Molha or Azorean Spiced Beef Stew

I've been blogging for a while now, and cooking for even longer. It's something I have mentioned in passing as a hobby of mine, something I enjoy. Yet through all of this I've never really felt like I was a particularly good blogger. I'm neither a writer, a food stylist, or a photographer. So why bother blogging at all?  The real enjoyment for me was the eating, but also the cooking. Yet I still wanted the added step of chronologizing my efforts. Was it for fame? Not especially, I have never made any effort to share or market this.

I've come to the conclusion it was to keep everything in order. A way to remember my efforts, a portfolio of sort. Have I ever had Portuguese food before? I couldn't say for certain, I've tried out a few Spanish favorites for sure, but Portuguese? I honestly had no idea. So I checked my labels here. Nope, It's probably safe to say I haven't then. So this is something totally new to me. And this recipe in particular is an instant favorite. From the minute I tasted the gravy. I checked it for taste after an hour, the meat was no where near done, but the sauce, oh the sauce. It was amazing. 

It was also a reminder of what I am actually doing this for. I've tried so many new things that while the combinations are good, and interesting, the flavors themselves aren't exactly new. It reminded me of the first time I had fresh basil as a teen. It was in pesto, and it was amazing. It was when I realized there could be en exciting world in food. Few things have been that enthralling in my life but this was one of those thing. 

I tried this recipe on the advice of a trusted friend, she said it was a personal favorite from her time in the Azores. I've liked the addition of allspice in meat fora while now, since I tried Emeril's Swedish meatballs, but never in that quantity before. And I'm not much one for cinnamon in savory things. And that amount of red pepper flakes? I wasn't really sure how this would be. And yet they melded together perfectly. You could taste the rich warming spice without feeling like you were having a bowl of apple pie stew. Nor did it light a fire in your mouth. 

And so what has started to get slightly boring and routine for me was revived again through a simple roast, shared with my favorite people on earth, out of a cast iron pot that was acquired on it's journey to the trash heap by someone else, I know not why.  

I want to provide the credit for this recipe to it's rightful author. However I looked around and found that there are several versions, much like any stew I suppose, everyone knows exactly what they like. And so I made it the way that suited me best. Starting with what I had on hand, and that was a roast. The roast I discovered had another advantage. Because it took longer to cook, the gravy also took longer. The second time I made it, with cubes of meat, they didn't need as long to get tender and the gravy while still good, didn't have the same rich umami as the previous pot did.

1 1/2 lb roast
Olive oil
2 Tbsp flour
3 c. water
beef bouillon, enough to flavor the water
1 c. cherry tomatoes, cut in half
6 cloves minced garlic
1/2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp freshly ground allspice 
1 tsp cumin
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Pour a little of the olive oil, not really more than a few tablespoons in to a deep cast iron pot and put on the stove top to heat while you prepare the meat. The meat should be dry so that it gets a really nice sear in the pan. Sprinkle it with salt, just lightly, and then rub with flour. Repeat on the other side of the meat. This can be made with a roast, as I did the first time, or chunks of meat, as I did the second.

When the oil is quite hot add the beef, if you are using cubed make sure it is only a few at a time. If you over fill the pan they liquid released will steam the meat instead of searing it.  This might need to be done in several batches but will be worth the perceived added time, since in the end it wont actually add any. When the pan is over full it also takes longer. Once everything is browned add all the meat back to the pan along with any juices that have seeped out on to the plate. Also add the remaining ingredients listed above.

Now a lot of recipes at this point would also have you add the vegetables. But this is a problem for me because the meat and the potatoes don't have the same cooking time. So either the meat isn't as tender as you want from not being left long enough to break down and get tender or the potatoes are cooked too long and they break down too much. So I cooked the meat for two hours in the oven, though this step is really "as needed". No two cuts of beef will ever act exactly the same and the reason why I generally don't like more than a time frame on cooking a recipe. One your meat is tender, then you can add the vegetables. They are as follows.

3 cups of potatoes, cut in to 1-inchs cubes
1 c. chopped carrots
3 green onions, sliced

Bake this until the potatoes are very tender, but not falling apart. I left mine out of the oven with the lid off for 15 minutes before serving. I was also thinking, as I was adding the potatoes, that it would have been equally as delicious without the, and served over rice. Pasta as well would have been a harmonious addition with the savory warm gravy. It might be May here, and quite warm, but I can't wait until cold weather to serve this as a warming winter stew. Perfect for cozy cold days we stay in to avoid the chill, that still seems to creep in to the house.


  1. This makes me so happy. I'm so glad you loved it. I haven't made it in years but is still my all time favorite roast that just melts in your mouth.


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