My Son’s Favorite Beef Stew
One of the classics of Greek meat cookery is a one-pot stew called Kokinisto, which means red, for the tomato that goes into it. This is a variation of that recipe, enriched with a complex nexus of herbs and spices that give the dish a rich, multi-faceted flavor.
- 4 ½ to 5 pounds / 1.8 – 2 kilos boneless beef cut into stew size pieces
- Fine semolina flour for dredging meat
- 1 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
- 2 red onions coarsely chopped
- 1 fennel bulb trimmed and chopped
- 2 large carrots peeled and quartered lengthwise
- 6 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 cups dry red wine such as Xinomavro or Aghiorgitiko
- 1 can plum or chopped tomatoes with juices
- 12 pitted prunes 4 of them very finely chopped
- 1 small orange unpeeled and cut into 8 to 10 sections
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 large cinnamon stick
- 10 allspice berries
- 4 dried sage leaves
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar plus extra for seasoning
- 3 tablespoons grape molasses petimezi or pekmez, plus extra for seasoning
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Greek honey plus extra for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons good quality tomato paste
Rinse and pat dry the meat. Place 1 ½ cups fine semolina flour in a deep bowl and add the meat in batches, tossing to coat in the flour and shaking off the excess.
In a large, wide pot or deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat about half a cup of olive oil -- enough to coat the surface of the pot. Add the meat in increments and cook, turning as needed, until well-browned on all sides. Set aside in a bowl until ready to use. Repeat, replenishing the olive oil and flouring the remainder of the meat, then searing to brown.
While the meat is browning, get started on the stew. Heat about half a cup of olive oil in a large, wide pot or Dutch oven and cook the onions and fennel until soft and translucent. Add the carrots and stir to coat in the oil. Stir in the garlic.
Add the browned meat to the onion mixture. As it starts to heat up, pour in the wine. As soon as the alcohol steams off, add the tomatoes, enough water to come just below the surface of the meat, the four chopped prunes, orange pieces, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, sage leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.
Cover, raise heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer the meat on low heat for about two hours, or until it just begins to get tender. Add the balsamic, grape molasses, and honey. Continue simmering until the meat is tender. About 15 minutes before removing from heat, add the remaining prunes, stir in the tomato paste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and additional acidity (vinegar) or sweetness (petimezi or honey). Serve hot.