Spiced Pastitsatha Beef Stew

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Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

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This stew — with its almost Indian spicing and use of beef rather than lamb - is not what we think of as being typically Mediterranean, but it is based on a Corfiot dish. The island of Corfu has been much influenced by its proximity to Italy, hence the inclusion of noodles. Rolled brisket is used in the original dish, but since the meat is sliced only to be returned to the sauce there seems little logic or culinary gain from working with a whole piece of beef. Use shin instead, as this delivers a more moist and tender result. Serve it with home-made thick-cut noodles, like pappardelle.


  • 6 beef flank steaks, each weighing about 225 g/8 oz, or 1 shin of beef, weighing about 1.35 kg/3 lb
  • 85 g/3 oz flour
  • 450 g/1 lb pickling onions
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tsp oregano
  • 450 g/1 lb tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 850 ml/1½ pt chicken or beef stock
  • 45 g/1½ oz butter
  • handful of coriander leaves
  • small handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper



If using shin, cut it into 6 steaks. Dredge these or the flank steaks in the flour seasoned with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper.

Peel the pickling onions and reserve in a bowl of salted water. Peel and dice the red onions. Peel the garlic and cut it into paper-thin slices.

Toast the cumin, cloves and peppercorns in a small dry frying pan over a low heat for 2 minutes. Then grind to a powder.


In a heavy flameproof casserole dish over a medium heat, brown the beef in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Transfer to a tray and reserve.

Fry the red onions in the casserole until translucent, adding a little more oil if needed. Stir in the garlic and the powdered spices. Fry for 1 minute, stirring, then add the vinegar and bubble gently for a minute or so.

Add the meat and turn to coat. Put in the cinnamon stick, bay leaf and oregano. Pour over the tomatoes with their liquid and the stock. Season with salt, bring to the boil and immediately lower the heat to a bare simmer. Cook uncovered for 1½ hours, adding a little water from time to time if needed, then taste the meat to see if it is done. Continue to cook until it is to your liking, checking every 10 minutes until it is. Adjust the seasoning.

Rinse the pickling onions and fry in the butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until just done. Stir into the stew, together with a handful of coriander leaves.


Scatter over the parsley leaves before bringing to the table.

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