Stifado, the humble Greek stew that everyone seems to love. It came to my surprise when a very good friend of mine from Barnsley stated boldly that it was one of his favourite dishes, ever. I can easily agree with my good Yorkshire man, it's en example of slow cooking at its best, it's easy to prepare and produces a rich, umptious and sweet sauce that is divine.
But here's the thing, I don't really get chunks of meat in a stew. There's no reason why, I just prefer stews kept veggie and the meat (or fish) prepared in a different way. Some might argue that this view deprives the protein from taking on the flavour of the stew. Quite right, but then separating the two allows the cook to be more creative and to incorporate different flavours, cooking methods and textures that can enhance the dish even further.
A stifado traditionally features two main components: shallots and Rabbit or Beef (time to plug my review of the stifado I ate at Lemonia in London). I took inspiration however from the one cooked by Rick Stein in his 'Venice to Istanbul' cookbook that substitutes the meat for even more shallots. While Rick had the privilege of using the local 'vatikiotika' variety of shallot in the Greek Peloponnese, I made do with Tesco's own. In any case the key here is long, slow cooking to make the shallots extra sweet. Using the quantity of shallots in this recipe ironically gives the dish a meaty feel in its own right.
Optional sides include orzo pasta, rice or even mashed potato.
Shallots - 1kg (approx. 40), peeled and kept whole
Garlic - 3 cloves, finely chopped
Bay - 5 leaves
Mixed Spice - 1 tbsp
Red Wine Vinegar - 2 tbsp
White Wine or sherry - 1 glass
Honey - 2 tbsp (use Greek honey if you want to be more authentic)
Chopped Tomatoes - 1 400g tin
Fresh Vine Tomatoes - 3, roughly chopped
Tomato Purée - 1 tbsp
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
Preheat your oven to 150C/130C fan/Gas mark 2.
Shallots - add to the pan of olive oil on a low heat and cook gently for at least 15 minutes to soften and brown slightly. Stir occasionally.
Garlic, Bay & Mixed Spice - add to the pan and stir
Vinegar & Wine - add once the shallots have softened and reduce on a medium/high heat
Tomatoes (fresh, tinned & purée) & Honey - add when the wine has reduced to a thick syrup
Season well with Salt & Pepper then cook in the oven for 1 hour with the lid on. After an hour replace the lid and cook for another hour.