Today we feature a classic, Greek stew – beef stifado, or should that be the famous, Cypriot dish?
Whatever its origins, we are featuring it today! Commonplace throughout the region, it is a robust flavored stew, containing slow-cooked beef that just melts in your mouth. Beef stifado is traditionally served with orzo (small, rice-shaped pasta) or hilopittes (egg pasta).
This is a great dish to enjoy in the cooler months. Simple to prepare, it just slowly simmers away while you are pottering in the kitchen. The beautiful scent will slowly envelope your house as the rich sauce slowly bubbles away, gently cooking the beef. It’s a mildly spiced dish. True comfort food, beef stifado will appeal to those of all ages.
We first enjoyed beef stifado on the island of Cyprus, an independent island nation, which draws its cuisine from neighboring Greece and Turkey. Cyprus is not unlike the Greek and Turkish Islands in the Aegean Sea, in its geology, its attitudes and its cuisine. We detail some of our favorite meals and restaurants around Paphos and the capital, Nicosia.
Cypriot Cuisine is a Close Cousin of Greek and Turkish Cuisine
What is a typical banquet you might eat in Cyprus? It is possible to eat mezes (small dishes) and have a little taste of everything Cypriot. Here is a sample:
- Black and marinated green olives;
- Tahini, taramasalata and talattouri (thick tzatziki) accompanied with village salad and village bread;
- Octopus in red wine;
- Snails in tomato sauce;
- Pork in aspic;
- Pickled capers;
- Pickled cauliflower;
- Raw carrots;
- Dressed kohlrabi;
- Seafood such as white bait, red mullet (barbouni) and calamari are the most popular choices, all served with large chunks of lemon;
- Grilled halloumi cheese;
- Time for some meat. Smoked pork, keftedes (meatballs), sheftalia (pork rissoles), grilled pork and loukanika (traditional, smoked Cyprus sausage);
- Composite dishes and casseroles. Drunken pork (afelia), moussaka, lamb, rabbit or beef stifado, see below.
- Kebabs or souvlaki, kleftiko (slow-cooked lamb traditionally cooked in an underground oven) and grilled chicken; and
- Fresh fruit and pastries filled with fresh curd cheese and honey.
Of course this is accompanied with the requisite jug of village wine.
Is that enough of a list for you? The above is the order in which you may be served in a taverna. Of course you pick and choose what you might like to eat.
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And if you like the idea of some healthy mezes, here are some great recipes as part of a Turkish meze platter.
Restaurant Recommendations in Paphos and Nicosia
Needless to say eating in Cyprus was a pleasure. Our favorite restaurants in Paphos were:
Laona, 6 Votsi Street, Paphos. Small, family-run restaurant cooking traditional meals as well as some that grandma would have made. Absolutely brilliant and deserving of its great reviews. Not expensive.
Hondros, 96 Apostolos Pavlos Ave, Kato Paphos. Beautifully situated by the port. A little more up-market than Laona. A taverna with all of the usual suspects. The pig on the spit was to die for. Moderately expensive.
And in Nicosia:
Piatsa Gourounaki, Odos Faneromenis 92, Nicosia 1011. If you like grilled meats, you will love this place. Large portions and fantastic value.
There is more to Cyprus than just hanging around the major towns. Our favorite activity was to catch a bus to many of the outer-lying towns around Paphos, do a little exploring or hiking and then enjoy a great lunch at a taverna, along with a jug of village wine. Service was always friendly. You can read more about that here. Bliss!
I hope you enjoyed my Cypriot food musings. And so, onto today’s featured, recipe.
A simple recipe where we marinate the beef overnight and then slowly cook it the next day.
Don’t like or can’t eat beef? Rabbit stifado is just as delicious and was very common on Cyprus. It may actually be better than the beef version! Lamb Stifado is also quite common. Can’t eat meat? Then substitute with hearty mushrooms. The same base is essentially used for each of these versions, so it is just a matter of picking what suits you
Serve with orzo and a village salad.
More Stews, Casseroles and Comfort Food
Casseroles and stews come into their own in winter. If you are looking for some more comfort food, try some of these dishes:
French, Coq au Vin with a twist, cooked in the slow cooker. An easy version of the chicken and red wine classic.
Want another slow cooker recipe using beef and Pinot Noir? Red Wine and Herb casserole is perfect for busy people.
Another great stew you can try from Greece is Drunken Pork (also using red wine). I see a trend here!