Estofado (Spanish-style Beef Stew)
Beef crest, generously marbled with fat, is browned and stewed in tomatoes with an array of herbs and spices. Estofado is an ideal meal for cold days and nights.
- 1 kilogram beef crest
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 cups finely chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 large piece beef or ham bone
- 2 potatoes note: carrots are more traditional, peeled and cut into wedges
- ½ cup olives
- ½ cup sweet peas
- Cut the beef into two-inch cubes.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan and brown the beef cubes on all sides. There is no need to add oil. As the beef browns, it will render enough fat to brown in. Scoop out the beef cubes and set aside.
- In a thick-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil. Saute the garlic, onion, tomatoes, bell peppers, oregano, bay leaves and paprika with a little salt and pepper.
- When the vegetables have softened, pour in the wine. Swirl the pan and allow the mixture to boil over high heat for about five minutes or until the liquid is reduced to half.
- Stir in the tomato paste and paprika.
- Add the browned beef cubes and bone to the pot.
- Pour in enough water to cover the meat.
- Stir. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper.
- Bring to the boil, lower the heat and cover the pot. Slow cook the beef for about two hours (the actual cooking time depends on the age of the animal) or until tender.
- Stir the pot occasionally and check the liquid too. Ideally, the liquid should be reduced by about two quarters by the time the beef is done. However, if your beef is taking longer to cook, you may need to add more water. Do not add too much though. This is a stew, not a soup. About half a cup each time should be just enough to keep the beef simmering merrily in the sauce.
- When the beef is tender, add the potatoes, olives and peas. Simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. Taste the sauce one last time and add more salt and pepper, if needed.
- Fish out the beef or ham bone and bay leaves before serving your beef estofado.
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The choice of beef cut is something I learned from my father who was a wonderful cook. I would never have known about the cut called “batok” if it weren’t for him. For those who don’t speak Filipino, “batok” means the back of the neck. For non-Filipino speakers, beef “batok” is beef crest which the Handbook of Australian Meat describes as “derived from a Forequarter and is the predominant portion of the M. rhomboideus muscle which is located on the dorsal edge of the Chuck and Neck.” It is boneless meat marbled with fat. That is why, when cooked, beef “batok” is tender and moist. But don’t boneless cuts of meat make less tasty stews? True. That’s why you have to cook beef estofado with beef bones (often sold as soup bones or scrap) or, for even better results, a generous piece of ham bone. I like to brown my meat before stewing because the caramelization adds another dimension of flavor to the stew. If you don’t have beef or ham bone, use beef broth instead of water. If beef “batok” (crest) is unavailable, try brisket or short ribs. If using short ribs, there is no need for additional bones in the stew.
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