"This is the queen of Dalmatian dishes. It takes a long time to prepare – at least one day marinating in good red wine or prošek (Dalmatian fortified wine) and vegetables, and a good 3–4 hours’ braising the next day. It’s often served with potato dumplings or handmade pasta. In Dalmatia, pašticada is usually cooked for big celebrations. It’s an essential dish for weddings, christenings or other equally important days. In Dalmatia you are considered a great cook if you can make this dish, and my grandmother Tomica was a pašticada expert. Don’t be frightened by this though – it’s not that hard; it just takes a little time. But don’t forget the most important ingredient – love." ~ Ino Kuvacic.
2.5 kg beef cheeks
1 L red wine
50 ml red wine vinegar
2 onions, sliced 2 mm thick
2 carrots, sliced 2 mm thick
2 celery stalks, sliced 2 mm thick
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
100 g prosciutto, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
400 g tomatoes, cut into chunks
3 L beef stock
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
200 g tinned pitted prunes, cut into 2–3 cm dice
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp prune jam
Freshly ground black pepper
Marinate the beef overnight in the red wine, vinegar, onion, carrot, celery, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves.
The next day, take the beef out of the marinade, separating the vegetables and reserving the liquid.
Seal the cheeks in a frying pan in the olive oil over high heat for 2–3 minutes. Remove the beef from the pan and deglaze the pan with the liquid from the marinade.
In a saucepan over high heat, sauté the chopped prosciutto and, when crispy, the chopped garlic. Add all the marinated vegetables and spices and sauté for 20–25 minutes.
When the vegetables are cooked, add the tomato and sauté for a further
Add the sealed beef cheeks, the liquid you used to deglaze the pan and the beef stock. Braise for 1½ hours. Add the peeled apples and pitted prunes and cook for a further hour or until the cheeks are cooked – you should be able to push your finger through the cheek but it should still have some resistance.
When the beef cheeks are cooked, remove the beef, cinnamon stick and bay leaves from the braising liquid and set aside. Skim the scum from the top of the liquid, then blend it with a hand-held blender until smooth.
Adjust the flavour by adding the mustard and prune jam – the flavour should be sweet and sour. Divide the beef cheeks among serving plates and pour the sauce over to serve.
Credits: This is an edited extract from Dalmatia by Ino Kuvacic published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $50 and is available in stores nationally.
Photo Credits: ©Chris Middleton & Ino Kuvacic.