It is early October, yet here I am, sat under a hot sun with the temperature somewhere in the high 20’s! I know I live in Spain, but I do live halfway up a mountain in the interior, the temperature should certainly not be so high. Additionally it hasn’t rained for about 4 months…..again, pretty much unheard of here. Even the drought resistant trees are suffering, if not dying. The grape and almond crops are much reduced, and unless it rains soon the olive crop will also be poor. It is really sad to see these normally green hills so brown, dusty and dry……. Is it Global Warming? I don’t know, but can we really take the risk and continue to destroy our planet? We only have the one after all.
The local plants and animals can’t escape the drought, but I can. I am off to the north of England in a couple of days. Who knows, it might even be good to have to wear a jumper or indeed a raincoat to keep off the incessant rain of the north of England?
About a month after first moving to Spain I felt like I was missing something from my morning routine. You know perhaps what it is like, where you have a routine and you miss a step? You perhaps don’t know what you have missed doing but you feel that something is missing? I eventually worked it out, I was not looking out the window to check the weather before leaving home! I mean what is the point if it almost never rains?
I will be staying at my Mother’s, who of course will be spoiling me rotten. She will already have the cupboards filled with all my favourite foods together with a plan of all the places she would like to take me…… and a list of all the jobs that need doing! I actually don’t mind at all, I enjoy fixing things. One of the ways I like to thank her is by taking her out to a restaurant. Last year I took her to the “Greek Flame Taverna” in Lytham-St.-Annes.
The food was good, really good in fact, and plentiful! Great staff and great service, all in all a great meal. I personally had their “Stifado” which was fantastic, so much so in fact that I felt inspired to make my own. This week’s recipe is my version of their Stifado.
Before I get into that, and returning to the topic of the sun, I was reading a news article about a medical study that recommends the use of vitamin D supplements:
One of the main conclusions was that:
“An extensive review of the evidence, carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), suggests everyone over the age of 1 needs to consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day in order to protect bone and muscle health.”
Public Health England then went on to say that apart from the lack of sun in England, one of the problems was:
“Those who apply sunscreen in the way the manufacturer recommended would not make enough vitamin D”.
Is it just me or wouldn’t it be far simpler, natural and cheaper to just get a bit more sun? We all know the dangers of getting sunburnt, we have all seen Brits on the beach in Benidorm that are redder than a lobster, but a little sun in moderation is obviously good for you! Also what about getting the sunscreen manufacturers to change their recommendations? But of course, silly me…… that would probably mean us buying less sunscreen. Probably not something the manufacturers are looking for. Far easier to get us to buy vitamin D supplements too, right? With any luck they will be side by side on the shelf in the chemist’s.
It is interesting to look at how fashions have changed over the years and how the more affluent have wanted to highlight the difference between themselves and the poorer segments of society. When most of the workers were out working in the fields and getting brown, the rich wanted to be white and show off their blue veins, their blue bloodedness. With the migration from the fields to the factories, the rich wanted to show off their tan, especially in winter, that they had acquired in some exotic clime! How fickle indeed is the human race.
Anyway, let’s get back to the Stifado……
Stifado is a very traditional Greek stew. I will be making it from beef which is perhaps the most common in restaurants, but it can be made from almost any meat including game.
Just about the only secret is to stew it gently for a long time, until the meat is good and tender. Make sure you either seal the pot well or check from time to time that the liquid has not evaporated and the dish become dry.
The final sauce should be thick and slightly sweet. If you can use shallots or a more sweeter onion all the better. I will be using onions from my allotment that are of a local sweet variety. They get their name from the town most famous for growing them, “Fuentes”.
As you will see from the photographs I used cherry tomatoes. They are what I had in the garden, so I of course used them. Normally I would use the bigger, standard tomatoes.
Serves 4-5 people
1 kg Stewing beef
200ml Red wine
6 Garlic Cloves
2 Bay leaves
1/2 Cinnamon stick
4 Allspice berries
1 Sprig Oregano
1 Sprig Rosemary
1.7 kg Onions
3 large Tomatoes
45ml Red wine vinegar
Lots of freshly ground pepper
Cut the beef into relatively large pieces. You don’t need to worry too much about trimming off any fats or tougher parts as the long stewing process should make it nice and tender.
Roughly chop the garlic.
Place the meat in a non-metallic bowl with the marinade ingredients. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge.
Drain the marinade reserving the liquid.
Chop the onions and tomatoes. It is a lot of onions, but don’t worry the quantity is correct.
I use just the one pan, browning the meat and frying the vegetables in the saucepan I will use later to cook the stew.
On a high heat, brown the meat. Reserve.
Fry the onions until soft.
Add in the meat and the marinade liquid and red wine vinegar. Sprinkle on the nutmeg.
Bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer the stifado for 1 1/2 hours with the lid on the saucepan.
While the stifado is simmering, check if it needs some water; you don’t want it to dry out. If it does, pour in half a cup of boiled water and stir. Towards the end of cooking time you might need to remove the lid so that some of the liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens. When the stifado is cooked, season well with salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with some finely shopped herbs and grated cheese before serving.
Serve beef stifado with pasta and grated cheese, or boiled new potatoes. Enjoy!
So, there you have it. A rich savoury stew that is perfect for the colder autumnal days we ought to be having soon. It also uses cheaper cuts of meat as the long slow cooking time will tenderise just about anything you care to use.
As I mentioned above, the dish is often made from game, which would make a lot of sense. Game can be tougher than farmed meats and again the long cooking time should leave it tender and succulent. For those of you who enjoy game, this recipe is well timed. Here in Europe at least we are about to enter the hunting season.
As always, please feel free to put fingers to keyboard and leave any questions or comments you might have.
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
2016 Lincoln W. Betteridge