This braised beef with zucchini (or courgettes if you prefer) is a classic Greek summer dish. By early summer, the farmers’ market stalls are filled with bright green zucchini and sun blushed tomatoes, perfect for this delicious casserole. As my grandmother used to make it,…
In the midst of this constant barrage of information on modern nutrition, the value of vegetables remains constant and undeniable. In the traditional Mediterranean diet, we very often see imaginative combinations of vegetables with (sometimes only a little) meat or fish, depending on the season…
It’s funny how borlotti or cranberry beans also have two names in Greek: chandres (beads) or barbounia (red mullet, yes really). They are so beautiful that I almost feel sad when I see them lose their color cooked. Their slightly sweet and hearty tasty, quickly compensates us. We also like buying them fresh from the farmers’ market and podding them together with the kids.
In this traditional recipe they are combined with grassfed beef and slow baked in a clay pot. Lamb also suits them. When making casseroles, I prefer to saute the meat and vegetables first before braising, as it makes for a tastier and more presentable dish. Which is why I usually prefer the cast-iron pots that let you start cooking on the hob finishing off in the oven. The clay pot though is much more forgiving, as it seems to magically impart flavor to everything inside it, even when its just thrown in and allowed to gently cook with no supervision.
I love this dish for two reasons. Firstly, it’s really great for very busy days. Days when you have only have 10 ‘-15’ prep time and still want to have something delicious and comforting for dinner.
The second and equally important reason is that you can, in this particular recipe, prepare it with the children and let them feel the pride of preparing a whole meal from scratch. As you understand, you should allow for a little more prep time in this case. Kids can easily pod and wash the beans. They can chop the onions in a food processor. They, can also cut the carrots, too, if they’re not using a knife yet. You only need to peel and chop the sweet potatoes, as their so hard. I added them because their taste reminds me of chestnuts. Borlotti beans go very nicely with chestnuts for a vegetarian dish, but this is a recipe for another day.
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 kg grassfed beef, in portions
- 2-3 tbsps olive oil
- 1 sprig rosemary or sage
- 200 ml wine or tomato juice if you’re serving in children
- 800 gr. podded fresh borlotti beans
- 750 ml homemade broth or water
- Salt and pepper
- Optional: 3 white sweet potatoes, cut into large pieces
Scatter the onions and carrots around the bottom of a clay pot and place the beef on top. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season. Add the rosemary and the wine or juice. Layer the beans on top with enough broth to just cover them. If you are using the sweet potatoes, place them on top with rest of the olive oil. They will cook in the steam of the sauce.
Cover and place the pot in a cold oven setting the temperature to 220C for about 30 minutes so the stew comes to the boil. Lower to 160C for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Check with a fork that the meat is cooked through and very soft. The fork should go right through it. If the vegetables have released a lot of juice, let the casserole cook uncovered in the oven to reduce 10 minutes and allow to rest uncovered for another 10 minutes on the kitchen counter.
This is such a classic Greek summer recipe. Bringing wonderful aromas and nourishment in the same dish, combining the fresh tastes of green beans, lemon and herbs. The best way to prepare green beans is in good company. Casual conversation and plenty of helping hands,…