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Andalusian recipes, travel, and design

Category: beef | bison | venison

Chocolate Beef Stew-Estofado de Ternera al Chocolate

I like different. I love chocolate. And I’m feeling inspired….even if the weather is not exactly appropriate for stew right now. It’s boiling hot in London! I love it, although I think it’s a bit uncomfortable with the humidity factor. But I’m not complaining; it’s a rarity to see the sun around here…so, I’ll take it in any form it comes!
This is an easy dish to make and it’s delicious and slightly exotic as well. It’s very typical to add chocolate to game, usually to compliment the stronger flavours of the meat. In Spain, growing up, a dear friend of the family’s  would regularly go hunting for wild boar, venison and pheasant. My father went along a number of times. And we kids would also join in on the field trip, which entailed going into the sierra to spend the day in nature, running through the fields, climbing acorn oaks, and jumping in haystacks. And of course, one of the best parts of the adventure was the end of the day when we got to enjoy some of the meat on an open wood-fire, with the noises of the night and the moon and the stars as our companions.
I’m not keen about hunting; in fact, I hardly eat game anymore, although I do admit that the flavour is incomparable to farm-grown animals. However, today I indulged in my passion of chocolate with a beef stew.
Chocolate Beef Stew – Estofado de Ternera al Chocolate
Ingredients, for 4
  • 1 kilo of a tender cut of beef, diced for stew
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 100g of pure cocoa powder
  • 1 cup of vinegar (I used balsamic as it’s sweeter, but you can use wine vinegar too)
  • 4-5 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large squares
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
  • fresh ground nutmeg, to taste (I used about 3 teaspoons)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • olive oil
  • water
Rinse the beef and pat dry. In a pressure cooker, place enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Over medium heat, brown the beef. Add the onions and garlic and saute about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, cocoa powder, and nutmeg. Mix well and saute about 1 minute. Add the potatoes and carrots, and enough water to cover, or according to the instructions of your pressure cooker. Cover and seal the cooker; cook for 25 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow for the steam from the cooker to be released. Open the pot when there is no steam left. Check the meat for tenderness. Add the salt and cook a bit longer, with no cover, to reduce the sauce, about 5-10 minutes or longer if necessary.
I like to add a teaspoon of honey or raw maple syrup over my plate and mix it in with the stew. It adds just a touch of sweetness that makes the dish all that more delicious.
Buen Provecho!

Las Albondigas de Mama & Sevilla Tiene Un Color Especial

Sevilla has a special colour, the sevillana song says…it’s vibrant, welcoming, mystical, full of “alegria”, and pure magic! It’s one of my favourite cities of Spain. It’s hard to not feel energised when walking along its streets and encountering her people, especially during special events such as Holy Week or the Feria de Abril. But Sevilla is special anytime of year; albeit it can be a hot inferno in the summer, it is still enjoyable.
 Horse carriages, waiting for passengers, outside the Palacio Arzobispal
Sevilla smells of orange blossom, of incense, of roasted chestnuts…her boisterous and joyful people are always ready to wish you a good day with a smile, and maybe a wink, and the sun shines differently in Sevilla, its luminosity and intensity enhancing the kaleidoscope that envelopes the visitor.
Peacock in the gardens of the Alcazar de Sevilla

Giralda and part of the Cathedral, from the Patio de los Naranjos (both the Giralda and the Patio are part of the original structure of the Moorish mosque pre-dating the Cathedral)

Legend tells that the city was founded by Hercules. But historians tell us otherwise. One of the first people to make the city flourish were the Tharsis, followed by the Greeks and the Romans, whose descendants named the city Ispal, which later evolved to Sevilla. The Moors established an important seat of their empire in what they called Hispalis.

The Moors, reigning in most of Andalucia and parts of Spain for close to 800 years, left a huge influence in the language, the cuisine, the architecture and the culture, in general.

Inside patio of the Alcazar de Sevilla, Moorish section

From the time of Al-Andalus, we have inherited many ingredients, such as almonds, oranges, apricots, altramuces (lupin beans), rice, and numerous recipes and dishes. Many of these moorish ingredients and dishes that eventually made it into the Spanish vernacular start with an “a”, such as azafran (saffon), aceitunas (olives), aceite (oil), albondigas (meatballs); and many include a combination of spices brought to Spain by the Moors and their trade routes with the East, such as canela (cinnamon), comino (cumin), culantro (coriander) and anis. Pickling fish in vinegar solutions (boquenos en vinagre, adobo) was also brought to Spain by the Moors, and is extensively used today in the Andalusian cuisine.Although today, we have a lot of “fusion” ideas in our tapa and menu repertoire, it’s hard to eat anywhere in Spain without eating something that originated with the Moors.One of the dishes I make regularly, because it’s easy and healthy are albondigas (meatballs). Meatballs are usually served as small balls, fried and then covered in a tomato sauce. However, as I don’t like mine fried, nor am I a big lover of tomato sauces, here is my mother’s version, altered by me.

Algondigas a la Maria Luisa* 

Ingredients, for 4-6

  • 800g minced/ground meat
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons flaxmeal (you can also use bread crumbs)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • olive oil, about 3-4 tablespoons
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1 medium onion, cut julienne style
  • chicken broth
  • saffron, 3-4 threads
  • 1-2 teaspoons turmeric
In a mixing bowl, mix the ground meat, chopped onion, garlic, eggs, flaxmeal, sea salt and nutmeg. You want to mix just enough so all of the ingredients are blended. With your hands, form balls and set aside on a platter.

In a large saucepan or pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute about 4-5 minutes. Add the saffron threads and turmeric and saute about 30 seconds before adding the white wine. Cook for 2-3 minutes to reduce the wine.

Add some chicken broth, about 1 cup. Insert the raw meatballs into the saucepan, making sure to place carefully side by side or if needed on top of each other, without breaking. Add more broth, enough to cover the meatballs (about one finger above them, actually). Over low heat, cook for 40 minutes covered. Check frequently, and if the broth evaporates too much, add a bit more. The desired sauce consistency is slightly thick, so you do not want to add too much broth.

My husband loves to eat these meatballs with homemade french fries, but they can be served alone, with some vegetables or rice, whatever your preference.

Buen Provecho!


*Maria Luisa is my mother’s name and this is a revised version of her original recipe. Maria Luisa is also the name of the largest public park in Sevilla, which is a glorious place for a reprise from the Andalusian sun. Filled with an extensive variety of flora, lovely avenues, arabesque fountains, and a variety of birds, such as peacocks, pigeons, and ducks, it’s a peaceful and enchanting environment, recently named “bien de interes cultural” (cultural interest property). On it’s north side, the park ends at the Plaza de Espana, the emblematic architectural project of the 1929 World Fair.  A must see, when in Sevilla!