I wish I could remember just where it was that I first discovered this recipe. I wanted to give credit where credit is due, but I couldn’t find the original site. Portuguesecooking.com has a very similar recipe, which was adapted from a recipe by Patrick Fish of South Africa. My original source for the recipe also included stories about the origins of African Craved Beef Stew, and there were none on portuguesecooking.com.
To make this stew in its true form, fried potatoes would be the authentic “topping”. However, I find that oven baked French Fries are just as good, without all the bother and added oils. The only thing I can promise you is that once you’ve had this yummy stew, you will crave more! Hence, the name.
African Craved Beef Stew is considered to be “peasant” food, and as such it’s difficult to say just when and where the dish was first created. That said, no one will really know if this stew is truly an African or Portuguese concoction. Portuguese is spoken in many parts of African; and Portugal has an influence on the continent since the 15th century. It was a blending of Portuguese and African traditional methods of cooking that gave birth to this stew. Some say the stew originated in Portugal and brought to Africa as Europe began to colonize Africa. Others claim the dish existed in Africa, and that the Portuguese adopted it as their own. Regardless, it is very popular and found in the cafés of South Africa as well as Portugal. It is meant to be spicy, served with fried potatoes or French Fries and bread for dunking.
While I made the stew using a Tri-Tip roast, it can be made with good-quality stew meat. This stew is a rainy-day favorite in our house. I hope it will become a favorite in yours as well.
African Craved Beef Stew with Fries & Crusty Bread
2 tablespoons spoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 Tri-Tip Roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups coarsely chopped Spanish or yellow onions
3 or 4 small hot chili peppers, stemmed and chopped (retain the seeds for added heat)
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaf
2 cups red wine
1/2 Cup Beef Stock
18 to 24 Green Olives, pitted
1/4 cup flour mixed with 1/4 cup beef stock
coarse salt as needed & fresh ground black pepper
Crusty Bread for dunking
Peel and chop Onion. Set aside.
Stem and chop chili peppers, retaining seeds for additional “heat” to the dish. Set aside.
Peel and smash garlic. (I’ve seen cooks “smash” the garlic with the side of a knife. Personally, I like to whack it with a small crafting hammer. It’s more fun!) Set aside.
Trim the tri-tip of most of the excess fat, retaining some for added flavor. Cut the tri-tip into 1-inch cubes. Melt the butter into the oil using a heavy bottom Dutch-oven pot. Working in small batches, brown the cubes on beef on all sides and transfer to a plate.
Toss the onions into the pan drippings and sauté until lightly golden to bring out the flavor of the onions. Add the hot chili peppers to your liking, taste along with the garlic and bay leaf. Cook 1 minute until it becomes aromatic.
Return the meat to the pot, along with the olives. Pour in the wine or and beef stock (not broth) so that it just comes over the meat about an inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for about an hour, checking liquid to make sure the meat is fully submerged.
After an about an hour; taste the sauce and season with a little salt and pepper. Be sure to taste the sauce prior to adding salt as the olives will add a salty-flavor. Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes longer to allow the salt to do its thing. (Salt breaks down the proteins in meat, helping it to become more tender).
Mix the flour with a little beef stock to create a slurry and stir into the pan. Cover and continue to simmer for until the meat is very tender, checking every 15 minutes or so for tenderness. (About 30-45 minutes longer). Once tender, keep warm until ready to serve.
Make a large batch of oven-baked French Fries. Thick steak fries or long seasoned fries work best. Note: Curly fries or skinny fries are less desirable as they will fall apart in the stew.
Once the fries are done, ladle the stew into serving bowls. Top with a generous handful of warm fries. Serve with a thick slice crusty bread for dipping. DO NOT WARM BREAD – soft bread is best for soaking up all the juices.