A luscious Greek stew, Lamb Stifado is slowly-cooked in lots of red wine, with sweet spices and pearl onions.
The word Stifado which is pronounced Sti-fa-tho refers to a traditional Greek stew that is made with pearl onions and cooked in a hearty tomato and red wine sauce. Along with plentiful sweet spices such as cinnamon and allspice.
This Lamb Stifado recipe differs slightly from the classic version (see Beef Stifado) because it’s cooked in lots of wine (2 liters to be precise). The point of using so much wine is for the meat to cook in it slowly until it mellows, without the addition of water. Resulting in a very flavorful lamb and a strong-flavored stew.
Age Of The Meat And Which Cuts To Use For Lamb Stew
In Greece, we prefer to use Baby lamb or Spring lamb to cook most lamb dishes. Because they’re more tender and they don’t contain that much fat. Baby lamb is aged 6 to 10 weeks and Spring lamb is aged from 5 to 6 months.
For this stew, it’s preferable to pick one of the above types of lamb. As it’s a very filling and rich stew right on its own, you don’t need a piece of meat that’s overpowering in flavor. Nor too fatty as it’s going to make this dish too heavy.
And because it’s a stew it is also preferable to use meat parts with bone-in. As they bring out their collagen when slowly cooked, giving the sauce flavor, a nice glaziness, and also more health benefits. You can see here the health benefits of bone marrow.
Lamb cuts to use for this stew: back leg and shank cuts.
Other Ingredients For Lamb Stifado
To make this Greek stew you will also need some quality red wine. It doesn’t need to be sweet, as the pearl onions will give this dish enough sweetness. Plus, there is also some grape molasses that’s used as a sweetener in this recipe. You can buy some here or you can even make it yourself following my recipe for it. Though it’s not the right time of the year right now. As it’s made from mid-September to end of October. You can even substitute grape molasses with honey as instructed in the recipe below.
Or you can buy a quality red wine with red fruit flavors, no need to use it all up to cook this stew. Just use some of it to give extra flavor and the rest can be a cheaper wine. As 2 liters of wine are a lot which is what you need to make this stew. Therefore, cooking it with only quality wine can turn this into an expensive dish to make.
The flavorings in this stew are cinnamon, allspice, whole peppercorns, bay leaves, and rosemary. Also, a bit of garlic and tomato sauce is used.
My favorite way to serve Lamb Stifado is over Greek yogurt mashed potatoes. I like how light and fluffy and how nicely their flavor combines with this stew. Another way to serve this stew is with plain parboiled rice. This stew doesn’t need a side with too strong flavors as it’s very rich in flavors on its own. Perhaps just a glass of that red wine we’ve been talking about above to pair it with ;).
Lamb Stifado – Red Wine Stew With Pearl Onions
- 2 kilograms / 4.4 pound lamb cuts (leg and or shanks) preferably of young aged animal either Baby or Spring lamb
- 2 liters red wine
- 3 large garlic cloves cut in half
- 4 dried bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon allspice berries
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 6 tablespoons tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons grape molasses (or 1,5 tablespoon honey instead)
- 35 small pearl onions
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a wide cooking pot over high heat. Sear the meat parts on all sides. Do this in batches so the temperature of the oil keeps nice and high and the meat gets seared properly.
- Pour in the wine and all of the seasonings and spices as well as the garlic cloves. Season with kosher salt.
- The wine in the pot should be just enough to cover the meat almost completely. Wait until it starts to simmer. Then add the lid on the pot, leaving a small open space on one side for steams to escape.
- Reduce heat to low and cook for about 1 and a half hour to two hours. Ideally, you shouldn't use any water in this recipe as it will change the final flavor of the dish. So in order to avoid this, keep the temperature low and don't let the food in the pot get to any more than a low, gentle simmer until the meat is tender enough.
- After one hour and 30 minutes prick the meat to check if it's tender. If not cook for 30 minutes more. If it feels tender enough, proceed with adding the onions.
- For the onions, heat a splash of olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the pearl onions and cook for a few minutes until deep golden all over.
- Transfer them to the pot with the meat. Cook for at least 50 minutes more from the time you add the onions to the pot. Towards the last 30 minutes raise the temperature to medium or medium-high depending on how much liquid there is still left in the pot. Cook until there is just enough sauce in the pot to cover the ingredients by half.
- Turn the heat off and ideally let the meat rest in the pot for 15-20 minutes before serving.
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