Peposo

Peposo is the signature stew of Impruneta, a town south of Florence renowned for its terracotta. Indeed, it was made by the tileworkers, who would slip a stewpot into the kiln as it slowly cooled after the firing, and simmer their dinner for hours.
As you might expect, the recipe goes a long way back — the Imprunetani began making terracotta centuries before Brunelleschi came looking for roof tiles for Florence’s Cathedral in the 1400s

Serves 6-8 people:

  • 1.5 kg stewing beef – do not be tempted to use a more expensive cut – loses a lot if you do.
  • 15 cloves of garlic – yes, fifteen!!!!
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 fresh red chilli, chopped – or dried
  • 500g good tinned tomatoes
  • 2 glasses  good Italian red wine
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Generous seasoning of coarsely ground black pepper, about 2 tablespoons or more (to taste)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A little beef broth
  • Pears – under ripe, cored and sliced.
  • 6-8 slices of lightly oiled, salted and griddled country bread.

    Method:

    • Prepare a ‘soffrito’ by adding 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a big pot and gently frying 6 cloves of finely chopped garlic, chopped carrot, onion, celery and chilli pepper.
    • I finely processed the vegetables – you do not want the end result to have visible vegetables – just the meat with a very rich coating sauce.
    • When this just begins to take on colour, add the meat, which has been rolled in seasoned flour, and gently brown. Add the tomatoes, and season with salt and black pepper. As the tomato begins to reduce and take on a deeper colour, add the 2 glasses of wine, bring back to the boil, cover and leave over a very low flame for 3-4 hours or so, adding a little hot beef broth if necessary.
    • At this point, you can adds some slices of slightly under ripe pears as a vegetable – much as you would add potato.
    • When the meat is well cooked, tender, and almost falling apart, enrich the sauce by adding the rest of the chopped garlic, and lots of freshly ground black pepper – this is peposo and so should taste really peppery. At this point, you can remove the meat, defat the sauce, then blend with a hand blender, and reduce until thick and concentrated – I find that if you finely chop the vegetables in the first place, this should not be necessary
    • The dish is very rich and hugely tasty,  I serve it in a flat dish with fingers of oiled, salted and toasted or griddled bread laid around the edge.
    • I would serve it in a bowl with just a simple green vegetable or side salad.
    • If some members of the party find the heat too much with this dish, serve a bowl of plain and natural yoghurt (of course preferably organic)– this softens everything out.

    Incidentally, Impruneta still provides the roof tiles for Florence’s Duomo. They’re purchased and stored on racks out doors for 50 years, so they will weather to the same colour as the tiles they replace.