Cookbook Profile

Beef and Potato Stew
with Saffron from La Mancha

Makes 4 servings


Shepherds roamed with their flocks through the summer pastures of the vast, empty plains of Extramadura, La Mancha, and Andalusia in Spain during the Middle Ages. Spanish sheep were crossbred with sheep imported from North Africa, and their offspring were more important to the Spanish economy than olives, grapes, copper, or even the treasures of Peru, the economic historian Roberto Lopez has argued. Cows, on the other hand, were rare and skinny during this time, probably not weighing more than 325 pounds. Once the potato arrived in Spain from the New World, sometime around 1570, it was grown in beautiful local gardens, which were irrigated with an old Arab invention called the noria, a kind of waterwheel.

The food of La Mancha is hearty, and this stew is simplicity itself. It is sometimes called tojunto, meaning "everything is thrown all together." Serve with crusty bread.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large green bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 medium-size onion, sliced and separated into rings
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-1/4 pounds boneless stew beef, trimmed of any large
     pieces of fat and cut into irregular shapes
1-3/4 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
1 bay leaf
Good-size pinch of saffron threads, crumbled in a mortar
1 cup dry white wine

1 . Put the olive oil, bell peppers, onion, garlic, and beef in the stew pot, in that order. Layer the potatoes on top of the beef. Add the salt, pepper, cloves, bay leaf, and saffron. Pour the wine over and add enough water to cover.

2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours. Serve immediately.


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Real Stew
300 Recipes for Authentic Home-Cooked Cassoulet,
Gumbo, Chili, Curry, Minestrone, Bouillabaisse, Stroganoff,
Goulash, Chowder, and Much More
by Clifford A. Wright
Harvard Common Press
$32.95 cloth, 464 pages, ISBN: 1558321985
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400 illustrations
Recipe reprinted by permission.


Real Stew



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This page created January 2003