A classic from Northern Spain. I first encountered this in a ramshackle bar as 2nd course of a menu del dia one very hot day cycling to Colunga, Asturias, after a very trying all-day bike ride from Villaviciosa, having been ‘invited’ unexpectedly to vacate a camp site mid-morning. (But that’s another story). Beef stew doesn’t appear too often in Spain due to climate and terrain, but in this part of Spain the land is lush and green and cattle are often seen in the pastures in the valleys. This is my abridged version including extra veg and dried Spanish peppers often employed by the folks in Basque, where this stew is rumoured to originate from. Don’t worry if you can’t find dried ñoras or guindlillas (denoted by * below), try to find a jar of ‘carne de pimiento choricero’. If you can’t find them don’t worry and just carry on cooking the stew will still be great. But you should be able to buy them on-line.
750 grms of stewing steak, diced
2 litres of beef stock
1 marrow bone 6 or 7 tomatoes, cored and cross-scored at bottom 3 or 4 ñoras * 2 Dried guindillas * 4 large potatoes, peeled and ‘cracked’ into 3 cm chunks 3 Onions, cut in half vertically and sliced
1 leek, white part only, cut into thick rounds
About 400grms of (preferably pardina) lentils (or any good quality brown lentils)
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large rounds
1 head of garlic, cut in half vertically
2 stalks of celery, chopped into thick chunks
1 tbsp peppercorns
1 sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
Pinch of saffron, crushed in a pestle and mortar with coarse salt
Decent sized bunch of parsley. Stems chopped up very finely and set aside. Leaves roughly chopped
3 large glasses of dry red wine
Good measure of Extra Virgon Olive Oil
Plunge the tomatoes, ñoras and guindillas into a pot of boiling water. Cook tomatoes until the skins start to split. Turn heat to medium. Fish out and set aside in a bowl to cool. Once cooled down a bit slide the skins off the tomatoes and chop up to a rough pulp. 5 mins after removing the tomatoes remove the ñoras/guindillas and set aside. When cooled pull off the stems, chop roughly and set aside for later in the recipe.
In a large wide casserole pan add the oil, when hot add the marrowbone and peppercorns. Cook the bone until browned on all sides on medium heat. Add the diced beef, mix, and cook on med heat until all the meat is browned.
Add the sliced onions and garlic halves. Mix together with the meat, cover and cook on a low heat until the onions start to break down
Add the pulped tomatoes and bay leaves, bring to boil then cook covered on a low heat for 20mins
Pour in the stock, add the finely chopped parsley stalks and bring back to the boil and turn to a simmer. Add the rosemary sprig. Cook for another 20mins.
Next onto the rehydrated ñoras and guindillas – put into a blender, transfer 4 ladleful’s of the simmering broth into a bowl and let it cool. When cool add to the blender containing the ñoras and guindillas and whizz up until you get a orange/red thinish sauce. Add this to the stew and stir in. Cook for 15mins on moderate heat.
Now add the carrots and the wine. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer, covered, for another 10mins.
Add the potatoes, celery and leek and the crushed saffron
Return to the boil and add the lentils, then simmer until the potatoes and lentils are cooked, but not falling apart. At this point stir in carefully (to avoid breaking up the cooked ingredients) the chopped parsley leaves.
Leave to stand, covered, for 20mins if you like. Remove the marrowbone, decimated garlic stem and bay leaves
The beef should be cooked by now too. Don’t worry about the soupy consistency of the stew as the final part of this recipe will be to ladle off most of the excess liquid for a delicious first course soup starter!