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Youvetsi

(Serves four to six)

1 kilo stewing beef
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 stick celery and 1 large carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
100 ml red wine
4 skinned and chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
Quarter tsp ground allspice
Approx. 600 ml beef stock
300 g risoni, or rice-shaped pasta

Crumbled feta cheese and thyme sprigs to garnish.

Cut the meat into one-cm cubes and season them with salt and pepper. Heat three tablespoons of oil in a flameproof casserole or ovenproof pan and, working in batches, fry the meat until browned, then transfer it to a plate.

Add the onion, celery and carrot to the pan and fry until the onion and celery start to soften, then add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Stir in the wine, turn up the heat and let it bubble until the wine has evaporated. Return the meat to the pan, add the tomatoes, thyme, oregano, sugar, allspice and half the beef stock, bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for about an hour until the beef is tender.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Stir the risoni into the meat, together with the remaining beef stock. Transfer the covered casserole to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, giving it an occasional stir and adding more stock if necessary.

Ladle into bowls, sprinkle the top with crumbled feta, garnish with some sprigs of thyme and serve with good crusty bread.

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