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    Tocana de Vita (Romanian Beef Stew) with Mamaliga

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    Tocana de Vita (Romanian Beef Stew) with Mamaliga

    Originally eaten in rural areas as a substitute for bread and to bulk out meat dishes, mamaliga is now a national treasure. Similar to northern Italy's polenta and made from the same cornmeal, it's prepared in much the same way but usually served much thicker, so it retains its shape. Nowadays, it is often enriched with butter and with cheese or soured cream. Traditionally, mamaliga is eaten alongside a hearty stew (tocana), which can contain anything from pork to mutton or, as here, beef.

    • Preparation time: 20 minutes
    • Cooking time: 120 minutes
    • Total time: 2 hours 20 minutes 60 minutes 60 minutes 20 minutes

    Serves: 4


    • Beef Stew
    • 1 tbsp tomato purée
    • ½ tsp paprika
    • 3 onions, finely chopped
    • 450g braising steak, cubed
    • 1 tbsp lard
    • Mamaliga
    • 25g butter
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 300g cornmeal (or polenta)


    1. Melt the lard over a medium heat and brown the beef for 8–10 minutes until golden on all sides. Add the onion, cover, and turn down the heat, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes or so, till soft. Add the paprika and tomato purée, season, and mix. Cover the meat with water and simmer for about 2 hours, until the meat is tender.
    2. Meanwhile, prepare the mamaliga. Mix the cornmeal (or polenta) and the salt with 250ml cold water and set it aside to soften. Add the butter to 500ml water and bring it to a hard boil. Stir the cornmeal/polenta mixture, bashing out any lumps, and add to the boiling water, stirring constantly for 10–15 minutes over a low heat, until it starts to loosen from the bottom of the pan. Shake the pot and invert it onto a plate. Serve the mamaliga alongside the stew.

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