Greek beef stew with Kritharaki
Do you think Greek food is only about plates with grilled meat and Moussaka? – as if!
Imagine tender, juicy meat in a clay pot combined with Kritharaki noodles, tomatoes and all these amazing herbs and spices from Greece, like cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, orange, aniseeds, cloves, bay leaves, allspice berries and parsley… scalloped with cheese…
It’s Giouvetsi – a traditional Greek taverna and Sunday family recipe.
This is the perfect comfort food!
While the rice shaped Kritharaki noodles are cooked in the oven with a tomato-meat-stew they soak up all the flavors. Traditionally this is prepared with lamb. Other tasty versions are made with beef, chicken or veal. I used beef in this recipe, but I love it with lamb too – your choice!I also decided to work with ouzo this time – it adds another layer of Mediterranean flavor. I know, there are some ouzo-haters out there. If you don’t like ouzo substitute it with more red whine. The feta topping adds a sharp flavor, you could also use other kinds of grating cheese like Kefalotiri, Kefalograviera or Parmesan.
In Greece, basically, anything cooked in a clay pot is a Giouvetsi. ; ) – however, a Dutch Oven will work just fine. Giouvetsi is an intense childhood memory for me as this was a signature dish of a Greek restaurant called Potis. It was my favorite!
- 1 kg beef (Mock Tender, Brisket or Shank), cut into big chunks
- 500 g Kritharaki or Orzo noodles
- 250 g feta, crumbled or other grating cheese
- 800 g tinned tomatoes (san marzano or mix of san marzano and plum tomatoes)
- 250 g tomato passata
- 400 ml dry red wine
- 200 ml Ouzo or Raki
- 100 ml balsamic vinegar
- 4 big red onions, quartered
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bunch of parsley, leaves roughly chopped, stalks chopped separately
- 4 cardamom pods, lightly bashed with the flat side of a knife
- 2 small cinnamon sticks
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
- 1 tbsp grated orange zest
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 4 bay leaves
- 5 cloves
- 6 allspice berries
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160°C / 320°F.
Cut the beef into 4 to 6 big chunks and sprinkle with sea salt (1 tsp). In a Dutch Oven, sear the meat with 2 tbsp olive oil for 10 min. until browned from all sides, remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the rest of the olive oil and sear the onions in the same pot for about 10 min. on medium heat until soft and golden. Add the parsley stalks and all dry spices from the ingredients list and fry for another 2 min. Add the tomato paste and give it 1 more min. to fry.
Put the meat back in the pan and coat with the sauce. Pour in wine, ouzo and vinegar. Next, mix in the tinned tomatoes, tomato passata (puréed tomatoes), orange zest, sugar, a pinch of salt and black pepper.
Add water until the meat is completely covered. When it starts boiling again, cover with a lid and put it in the oven for about 4 hours -- check after 3 hours (!). If it is not easily falling apart, cook for another 30 - 60 min. Add some water if it gets to dry and give it a shake.
When finished, remove from the oven, mix trough gently and try to find and remove the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and allspice berries.
Heat the oven to 180°C/356°F
Add the Kritharaki noodles and about 1 l of water (1 inch above the stew). Add black pepper and salt to taste.
Cover with a lid and put it back to the oven for 15 min. Turn the top grill on and remove the lid (if your oven does not have a top grill, then just switch it to the highest temperature) sprinkle with crumbled feta and roast until the cheese is golden brown, about 5 min.
Sprinkle with parsley and some dried oregano to serve.