Mediterranean Beef Stew In Wine, is a hearty bowl of tender beef chunks simmered in a rich wine sauce of spices, herbs and a spelt roux.
Beef stew, or any meat stew, is a smart way to take inexpensive cuts of meat, that are often the least tender, and make them incredibly tender through slow cooking in a sauce filled with flavor.
Rendering some of the fat, to use in the sauce, adds so much flavor and moisture. I like to toss the meat fat into a hot pan with a little butter while caramelizing the onions, then remove the fat.
Approaching the stew with this initial step, creates a base of flavor that I will build on as each ingredient is added.
Though the cubes of beef have had some of the fat trimmed off, because no one wants to bite into a chewy morsel of fat, we definitely want its flavor!
Some of the oldest stews in the world, were recorded (in Biblical writings), from the Mediterranean regions of the world. Layers upon layers of herbs and spices are simmered into these stews.
Often a goat, hare, or if you were lucky, and it was an important feast day, segments of a lamb went into the pot.
Added to the pot, was a massive amount of herbs and vegetables; simmered for hours over an open fire.
My most favorite, and one of the most popular Mediterranean stews made today, is the Tajine.
In a clay pot or dish, with a cone shaped lid, designed with an air hole at the top, a stew is simmered on top of the stove, low and slow.
I think the crock pot got its original design idea from a Tajine clay pot, but what do I know…
Ancient Stews Of The Mediterranean
The air hole on top of the Tajine lid is designed to allow steam to escape, therefore reducing water in the sauce, and thickening it into a luscious gravy.
In my opinion, this was an ancient Mediterranean technique of thickening a stew, long before the French created the ‘roux’!
Mediterranean Spiced Lamb Tajine with Apricots is the Tajine I will make most often for family and friends. It is an ancient technique not easily duplicated in modern cooking.
Cooking with fruit and meats together, is a Mediterranean technique of tenderizing the meat from the sugar molecules in the fruit and adding a balance of sweet to the savory, sometimes hot or spicy dishes.
I find that wine, and its sugar content, will do much the same, as well as impart flavor and acidity to the sauce.
Cooking Stews With Wine
As mentioned above, simmering meats and fruits together in a savory, sometimes spicy dish, is a technique I grew up with. Wine… of course, is a fruit!
In this luscious Mediterranean beef stew, the only liquid I added, as all the ingredients simmered, was half a bottle of red wine.
I used red wine because I was cooking with a red meat. The wine helped to intensify, enhance and bring out the flavors of the ingredients as they married together into one dish.
When cooking with a light colored meat, such as turkey, chicken or rabbit, I prefer to use a dry white wine, so the delicate color of the meat is not stained, as it would if I used a red wine.
Most every year, for the holidays, I make it a point to cook Rabbit In Wine, which I find enhances the flavor of the mushrooms, onions and other ingredients that go so well with the delicate rabbit meat.
Since this red wine beef stew cooks low and slow, the alcohol is cooked out and the flavors deepen.
The broth thickens as it reduces into a stock just waiting for a little roux to add its finishing touch, transforming what could look like a soup, into a stew.
How To Make Mediterranean Red Wine Beef Stew
Once the meat is trimmed of fat (saving the fat to render for flavor), the veggies are peeled and chopped into sizes and shapes consistent with the beef chunks.
Then the layering of flavors then begins, once the meat has been seared to seal the natural juices and flavors, in.
Rendering the fat along with a little butter, while caramelizing the onions, is where the flavors first begin to happen.
Remove the fat and add the meat, veggies and spices. Gently lift and fold the ingredients at the bottom of the pan, to the top several times so that all the ingredients get time at the bottom searing in flavors as well as extracting juices.
Pour the wine in, bring to a gentle boil, lower and simmer with the lid on (slightly, ever so slightly off the edge, allowing a tiny amount of steam to escape), and cook for over an hour.
Once the stew has reduced its liquids and the meat and veggies are all deep in color and tender, a roux is made and added to the stew. It will thicken quickly and be ready to serve.
Roux is simply a little butter and flour melted together in a small, separate pan. Then a little liquid from the hot stew is added to the roux mixture until a thick gravy is created.
The roux mixture is then transferred into the stew to thicken the remaining liquid in the stew.
What To Serve With Mediterranean Beef Stew?
First… Not potatoes! Adding potatoes to a beef stew is not a Mediterranean style stew. American, Irish, English, German but not Mediterranean.
Secondly, and traditionally, rice or barley is served with beef stew. Last, rice or barley might be made separately, such as a Moroccan Rice Medley with spices and dried fruits, and served on the side or under. But not potatoes!
In some Mediterranean regions, closer to Italy and parts of France, you might find orzo, or some other type of pasta served alongside a beef stew.
That is what I prefer to serve with my Mediterranean beef stew in wine!
- Red wine
- Aleppo pepper
- Black cumin
- Spelt flour
- Stew pot with lid
- Small sauce pan
- Cutting board
- Chopping knife
- Vegetable peeler
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Wooden or Stainless Steel Cooking Spoon
- Stovetop or burner
Mediterranean Beef Stew In Wine
- Beef – 2 to 2.5 lb, fat trimmed and saved, meat cubed, I used a chuck roast
- Onions – 2, chopped
- Celery – 5 stalks, chopped
- Carrots – 8, chopped
- Mushrooms – 2 cups, chopped
- Garlic – 4 cloves, finely chopped
- Red wine – 1/2 bottle, about 2 cups
- Salt – 1 tbsp or to taste
- Aleppo pepper – 1 tbsp
- Black cumin – 2 tbsp
- Sumac – 2 tbsp
- Rosemary – 2 sprigs
- Spelt flour – 1/4 cup
- Butter – 4 tbsp
- Heat a large stock pot. Add into the pot the fat trimmings, 2 tbsp of butter and the chopped onions. Stir and cook until onions are caramelized. Remove pieces of fat.
- Add to the meat, celery, carrots, mushrooms, garlic salt and spices to the caramelized onions. Stir several times allowing the ingredients to reach the bottom of the pan to sear and caramelize.
- Pour the wine over the mixture in the pot. Bring to a gentle boil. Lower to barely a simmer. Place the lid on, leaving it slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Cook for an hour to an hour and a half.
- In a small sauce pan, melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter, add the flour and stir quickly until the flour blends into the melted butter making a roux.
- Quickly ladle in a spoon at a time of broth from the hot simmering stew. Whisk the roux as each ladle of broth is added (about 4 in total), then transfer the roux into the stew. Be certain to scrap all the remains from the roux into the pot of stew.
- Stir the stew gently. Simmer another 10 minutes. Turn it off and place the lid completely on. The stew is now ready to serve.