Saturday, 15 December 2012

Castilian Beef Stew With Prunes and Pine Nuts

“It’s better to have two mouthfuls of beef than seven of potatoes”

As this old expression suggests, the Spaniards consume a lot of meat and judging from the taste and quality of their meats, who can blame them?  Whenever I am in Spain, I consistently forget to eat my veggies so hooked  am I on their abundant and enticingly vast array of meat dishes. Merely reading out a menu is like reciting sweet poetry; the words undulating around my tongue and straight into the pleasure centers of my brain:
Morcilla de cebolla,
Estofado de buey,
Caldereta de cordero

ahhh,  !


Platter of freshly carved Jamon

Callos Madrilenos (Madrid-style tripe)
Morcilla (blood sausage) with quail egg

Flaming little fat sausages

Needless to say, after a few weeks of carnal debauchery, I habitually return home with a raging appetite for salads, and believe me that is grossly out of character.

There is a wonderful stew recipe I came across many years ago in a Spanish cook book and it’s a frequent go-to for me if I have guests coming around and don’t want any surprises. It’s a sure thing and I have yet to meet someone who has not liked this dish. But don’t let its looks deceive you because behind those vibrant colours and textures lies a shamefully easy recipe that packs in mucho sabor.

Ingredients: (serves 4)
Olive oil
2 ½ lb. (or 1 kg) stewing beef (i.e. shin), cut into large chunks and season with salt and pepper
3 carrots, sliced thickly
A dozen small whole pickling onions or shallots, peeled
1 ½ cups of prunes, pitted
2 ½ cups good red wine
2 tbsp. pine nuts, lightly toasted
Chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

·         In a casserole pot, add oil and brown the beef on all sides.
·         Add the rest of the ingredients, save the pine nuts and parsley
·         Cover and cook on low heat on the stovetop for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally
·         When done, sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley

I like to serve this stew with either polenta, thyme roasted potatoes, or even couscous. But if you can’t be bothered, grab a fresh baguette and dig into this sustaining Castilian stew.