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Stifado is a slow-cooked Greek stew made with beef and small onions, cooked together in a tomato sauce. This family favourite can simmer for hours, until the sauce has thickened considerably and the succulent meaty morsels fall apart in your mouth.

What is stifado?

Stifado (Greek spelling στιφάδο, pronounced: ‘stie-FA-doh’) is a Greek stew made with beef and small silver onions, cooked together in a tomato sauce. 

A good stifado is gradually created, carefully prepared, then simmered for hours at a time. Time is certainly the most important ingredient of this dish. The chef must ensure that flavours develop well during cooking, but also that the meat remains succulent and melts in the mouth. It’s also essential that the sauce has thickened considerably before serving. 

In Greece, this particular dish isn’t a regular feature on restaurant menus catering toward the tourism trade due to its lengthy cooking time. It’s more commonly seen on menus in authentic Greek taverns where locals gather to eat. At home, this family favourite is a Sunday dinner staple. 

The name of this dish probably derives from the Italian word ‘stufa’, which means ‘oven’. In the past, before a kitchen with a stove was a standard of homes, slow-cooked dishes were prepared in communal ovens that entire villages might share the use of. Nowadays, a stifado is generally prepared in a pan on a low heat for several hours. 

Did you know...

In Greece, the dish is also made with lamb, rabbit and game. 

How to make stifado

Good quality stewing beef is first cut into pieces, then seared at a high heat. This traps the meat juices inside and prevents the morsels from becoming dry and tough. A healthy portion of shallots or pearl onions are then fried in a different pan. Then, both the meat and onions can be combined, with further ingredients like tomatoes, broth or water, red wine, spices and more, introduced into the pot. The dish can be cooked at a low heat in the oven or on top of the stove. Leave to cook for at least one and a half hours. 

How to eat

Serve this strew in true Greek style with small pasta shapes such as orzo (pasta in the form of rice grains) or chilopites. Fresh white bread also makes a fine accompaniment to it, as does rice or potatoes. The most important thing is that your side dish can absorb plenty of sauce. 

Also try

In Vietnam you will find the dish, bo kho, another beef stew enjoyed with bread. A spicier alternative is Indonesian rendang.

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