A stew shows the soul of a cook. Even when two people have the same recipe, the result won’t be the same as everybody makes slight changes. Still delicious but different. I find it even difficult to replicate the exact taste. And that is the beauty of a stew. This time we will use sweet potatoes, as I didn’t eat them for a long time. I combine them with beef and mediterrean flavours just because it feels right and I have a glass of olives that needs to get used up. The result is a hearthy stew, rich, dense, mellow and slightly sweet. Enjoy!
I lied to you, I ate sweet potatoes in Japan last autumn, but they are slightly different. Purple skin and white flesh or red skin and pale yellow flesh, you can find them hot and ready to eat at most of the better supermarkets in Japan. Delicious! Back at home, I wanted to use them for a stew. Sweet chunks soaking up the cooking juices and giving a slightly sweet taste to the stew, thickening up everything nicely as they cook for hours.
My mother brought me some rosemary from her garden and we were wondering how the mediterrean herb managed to survived the winter, as it is what I consider a “proper” winter: cold and stormy, making a stew even more appealing. A glass of greek olives in oil need to be used up and Chantal reminds me that we still have some capers left that we brought home from Pantelleria. Ah, Pantelleria, “figlia del vento”, daugther of storms, a brutally beautiful island where not much flourishes except capers, lemons and wild fennel. Essentially just a huge piece of volcanic rock right in the middle between Tunesia and Sicily. They pickle the capers in pure sea salt, not using any brine, to preserve all the aroma. Great capers, and they serve me well here.
I found a beautiful piece of stewing beef at my local supermarket, a feat already worth celebrating. Richly marbled with fat and dark red, almost purple in colour. This is going to be a great stew. Don’t forget to take the meat out of the fridge before cooking to let it come to (almost) room temperature.
- 2kg of stewing beef cut into bite sized cubes
- 1kg sweet potatoes
- 3-4 medium onions
- 5-6 cloves of garlic
- 3 peppers (I don’t mind the colour, choose what you like best)
- about 700ml tomato pulp (passata/polpa)
- capers and olives to taste
- at least three twigs of rosemary
- Preheat the oven to 140°C. Brown the beef cubes in a roasting pan/dutch oven from all sides. Well, I usually do two sides, this is a nice compromise between flavour and time. Do not skip this, browning the beef is essential for a deep flavour! I don’t use any cooking fat for this, but if you use very lean beef, you might have to add some. Go for olive oil here to stay in the mediterrean theme.
- While the meat is browning, you have time to prepare the veggies: peel and quarter the onions. Peel the garlic and slice finely. Cut the peppers into big chunks and remove most of the seeds (don’t obsess over this, they taste fine). Don’t peel the sweet potatoes, just cut them into thick slives, of at least 2cm, possibly even thicker, they will be completely tender anyways. Don’t cut them too fine or they will turn into potato mash and dissolve (still nothing bad).
- Remove the meat from your roasting pan and add all the veggies except the potatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Let them fry for a little until soft and a little golden.
- Add the tomato pulp, fill the tomato bottle again with water and also add to the pan. Add the vinegar, a few tablespoons should be enough, then add the beef, capers and olives. Let come everything to a boil, stick in the whole rosemary twigs, put the lid on it and let it cook in the oven for about four hours.
Four hours of slow cooking give you more than enough time for relaxation or your workout. This is the beauty of slow food, you have to be a little patient, plan ahead, but you will be rewarded by more spare time than you invest.
After many hours of cooking, take the lid off and let the stew rest. It is boiling hot, you won’t be able to eat it anyways. I still always burn my tongue with the first spoonful, but somehow this is part of the ritual and I don’t mind it. While you’re waiting for everything to cool down a little, get the most beautiful bowl you own and set them up for dinner. A beautiful bowl to hug and hot, delicious beef stew, this is what you need on a cold winter day.
Note from Chantal: This is such a great recipe to prep in advance and bring to work! It is even better after a couple of days in the fridge. We did not include calories and macros as we are not currently tracking but it is a recipe which can either fit for bulking or cutting. You can manage how calorie-dense the stew is by choosing a fatter or leaner cut of meat and adding more or less sweet potatoes to your serving.