This ultimate comfort food—traditionally lamb-based, but veal works too—is the perfect fall dish to warm you up on chilly nights. It’s also nearly effortless to make, with surprisingly gratifying results. All you need is to layer slices of onion, meat, potatoes and one or more sweet elements; I prefer the classic version with dry plums. Some add carrots, apples, or even quince. The secret is time (2-3 hours), an abundance of onions, and topping the dish with the slices of potatoes (and apples, or quince if you’re using any) in the last half an hour.
Choose a tender cut for the meat. I have used veal because it’s more easily accessible, but ifyou feel more adventurous do try lamb, or even pork. Both work very well with sweet fall fruit. Enjoy with a glass of Bodegas Benegas Single Vineyard Blend Pinot Noir.
Serves: 3 – 4
2 tbsp oil (seed or olive oil)
2 large onions, sliced crosswise
3 tsp turmeric powder, divided
1.5 lb boneless veal meat, cut into large cubes
8 – 10 dry plums (prunes)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup hot water
2 large potatoes, or 3 small ones, sliced crosswise
3 tsp salt (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
In a medium casserole, heat the oil on medium low heat, and place one layer of onion disks in the bottom of the pot. Sprinkle with some of the salt and the turmeric. Put the first layer of meat on top of the onions. Sprinkle generously with salt, half the turmeric and freshly ground black pepper.
Place half of the plums in the spaces between the pieces of the meat. Repeat with the rest of the onions, the rest of the meat and the plums (and carrots, if you’re using any).
Melt the tomato paste in the hot water and gently pour over the ingredients. Put the lid on and cook gently on a low heat for at least two hours, occasionally checking if there’s enough water in the pan (about an inch, when the dish is ready), and adding more if necessary. We want the meat to be very tender and fall apart, the onions to melt completely, but the potatoes (and apples if you’re using) to keep their shape.
After about 2 hours (or more) when everything looks well cooked, place the slices of potato gently on top, sprinkle with salt and the remaining turmeric, put the lid back on and let the potato cook with the steam for about half an hour, or until it’s soft, but not falling apart.
The dish is best after a short rest, or even the day after making. For serving, remove the slices of potatoes first with a tong, serve the stew, and place the potatoes (and apples if you’re using) on top. Serve hot.