Papaz Yahnisi (Priest’s Stew)

Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season for most of us. From here until the New Year will be a blur and flurry of parties, visits, weekend trips, shopping, crafting, baking, and now, garden planning will be added to that list.

Fall is great for slowing down and getting to the bottom of things- for us this year, it means that we’re also changing environments and moving to a farm and changing the pace a little. It also means that I have been working through some of my old ways of doing things, and I am so thankful for the knowledge and power to see what kinds of things that I have outgrown and need to change to move forward.

Planning and researching will be the primary endeavor for the coming winter, with next year as our first run having a large garden. I especially enjoy fall and cold weather produce and plan to grow a bit for next season, but for now we will enjoy some of our neighbors bounty and the herbs that still cling to life on the balcony.

There is something so comforting about warm, braised beef and little pearl onions on these chilly Virginian evenings and the addition of the tomato sauce is enough for me to be content, fuzzy socks and all.

It’s garlic planting season and so it’s a must that we incorporate as much as possible into this dish- plus, my enthusiasm for garlic has only been growing in recent years. I’ll often stuff halved bulbs into a chicken for extra flavor. Garlic jam! Garlic-Infused Olive Oil! Grated fresh over cacik! – that, by the way, is a Turkish tzatziki dish.

Garlic, of the group Liliaceae (linked with onions, leeks, and the like), has been used therapeutically for thousands of years, and there are vast benefits to it both raw and cooked. Studies show that it is has been shown effective against certain types of cancers, hip osteoarthritis, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, it protects the heart, in addition to others because of its antimicrobial and antibiotic properties.

Energetically, garlic belongs to a class of plants called adaptogens. In Herbalism, we learn that these plants helps us “adapt” to certain stressors in our lives, and you can see why it might be so effective! Even Hippocrates, the “father of Western medicine,” would prescribe garlic for a variety of ailments.

It is also one of the few plants that has been used over the years to treat similar ailments across all three of the great medicinal schools of thought: Ayurveda from India, Chinese Medicine, and traditional Western Medicine. 

Garlic is warming and drying, making it a great addition to chicken soups made to treat colds. The Chinese found that it was effective against poisons, even. 

Feel great about adding more than what I used in my recipe, or go with less if you are sensitive to garlic. 

However you decide on how much garlic you add, I’m sure that when you try this with a bit of buttered rice, you’ll be feeling warm and comforted, and willing to let the world take care of itself for a little while.

Papaz Yahnisi (Priest’s Stew)

serves 4 – 6

1 lb stew beef
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bay leaf
water to cover
1 tbsp butter
1 10 oz package fresh pearl onions
Garlic, to taste (I added three cloves)
1 tsp sugar
Chives, oregano
1 6 oz can tomato paste
salt, pepper,
pinch crushed red pepper

Wash and pat dry beef and produce, chopping the beef into smaller pieces if they are very large. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to a medium dutch oven and fry it in two batches, seasoning the beef with salt and pepper as you go. Add all the beef back into the pot, and cover with water. Boil for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half if the meat is tough.

When it’s finally tender, using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the pot and onto a plate, place the broth in a bowl and allow them rest for the next step. 

Melt the other tablespoon of oil and the butter in the pan and add the onions, frying until they start to become slightly translucent. Add the sugar and some salt and give it a stir every once in a while. When they’ve browned sufficiently, add the garlic and spices. Stir for about 30 seconds before adding in the tomato paste. Stir for around three minutes or so, until the oil starts to seperate from the paste, turning a bright red. 

Add the beef and slowly add the broth, stirring all the while, until it bubbles and the sauce has thickened. 

Serve with buttered rice, a crusty loaf of bread, or over mashed potatoes.