Sunday, April 24, 2011

Yemenite Beef and Potato Stew for Passover and Year Round

(I originally posted this in 2011 -- hear are some update notes from 2018:  We served this stew for the first seder this year and it was a big hit.  Because many people prefer chicken to beef, we used the chicken thighs instead of the beef bones, and came to the conclusion that the flavor was better, and the bone-in chicken also added a gelatinous richness to the sauce that was perhaps better than the version with beef bones or short ribs.   So, I added the option of chicken back into the recipe.  Also, we noticed that a freshly opened, new package of cumin bought for Passover made a real difference -- so make sure that your spices are fresh.)

It is a little late to be posting this recipe.  Pesach is almost over, and the temperature is approaching 70 degrees, and this dish is both Passover and cold weather food.  I have never figured out why countries like Yemen and Brazil make such wonderful rib-sticking cold weather dishes.  My recipe is adapted from the one in Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook , which is one of those rare cookbooks where all the recipes are good.  I have yet to make anything from there that hasn't been wonderful, but of all the recipes, this may be our favorite.

Our seders tend not to be gefilte fish, soup and kneidlach and brisket affairs.  People get that elsewhere and on other nights, and have come to expect other things from us.  So this was our main dish, and we have been eating it for dinner on and off since the beginning of the holiday.  The main challenge in making this was in adapting it for my garlic-o-phobe mother, so we did a trial run a few weeks before the holiday and much to my surprise, we didn't miss the garlic.  Also, Levy used a combination of beef and chicken and I find that the chicken gets too overcooked, so I substitute short ribs, which also give the sauce a lot of richness.  I also eliminate the water to concentrate the flavors and make it easier to serve on plates. (You may have to add water depending on the moisture of the other ingredients.)  Finally, I serve it with a fresh chutney of cilantro, chili, walnuts and fruit which livens it all up.

This is a great one-dish meal any time of year.  The potatoes soak up the flavor of the sauce.  It can be reheated many times.  And though it takes a few hours to cook, it requires very little work.  The hardest thing is peeling the potatoes:

Yemenite Beef and Potato Stew

serves 8-10

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 very large onion, chopped
  • 8-15 cloves garlic, sliced (optional -- one day I will do a side by side test)
  • 2-3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2-3  tablespoons tomato paste
  • 14 ounce can diced tomatoes , drained (or half of a larger can)
  • handful chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2-3 pounds beef stew (chuck or shank) cut into chunks if possible
  • 2 pounds meaty beef bones, short ribs or flanken
  • 8-10 medium red potatoes, peeled
  • 3-4 chicken thighs, skinned if desired (recommended if not using beef bones)

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Saute onion in oil in a very large casserole (the largest flame and ovenproof one you have, 7 quarts or larger ) until soft but not browned.
  3. Add garlic if using and saute for a minute.
  4. Add spices and saute on low for about three minutes, stirring.
  5. Add tomato paste, stir, and then add tomatoes and parsley.
  6. Mix in stew meat, short ribs and potatoes, bring to a simmer, cover and put in the oven.
  7. Bake for 1 hour.
  8. Add chicken if using, pushing it down into the sauce.  Cook for 2 more hours.
  9. That's it.  You can hold the dish for another hour or two in a turned off or low oven.
  10. Serve with green walnut fruit chutney (recipe below), harissa or  schug (Yemenite hot sauce).  Although it doesn't need it, this goes very well with rice (we are enthusiastic kitniyot eaters) and also with quinoa.  
Green Walnut Chutney:  Put a handful of walnuts, a sliced green chili (I used a serrano with the seeds still in for heat), a small peeled, cored chopped granny smith apple, a peeled clementine (check for seeds), a handful of cilantro and a large pinch of salt into a blender or small processor.  Process until smooth.  You can substitute other nuts or leave them out altogether, but I find that they both give the chutney substance and keep it from turning dark.  Use this within a few days.


  1. You said you "cut down on the water". Please could you let me know what water and by how much as I cannot see it on your ingredient list?


  2. I cut down by eliminating the water. The tomatoes and onions provide more than enough moisture. I will correct the text when I have access to a computer. Thanks for your feedback.

  3. Thank you for that. Also, could you give me a rough idea of how many it feeds....and please reassure me that there will be enough liquid in the casserole to allow me to leave it for the 3 hrs (or maybe longer) without it burning?! I am not the most experienced of cooks and, in past oven casseroles, I have included a fair amount of vegetables with the meat which have released water.

    Kind regards, Sharon.

  4. It feeds 10 pretty generously you just have to fit 10 potatoes in the pot. It won't scorch because it is cooked on low heat.

  5. Great. May half the quantity. Hope to make it this weekend. Will let you know how I got on.


  6. Hello Alan.

    Had excellent results. Added about a third of a cup of water as I had difficulty working out the simmering point before putting it in the oven. It helped me detect the simmering point. Had plenty of gravy at the end so could have left the water out completely as you suggested, but I also used 4 pounds of meat. (Didn't have 5.) Had to add salt at the end as had no idea how much I would taste by the end of the cooking.

    Thanks! Will definitely be making this again....Passover or not!

    Sharon (from London, UK)