A Greek beef and onion stew that is mildly
sweet, sour and spiced. See the notes below.
This is done specifically in a slow cooker
because TSC likes it that way since it tends
not to destroy the complex herb/spice esters,
and keeps the beef tender.
2/3 cup olive oil, divided (1/3 + 1/3)
2 lbs onion, small boiling or pearl, if you are up to the latter,
peeled and left whole. Parboiling them for 3 minutes
will make peeling a snap. Squeeze gently, and they will
emerge. You do NOT want to sit like a ninny preciously
peeling 30 or 50 of these little horrors with a paring
knife - trust me!
3 lbs braising or stewing beef, cut in cubes
2 TBS gram flour
(aka chickpea, ceci, besan, etc.) or all-purpose flour
2 @ onion, medium, finely chopped
2-4 ozs mushrooms (agaricus), smallish, cleaned and left whole
Mixed in some container:
1 cup red wine
2 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS red wine vinegar
4 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS honey
2 lbs tomatoes chopped (canned or fresh)
10 clv garlic, finely chopped (or minced to a paste)
4 @ bay leaves
Ground together in a mortar:
1 tsp cinnamon ground (cassia bark)
2 tsp cinnamon ground (cinnamonum verum)
1 tsp cumino ground
1/4 tsp cloves ground
1/4 tsp rosemary ground
2 tsp oregano/marjoram mixture, dried
1 tsp black pepper, finely ground
1 tsp salt
4+ TBS parsley, chopped
A skillet and either a large heavey bottomed stew pot or
crockpot. TSC prefers the crock pot for almost any long
term cooking as it seems never to get so hot as to destroy
the esters of vegetables, herbs and spices - unless you make
the mistake of leaving it on high heat.
1. Heat 1/3 of olive oil in the skillet over a medium-high heat
to the point of fragrance. Add the whole "small" onions and
fry them to where almost all their surfaces are nicely browned.
Transfer them to your pot of choice (if crockpot, already
turned on HIGH).
2. Add the remainder of the oil, and dredge the DRIED beef pieces
in flour before laying them in the hot oil. No touching -
small batches, else they steam and don't brown. Transfer them
to the stew pot of choice. This dish can be, and is often baked
in a covered cassarole. Use low temperatures and longer
3. Add the chopped onion, and saute until softened and translucent.
If you are adding mushrooms, put them in the skillet now and
and cook only until they have a surface translucence.
4. Add the wine mixture to the skillet to deglaze in the usual
way, and evaporating the alcohol; add the tomatoes, stir.
Lingering alcohol can tend to embitter some foods.
Then, add everything else but the parsley, mix and bring
to a simmer.
Transfer all to the stew pot, cover and let stew for at least
four, and maybe six hours. If in a crockpot/slowcooker,
turn to LOW and take the six hours.
5. Just before serving, (about 10 minutes) stir in the chopped
The fact that this is a stew, and has sauce, means some
sort of farinacious accompaniment is in order: rice, orzo,
couscous, noodles, or simple pilaf, Iranian crusted rice,
or any simple form of boiled or roasted potatoes - or -
1. Eliminate the new world tomatoes, or substitute another
vegetable, e.g., eggplant, or use beans, and this classic
dish could have, and probably was, made several millennia
ago with almost any meat, of animals small and large, fowl
or fish, and also using cut up fruits, dried or fresh and
various nuts that could be roasted and ground finely to
both flavor and thicken the sauce.
In fact, you will find many variations of Stifado that use
walnuts and raisins, currants, add carrots, parsnips and
whatnot. What is wrong with dried apricots or plums (prunes)?
Nothing - absolutely nothing. Go for the variants.
2. The name of the dish, as the name "moussaka" tries the
validity of the old dictum "the Greeks have a word for it",
since once again the word is not Greek. Transliterating
Greek to English, we would like to spell it as "Stephado",
that "ph" standing in for the Greek φ (phi).
However, the word is from the Italian "stufado", or ...
éstuve (heated room as for a bath) (O. French)
stue, stuwe (O. English)
stive (v.) "to stew" (E.)
stove (E.) stew (E.)
In Proto Indo European (PIE), the "st-" combining
root eventually gives "steato-" from the Greek,
"steapsin", (solid fat or suet) in which one can bet
the dish was originally cooked - not olive oil. The
"st" PIE atomic conveys the general sense of fixedness:
stolid, static, standing, staying - and of course
there is the Gr. "stasis", so the Greeks really do
have a word for it, if in a slightly roundabout way
by borrowing across another PIE branch. The historical
developments of words of languages are like Oscar
Wilde's "truths": rarely pure, and never simple.
3. The herbs and spices:
As is, if you leave out any of the herbs and spices, the above
collection is designed to work well anyhow. Another standard
herb often used is thyme (about 1 tsp).
Freely substitute allspice for cloves.
4. Feta!? Many recipes for this stew employ feta cheese.
This seems to be a fairly late embellishment that strikes
TSC as an application of the "kitchen sink" method of
cooking. To be Greek in its nature does not mean that
a food need have feta in it as a kind of gratuitious
tatoo or logo. Leave it out of this.
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Created: July 27, 2007
Last Updated: June 18, 2010