Thursday, 26 March 2015

Stifado - Greek lamb stew

Traveling. Oh, how it broadens one's horizons. Culinary ones, too. My family firmly believed in the merits of domestic expeditions, so I was almost in my twenties before my first real foreign holiday.

Already then something awoke in the mind and palate of yours truly, born and bred in a small town at the Arctic Circle. Olive oil can taste like this? There are other fish in the word besides salmon? But the biggest shock came somewhere in Greece in the form of mouthwateringly tender stifado. It was somehow familiar, yet exotic. It took me a while before I could put my finger on it: there was cinnamon in it! " Say what? Cinnamon in meat? Do they not know it's something people only use in rice pudding and apple pies?" Yeah. 

It's probably good I didn't go out of my way lecturing them about the proper ways of doing things in the kitchen - if a nation has given the world democracy, the principal upon which the entire Western world is built, then maybe, just maybe, they know their way around the kitchen too...?

Since then my excursions have taken me to Arab word and those gentle, warm spices have found a loving home in my own kitchen, too. Grab yourself this recipe for bokharat spice blend, fall in love with these sambousek- pasties or spoil your loved ones with these Andalusian-style lamb shanks!

A "behind the scenes" photo I published on Instagram immediately garnered a grateful response. "At last stiffed that actually looks like a stiffed!" shipped one of my followers. Oh yeah - none of those oregano, olives or feta in my recipe that apparently seem to turn any dish into a "Greek" one. 

For meat I used lamb: 1,4 kg slab of boneless lamb shoulder to be precise. After trimming off the excess fat and membranes I was left with 1 kg of meat. Lamb could just as well be substituted with any stewing meat: beef or rabbit!

Serves four


1 kg boneless lamb shoulder/ other stewing meat
salt,  black pepper
oil for frying

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
10 allspice peppers
2 sticks of cinnamon
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1,5 tbsp tomato concentrate
1 tsp ground cloves
350 g passata
1 tbsp sugar
4 dl red wine
750 g pearl onions

If using shoulder, trim off excess fat and membranes. Cut into 1 inch- cubes.

Brown the meat in a couple of batches, season (generously!) and move aside.

Add garlic into a pan along with rest of the ingredients (apart from onions) and bring to boil. Add meat and simmer, over medium heat, covered for 1-1,5 hrs. Every now and then check to make sure there's enough liquid.

Peel the onions and brown them too. Add into the pot and continue cooking for another hour. Check the taste and season as needed.

Serve with rice, bulgur, couscous or boiled potatos. For extra yumminess sauté the potatos in a garlic and rosemary-infused butter after parboiling them.

Our most successful wine pairing for this spicy, warm, comforting dish is this. Australian Lindeman's Bin 50 Shiraz has soft tannins and full-bodied richness that is perfect for dark meats and stews, even gamey ones. It also has a lovely spiciness that matches well with the warm spicy notes of the stifado itself.

PS. Those Andalusian lamb shanks are our entry in Finnish food bloggers' monthly food challenge, too. This month the theme is Easter and the voting is open...! Cast your vote over here!




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