to be getting dry then just add a little splash more water.

Meanwhile, if you haven't already done so, peel, top and tail the baby onions/shallots, and then heat the remainder of the olive oil in a good, heavy-based non-stick pan. Cook the onions/shallots over a low heat for as long as you dare, keeping them moving, until they are turning a nice golden brown colour in places - this could take up to twenty minutes or so depending on the size of your pan. Add them to the the meat after the allotted time and continue to cook for a further hour (or) until the meat and onions are tender. If your sauce seems to thick, let it down with a little water, or if it is not thick enough for your tastes, then you can drain off the majority of the sauce, reduce it quickly in a pan over a high heat, then add it back to the meat. Try a little of the sauce, and then add salt to taste until you're happy with it (tastes vary, and depends how much salt you put on the meat when you seasoned it - you might add 1/2 a teaspoon, or a little more - just add a little at a time until you're happy with it). Serve with orzo, or you could serve with rice (or cauliflower rice, if you want to keep the calorie count down), and enjoy!

*For the purposes of calorie counting if you're aiming to cook a low calorie dish, use a lean braising steak (which may require slightly longer cooking to become tender) such as ASDA Butcher's Selection diced casserole steak (115 calories per 100g), Sainsbury's Taste the Difference lean diced casserole steak (136 calories per 100g), Tesco Finest diced casserole steak (140 calories per 100g) etc. and be aware that stewing steak can be almost double the calorie count of lean casserole steak. I have used the 136 calories per 100g for the calorie count above, check the nutritional information on the packaging of the meat you use, and adjust as necessary - i.e. if you're dividing the stew into 10, and your beef is 180 calories per 100g, then you need to add on an extra 44 calories per portion (180-136=44). If you're using hare or rabbit then your calorie count will be lower than using beef, but you will need to calculate based on the weight of the rabbits and factor in that it's cooked on the bone. You can use the same method and other ingredients, but it may require less cooking time than the beef.

**To make it easier to peel small onions / shallots put them into a big container of boiling water for a minute, then drain and peel. If there are a lot, you can transfer them to cool water after covering in boiling water to loosen their skins, so that they don't dry out again - this is a good task to delegate, or at least get a few helpers if you can! You can do this while the stew is cooking, if you like.

***You can use all fresh or all tinned peeled tomatoes - I like to use a mixture of both, as the inconsistent nature of fresh tomatoes means that sometimes they can be a little watery and tasteless depending on where you get them from, so I use the tinned as well to make sure I have depth of flavour and richness. If you have access to great-tasting fresh tomatoes, then use all fresh.

1 comment:

  1. Mmmm Mmmm! That sure does sound delicious. I'd love to buy a rabbit and cook it the authentic way.


Related Recipes

If you liked this recipe, you may also like these...