A lazy sunday dinner

I know you probably think weekends and weekdays don’t have much difference here in Greece, you’d be wrong. Not only are weekday’s marked by working and tapping away at a laptop, they are also days to GSD (Get Sh*t Done), whether that’s gardening, food shopping or just tackling things to do. So then the weekend is freed up to relax and explore. Weekends do feel different here in the village anyway, Friday afternoons are slightly busier on the beach as people head down after work and then everywhere fills up with weekenders from Athens and people exploring the island. It’s funny as we have had such crazy heat for the past week that the beach has been absolutely packed as people jostle for shade and space to cool down. This was even worse on Sunday when temperatures soared to 40c – it was like an oven when you stepped outside into what the weather man called ‘African wind’. This is why I am thankful of our little house, its windows don’t get the blazing sun and it stays relatively cool all day – although now we are now using the air-con at night we are reusing all the water the A/C pumps out to water the garden. We stay cool and the veggies get watered!

On Sunday I wanted to make a big one-pot dish to last us a few days – deciding that a traditional Greek Stifado perfectly suits the hot weather. Yes, stew in summer too! I started cooking on Sunday morning which was lucky as by the time the stew had just cooked we had another power outage. So happily went to the beach to swim. But then there was another cut when we returned from the beach. When walking down the street home our neighbour helpfully suggested we just went straight back to the beach as it was too hot at home! “To paralia, pame” (the beach, just go!). It turned out the the islands electricity plant was unable to cope with the heatwave’s extra demands on services like A/C usage and was implementing rotating powercuts across the island to help ease thr pressure. I understand that Kini fared quite badly in the timetabling of these, as the 3 powercuts we had all coincided with major times the taverna’s and cafes’ should have been serving hot food and cold drinks to all the beach customers. By 7pm I was getting antsy – “what if it doesn’t come back on, the stifado could do with cooking for another hour” I whinged at G while lying prone on the concrete terrace with the cat in an effort to stay cool. I started to mentally count the number of tealights we had and wonder if we could eat the contents of the freezer before it all spoiled.

Boom! 8pm and the power was back. I was so happy and celebrated by switching the air-con down low and boiling vegetables to accompany the decliciously slow-cooked stew. I might have sweated in that kitchen – but the effort was worth it.

Here is the recipe for my version of beef stifado (there is probably many takes on this and I wont claim any originality here, but this is tried and tested)

750grams of beef (any cut that’s good for stewing)
4 onions chopped
6 shallots peeled and whole
4 gloves of garlic (or as much or little as you fancy)
1 jar of passata
2 generous spoons of tomato paste
4 bay leaves
1 tspn of cinnamon
2 tspns of dried oreganp
Salt and pepper to taste
300mls of red wine (I used the 1euro bottle from the supermarket)
50mls of red wine vinegar

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My method is simple and takes no prisoners of perfection: seal beef in a pan with a big generous glug of high quality olive oil, add onions to fry along. After 10mins or so medium heat, add tomato passata and paste, red wine and vinegar.

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Perhaps a cup or two of water to loosen the sauce. Add herbs and spices, adjust accordingly to taste but should be sweet and tomatoey, with a hint of cinnamon and bay. Simmer on a low hob heat for 2 hours, or transfer to an oven pot with a lid and cook on low for 2 hours. The beef should be meltingly soft and the shallots squishy. Keep the sauce moist by adding water/wine as it cooks.

I served this with basil mash, homegrown carrots (from the landlord) and green beans.

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Once you have enjoyed one dinner from this dish and have leftovers, its easy to add orzo pasta (the Greek pasta that looks like rice), mix half-cooked pasta in with the leftover stew and then cook in the oven with cheese on top for a whole new dish. This is what we did last night with fresh crusty bead to dip in and green beans on the side. Frugal and fabulous cooking at its best!

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