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Hearty Croatian Beef Stew Recipe with German Dumplings
A history of this stew!
The first time I tasted this beef stew recipe was when my mother-in-law prepared it for dinner. I never had such a thick and hearty dish and was particularly interested in the chewy, little dumplings the family called "spechlies".
My mother-in-law would later share this recipe with me not in written form, but from her memory. The recipe had been passed from her mother-in-law and I remember her mother-in-law telling me about a stew her Croatian grandmother used to make. I like to think it was this same recipe passed down through generations.
I could not resist researching Croatian stews and what I found was strangely close to our recipe. According to Nitko, on Food.com, "Cobanac is kind of goulash sheep and cow-boy’s used to eat while watching their herds. You eat it with a spoon, so the pieces inside had to be bite-size. It is traditional meal from Slavonia (eastern part of Croatia)..."
Missing from Nitko's recipe were the green beans and dumplings, but I found another version of Croatian stew, again that looked very familiar, but peas were used instead of green beans and again, there were no dumplings.
The dumplings, we called "spechlies". Biteclubbeats.com offers this explanation, "Spatzles (pronounced spayt-zle or in my house, spechlies) are the rice and pasta of the Austro-Germanic culinary repertoire — a relatively bland, boiled carbohydrate that soaks up the flavor of whatever it’s paired with. Made with a batter of milk, eggs and flour... they are built to stand up to the hearty flavors of everything from spicy paprikash to schnitzel. Not to mention sauerkraut."
My bit of research into the stew proved interesting and I think what I have surmized is that our recipe is a variation of shephard's stew that has possibly originated in Croatia and our dumpling or "spechlie" is predominantly German cuisine. Somewhere along the line their delicious paths crossed, and that is what makes up the dish today. This may be the first time anyone has tried to put our family favorite down in the form of a real recipe - so best of luck and enjoy!
- 1 lb Beef Round Steak
- 2 - 14.5 oz Cans Cut Green Beans
- 5 - 6 Medium Potatoes
- 1/3 C Ketchup
- 3 or 4 Eggs
- As needed Flour
- 2 Tablespoons Corn Starch
- As needed Salt and Pepper
- Cube 1 lb of beef round steak in bite-size pieces and brown them in the bottom of a large stock pot. As you are browning them, add salt and pepper and ketchup. These should be browned good, adding water if neccessary to keep the process going without burning.
- Once the meat is browned well, fill the pot about 1/3 full of water and bring to a boil.
- Peel and cube potatoes and add them to the boiling mixture cooking until tender.
- While potatoes are cooking, prepare the dumplings (spechlies) by whisking the eggs in a small bowl and add 1/2 teas of salt. Start adding flour little by litte under the dough is sticky, but not wet (see picture).
- Once the potatoes are tender, begin adding the spechlies to the mixture. First, take a teaspoon and hold it in the hot water to warm it and then scoop dough onto the spoon and carefully hold into the boiling broth. This should cause the dough to leave the spoon easily. Repeat the process until all spechlie dough is gone. Dumplings will cook fast and float to the top. This may only take 5 - 7 minutes.
- Drain 2 cans of green beans and add into the mixture. Since they are already cooked, they only need to heat.
- While the beans are heating, add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into about 1/3 cup of water. This will be used to thicken the mixture. Once the beans are heated, add this liquid mixture and stir.
- The stew is best served on a plate or in a bowl and left to cool a bit before eating. A salad and some bread make an excellent side.
Biteclub. "Search for Spatzle." BiteClub Eats Restaurants Food and Dining in Santa Rosa, Sonoma and Wine Country. N.p., 14 Jan. 2009. Web. 17 Jan. 2013
Nitko. "Croatian "cobanac" Stew." Recipe. N.p., 9 Sept. 2009. Web. 17 Jan. 2013