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To further our flavor adventure, this week we’re going to focus on spices.  Life should be spicy and full-flavored, don’t you think?  Spices can, well spice things up.  They can take us to other worlds, on a flavor adventure, so to speak.  These are a few of my favorite things…!  Spices are everything but the leaves of a plant.  For example, dried seeds (cumin, caraway, fennel, etc.), fruits (chiles), roots (ginger), bark (cinnamon or cassia—see the picture on the left), or stamens (saffron) and they are used primarily for flavoring, coloring or preserving food.  When you think about it,  probably more overall flavor can be pulled from spices than herbs.  My favorite spices are cinnamon (cassia is what we really consider cinnamon), allspice, caraway, cumin (I love cumin), pure chile powders (Aleppo—in the picture on the left, and guajillo are favorites), smoked paprika, ginger and mustard.  I love to use spices that we commonly think of as “dessert” flavors in a savory manner.  For example, I adore allspice with pork and inversely, chiles with fruit!  And again, citrus works well with these, too. 


Also, toasting whole seeds like cumin, coriander, caraway, even cinnamon, adds another layer of flavor to any dish you are preparing.





  • Allspice—Vanilla, caraway, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, molasses, ground chiles, orange, honey
    • Baked goods, pork, chicken, shrimp, venison, duck
    • Tomatoes, apples, pears, sweet potatoes,
    • Gingerbread, sweet pickles, relishes, jam, jellies, marinades, BBQ sauces, rice
  • Caraway—Allspice, garlic, cumin, paprika
    • Pork, chicken, cheese, venison, beef
    • Apples, pears, cabbage, onions, carrots
    • Bread, sauerkraut, scones, cakes, stews, soups, German food, Russian food, liqueurs, rice
  • Chiles (dried and ground)—Cilantro, cinnamon, sugar, honey, chocolate, cumin, orange, lime, coffee
    • Pork, beef, chicken, venison, dairy, eggs
    • Tomatoes, root vegetables, most vegetables, strawberries, melon
    • Chili, stir-frys, Asian food, Mexican food, Indian food, dry rubs, chocolate sauces, savory sauces
  • Cinnamon—Vanilla, citrus, dried fruit, sugar, chocolate, coffee, ground chiles, allspice, cloves, star anise, black pepper, curry powder
    • Baked goods, beef, lamb, pork, chicken
    • Tomatoes, apples, chiles, sweet potatoes, winter squash,
    • Mole sauce, jams, jellies, stews, Mexican food, Middle Eastern food, Vietnamese and Thai food, tagines, curries, sweet pickles, relishes, rice
  • Coriander Seeds—(Toast whole seeds and grind for best flavor) Citrus, curry powder, honey, vanilla, cumin, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon
    • Chicken, pork, lamb, venison
    • Tomatoes, onions, eggplant
    • Sauces, stews, vinaigrettes, tagines, curries
  • Cumin—(Toast whole seeds and grind for best flavor) Orange, lime, honey, chiles, dried fruit, curry powder, coriander, cilantro
    • Beef, pork, shrimp, chicken, dairy
    • Tomatoes, chiles, oranges, dried beans, peppers, eggplant
    • Stews, soups, marinades, vinaigrettes, tagines, curries, rice, compound butters, sauces
  • Ginger (ground—Citrus, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, vanilla
    • Beef, chicken, pork, salmon
    • Tomatoes, orange vegetables, onions, peppers
    • Marinades, cookies, cakes, vinaigrettes, dry rubs, curries
  • Mustard—Citrus, garlic, beer, honey, brown sugar
    • Cold cuts, hot dogs, pork, chicken, beef
    • Cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers
    • Mustard as a condiment, dry rubs, cream sauces, vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, salad dressings, cream soups, Indian food, relishes, pickles,
  • Paprika (Sweet Smoked)—Citrus, honey, garlic, cilantro, most herbs, cinnamon
    • Chicken, pork, rabbit, fish, scallops
    • Chiles, broccoli, potatoes, eggplant, summer squash, winter squash
    • Paella, dry rubs, vinaigrettes, soups, stews, marinades

Iberian Beef Stew

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Moderately Easy
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  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 4 lbs beef chuck, preferably with bones
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced top to bottom into thin wedges
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato purée
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup ruby Port
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
  • 2-3 strips orange peel
  • 3 cups beef broth (you may need a bit more)
  • Salt
  • 8 slices day-old good quality white bread
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Leaves from 3 sprigs mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried mint leaves
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes

Put allspice and cloves in a tea ball. Put tea ball, meat, garlic, bay leaves, onions, crushed tomatoes, wine, Port, ketchup, cumin, smoked paprika, cinnamon, orange peel, beef broth, and a large pinch of salt into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender and falling off the bone, 5–6 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning; remove tea ball. (See COOK’S NOTE below)

With a slotted spoon, place the meat pieces in a large bowl; shred with two forks (or your hands, but the meat is hot, so be careful—I prefer to leave the meat in large-ish pieces), discarding fat and bones.  Put into a large serving dish.

Skim fat from meat broth; discard bay leaves and orange peel (I leave it in; if you don’t want to eat it, it’s simple to avoid).  Arrange bread in another large serving dish and scatter mint and the pepper flakes, if using on top.  Ladle broth over bread and mint and set aside briefly to allow bread to swell and absorb broth before serving. Serve meat and broth-soaked bread together.

COOK’S NOTE:  This works in a slow cooker extremely well.  Combine everything in step 1, reducing the broth to 2 cups and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-6 hours.  Continue with the recipe as given above.  Also note, you may add the Aleppo pepper flakes at the beginning of cooking, but the heat of pepper increases with cooking time and the stew may be too spicy in the end.  This can be made the day before serving.  Store the meat and broth separately in the refrigerator.  When ready to serve, remove the congealed fat and discard.  Return the shredded meat to the broth and reheat gently.  Pour a couple of ladles of hot broth over the bread, then simply ladle the meat and broth together (add extra beef broth if you feel you want this to be soupier) over the bread.  By the way, I usually serve this in individual large, flat bowls.

Iberian Beef Stew Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015.  All rights reserved.

If you aren’t of Portuguese or Spanish descent, you might find this spice combination to be unusual. Don’t be put-off by it, or you will miss out on a terrific dish.  It’s the mint that surprises most people…very Portuguese and not being a huge mint fan, I almost didn’t use it the first time I made this dish.  That would have been a mistake.  It really does need to be there.

This is great dinner party fare; all you really need is a salad (with some olives, please) and some good bread.  Speaking of which, if you have a gluten issue, simply omit the bread and put some rice in the bowl, but keep the mint!

The Goddess feels this is really more of a soup, than a stew, but either way, it is incredibly delicious and simple to make.  I really do think the flavors improve if you leave it overnight in the fridge.  005Here we have it before all the ripping and tearing.  This also shows you that this is a truly flexible recipe, as it can be made as a pot roast, if that’s what you prefer.  I added extra broth, as I decided to serve it as a soup, after all.  However, I did add mushrooms to it…you know that The Goddess can NEVER leave a recipe alone!  I’m sure there’s a support group for this affliction….