Monday, October 29, 2012

The stew in the movie "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"

This scene from one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies is a very sad one. It upsets me to see this dangerous intrusion. But for a while now, I've been focused on the food on that table. Now, whenever I see this scene I get real hungry. At such times, anything won't do. I want that same stew in those same bowls, on that rugged table, with the same chunks of rustic bread. I had to make that stew.
Off I went to googleland and of course there is a page where people discuss this. The movie was made in Spain, the director was Italian. A writer on that page points out that the director kept yelling to Lee Van Cleef to "eat the minestrone", so it could be minestrone. I learn from a Spanish person on that site that the stew would definitely be Andalucian -- specifically of the Almeria and Granada provinces, where the movie was made.  The food must have been catered from local sources.

According to the Andalucian recipe  the main ingredient would usually be rabbit or chicken, with some veggies including potatoes, broad beans, leeks, and cabbage, and also dried beans. He also suggests  that the stew would have turmeric, cumin, and crushed black  pepper. There is a recipe there too, which is very similar to some of the stews and soups (so-called curries) that we make back home, the only difference being in the use of stock. We mostly use coconut milk, water or lentils cooked to a paste and diluted. Then I read more about the cuisine of the Andalucian regions. Apparently it had a rich Arabian flavor -- so saffron was used too.

After incorporating all these details, I had to make something that I know the folks around here will eat. So I chose beef as the meat. I couldn't get any broad bean/ fava bean -- so I used lima beans. And of course I made it hot. With the rustic bread I made, the stew was a success. I am glad to say that it was devoured as hungrily and enjoyed as deliciously, as by some of the characters in the movie.

rustic Spanish stew from the movie "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"

Here's the recipe:


beef for stew -- 2 lb
black pepper, ground -- 1 tsp
paprika - 1/2 tsp
onions, chopped -- 1/2 cup
garlic, 6 cloves, crushed
leeks, 2 stems chopped
green onion, cut at an angle, in 1'' pieces
green chili pepper -- 4 (optional)
crushed red pepper flakes - 1-2 tsp ( as per your preference)
turmeric - 1 tsp
saffron - a pinch or two
cumin - 1 tsp
Yukon gold potatoes, peeled whole - 4
half a napa cabbage, shredded roughly
1- 2 cups lima beans, cooked ( I used a packet of frozen lima)
beef stock -- 3 cups ( I use knorr's)
Olive oil
salt, as needed


Clean meat. Add the black pepper and paprika to the meat and mix well.
Heat some olive oil -- 1 or 2 tbsps -- in a cast iron pot or any other stew pot, and brown the meat. This step is optional.
Remove the meat from the pot. Add a tablespoon ( or as needed) of olive oil.
Saute the onions, garlic, green chili, and leeks in the oil, till they wilt. Medium heat. Add the turmeric, cumin and crushed red pepper flakes to this. Stir well. Now add the meat. Pour in the stock. Bring it to a boil.
Add the potatoes. Reduce heat. . Let it simmer. Add the saffron. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Check the potatoes with a fork. Now add the green onions, and the cooked lima beans. Add the roughly shredded napa cabbage. Give the stew a good stir. With a fork, split the potatoes, for that rustic look. Add more water, and bring to boil, in order to get the consistency you prefer.

Serve with rustic bread.

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