This is not your grandmother's beef stew. Well, not unless your grandmother is from South America. This Peruvian (or Ecuadorian) beef stew called "seco de carne" is a very traditional dish in much of South America. I've read differing origins between Ecuador and Peru, but that makes sense because the border between those two countries has moved a couple of different times due to occupational disputes and a resulting war almost 200 years ago. The more common dish is served with the plentiful goat of that region, but you will also see this recipe with other meats such as chicken or cow stomach. I'll stick to beef for this recipe. I'm not sure why it's called seco de carne or "dried beef" as it's not dry at all. The cilantro sauce that it cooks in for hours makes it super moist and soft.
2 T cooking oil
2 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2 inch squares
2 medium red onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch cilantro
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup water
2 tsp cumin
1 T aji amarillo (yellow aji pepper paste)*
6 cups water
6 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 bag frozen peas and carrots (or 1 cup each fresh)
Salt and pepper to taste
*aji amarillo is a very distinct ingredient and I haven't found it in any local grocery stores. I had to order it. I've cooked this dish without it and it's still very good; just not a traditional version. If you can't find the paste, be sure to kick up this dish with a little chili or cayenne pepper.
Heat oil in large stock pot. Add beef pieces and brown on all sides.
Add chopped onion and garlic and cook until translucent.
Chop stems off cilantro. Place cilantro, spinach and 1 cup water in blender or food processor. Blend until liquified.
Pour cilantro liquid over beef and onions. Cook on high until half of the water dissipates.
Add aji paste, cumin, salt and pepper.
Add 4-6 cups water until meat is just submerged and cook on medium boil, with lid for approximately 2 hours. Check periodically to prevent boil overs or to add water if it dries out too quickly.
Remove lid and add potatoes. Cook for additional 30-45 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through and liquid reduces.
Add peas and carrots and cook for additional 10 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Stir all together, add salt and pepper. This is usually served with white rice.
For Whole30 compliant, skip the peas.