This Greek beef stew with pearl onions (Stifado) is a hearty meal suitable both for a festive occasion or an everyday dinner. It can also be made with rabbit or veal.
If you know any Greeks, then you’ve probably heard of Stifado. Stifado is a traditional Greek beef stew with LOTS of onions which lend great depth of flavor and a subtle sweetness that makes it irresistible.
Sometimes it’s made with baby onions or pearl onions, and other times it’s made with regular sliced onions. I actually prefer it with regular sliced onions because they caramelize much better but pearl onions make it look more pretty and festive.
But, tradition is not very strict in this case and also this stew will taste delicious no matter what type of onions you choose!
Beef is not the only type of meat you can use to make Stifado. You can also make this traditional Greek onion stew with veal, rabbit, or hare. Especially hare, is considered a delicacy but it's very difficult to be found. Depending on the type of the meat, cooking times may change but the procedure remains the same.
This Greek beef stew with orzo pasta (Youvetsi) is a very similar recipe to Stifado, with the difference that it uses more tomatoes and it’s finished in the oven. It is probably somewhat lighter, because it doesn’t contain so many onions. And just because we’re speaking of Greek stews, this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the classic drunken pork stew (a.k.a.Bekri Meze) made with lots of wine and peppers!
- The Cretan recipe for Stifado is made with cumin. In other parts of Greece, cinnamon and cloves are used instead (for the quantities given in the recipe, substitute cumin with one cinnamon stick and 3-4 cloves).
- Cumin can lose its power quickly. If your ground cumin is not very fresh you may have to increase the amount given in the recipe. Taste and adjust to your liking!
- Bring the meat to room temperature and pat dry very well before cooking.
- Because Stifado contains a lot of onions, it can be heavy for some people. For a lighter recipe you can boil the onions in a pot filled with water for 5-10 minutes, rinse them well, and then add them to the stew.
Greek beef stew with pearl onions (Stifado)
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil (or vegetable oil)
- 2 pounds (900 grams) cubed beef (like chuck)
- 2 pounds (900 grams) pearl onions, peeled (or regular onions quartered)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 5 allspice kernels (or ½ teaspoon ground allspice)
- 2-3 teaspoons fine salt (start with 2 and adjust by tasting)
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- ¼ cup thick tomato paste plus ½ cup water (or 1 cup tomato juice)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
- Heat a large pot over high heat and add the olive oil and the meat in one layer. If it doesn’t fit, you’ll do it in batches. Brown the meat very well from one side, then flip and brown from the other side.
- Transfer the meat to a plate, reduce heat to medium/high and add the onions, the bay leaves, the cumin, the allspice, the salt and the pepper. Stir for 4-5 minutes until glossy, add the garlic and stir for 1 minute more.
- Return the meat with all its juices to the pot and add the wine, the tomato paste, the water, and the balsamic vinegar. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover the pot and cook for 1 hour 30 minutes or until the meat is fork tender(it could take up to 2 hours depending the meat). After 45 minutes, check the pot and add a splash of water if needed. Taste and adjust the salt.
- Serve with rice, mashed potatoes or pasta. Eat!
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