This traditional Greek beef stifado stew recipe is the ultimate in comfort food. Richly aromatic this stifado is one of the most popular dishes in Greece. Go to any village taverna and this hearty beef stew will be bubbling away in the kitchen filling the air with fabulous scents that will have you begging for a bowl of this wonderful rich stew.
Traditional Greek Beef Stifado Stew Recipe
Stifado has always been my favourite Greek recipe. It takes me back to when I first worked in Greece in my twenties all those years ago and worked in tavernas for a pittance but loved getting the free meals in the evening.
Stifado was always on the menu and I loved it. Roll on the years and whilst living in Crete it is always stifado I will choose when going out for a meal.
Wherever you go in the world there always seems to be a traditional stew that is the country/region’s signature comfort food.
Where India has aromatic curries heavy with spices, Italy it’s rich ragus and we in Britain have our stews, the Greeks have this beef stifado stew.
Just the smell of stifado cooking makes my mouth water. Actually just thinking of it can transport me from a rainy day in Scotland to the sunshine of Greece.
I love stew at the best of times, actually I have been known to eat it cold from the pot and this used to drive my Mum mad.
What’s in Stifado
This is a beef stifado but you can often find rabbit stifado on the menu in tavernas and octopus too. Stifado is just stew, but seriously good stew!
The best beef stifado uses little pearl onions. Lots of onions! Now I know these are a pain in the arse to peel, but they do have a terrific flavour (much better than a normal onion) and give the dish authenticity.
I promise you it is worth all the fiddling about peeling the little buggers. Having said that, if you can’t get hold of any just use sliced up normal onions instead.
This stifado is your basic beef, carrot and onion stew recipe. But oh with a difference. And it’s the blend of herbs and spices that lifts this humble stew to new levels of gastronomic delight.
Aromatic herbs and spices
It’s the herbs and spices that bring stifado to life. My friend Georgos swears that stifado is all about Daphne.
No, that’s not his wife he’s talking about, Daphne is the Greek name for bay (laurel) and you must have bay leaves in stifado.
Add the sweetness of cinnamon, the punch of cloves and allspice and warmth of cumin and nutmeg.
That is a spice blend there that will have your taste buds tingling. Orange peel and thyme add a zesty herbal note to this richly aromatic stifado.
Time is your major component in this traditional Greek stifado. The meat must be tender and succulent.
It cooks slowly in the spices and herbs.
The red wine tenderises the meat till it falls apart when you put your fork into it and melts in your mouth with an explosion of flavour.
Give your beef stifado lots of time to cook, it may seem like this recipe takes forever, but it is SO worth the wait.
Don’t rush things, when it goes into the oven just go off and do something else and let time do all the cooking for you.
What to serve with stifado
I just serve this stifado with a simple Greek salad in the centre of the table for sharing. Lots of fresh crusty bread is a must. You will want to mop up all that gorgeously rich aromatic sauce from the stifado.
A baked potato is a good choice if you want to add some carbs, or mashed potatoes make this stifado into serious comfort food.
In Greece you are very often served chips with stifado. But then again in Greece you are often served chips with everything!
Can you freeze stifado
Yes of course you can. Simply save any extra stew in a freezer proof box (I prefer to use bags as they take up less room) and freeze for up to 3 months.
Defrost completely and cook til piping hot.Once you’ve tasted this traditional Greek beef stifado no stew will ever be the same I promise you.
Looking for some more gorgeous Greek comfort food? Then check out these easy recipes;
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Traditional Greek beef stifado stew
- 1 kilo/2 1/4lb stewing steak cubed
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cloves
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 6 allspice berries
- pinch of grated nutmeg
- 2 carrots chopped
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 175 ml/3/4 cup red wine
- 2 tbsp tomato puree diluted in 1 lt/1 3/4 pints water
- 600 g/1lb pearl onions peeled
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp dried orange peel
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 160C/325F
- Sear the beef in a hot pan with oil on all sides for 1-3 mins till sealed
- Add garlic, spices, herbs, carrots and orange peel and saute for 1 minute
- Add the wine and vinegar and saute for further 5 minutes
- Add diluted tomato puree and cover the pan
- Cook in oven for 2 hours
- Remove from oven and add the onions, honey and seasoning, put the lid back on and put in back in the oven for a further 1 hour.
- Remove pan from oven and take off lid and cook on the hob for further 20 mins to reduce the liquid.
- Serve with mashed potato, chips or a salad.