Estofado de Carne con Patatas

estofado de carne con patatas

Estofado de Carne con Patatas is a meat stew with potatoes, flavoured with saffron. The meat in question is likely to be beef – carne means meat, but in general, recipes with carne contain beef. When buying stock cubes, caldo de carne is beef stock and has a picture of a cow on the packet. This type of stew is typical in the saffron growing regions of Spain, such as La Mancha, where it has a certified D.O.P. – protected designation of origin.


Saffron (azafrán) probably came from Persia originally, but there’s some debate on an alternate origin of Greece, Mesopotamia or Kashmir. The word saffron comes from the Latin safranum, though the Spanish word azafrán comes from the Persian language. Interestingly the Catalan word for saffron is safrà, derived from Latin. Saffron comes from the 3 stamen and 3 styles of the Crocus sativus6 tiny filaments per flower and that’s what makes it the most expensive spice in the world. This would equate to about 150 flowers per gram.

People have been cultivating saffron for at least 3,500 years. The Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans all used the spice in cooking, as a perfume and as a pigment. Saffron has been grown throughout the Mediterranean for several millennia and was definitely grown in Spain while under Roman control. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Spanish cultivation went into decline but was reinvigorated by the Moors. Today, despite the high price (about €10 per gram), saffron is a very important Spanish cooking ingredient.

I first tasted saffron growing up in Cornwall, where saffron cakes and buns are very popular. Legend has it, that Phoenician traders brought the spice to Corwall and traded it for tin and copper. Like mustard, the Romans would definitely have brought saffron to Britain and for a time (most likely after they left) growing saffron in England was big business. The town of Chipping Walden, in Essex, became Saffron Walden by the 1540s, relative to it being the center of English saffron growth and trade.


Receta de Estofado de carne con patatas (serves 4):

500g beef shin (diced)
500g red (Desireé) potatoes (chasqueado/snapped)
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
5 ripe tomatoes (grated)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 yellow or green pepper (chopped)
a handful of fresh coriander (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera picante
1 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera dulce
2 bay leaves
a squirt of anchovy paste
a splash sherry vinegar
a glass of red wine
1/2 pint beef stock
1g saffron
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
save a little chopped coriander for decoration


Season the meat with salt and pepper, then fry in extra virgin olive oil. It’s best to do this in two batches – if you crowd the pan meat tends to poach, which is not what you want. Remove to a plate.


Turn the heat down and sofreír (poach) the onion in the same pan.


When the onion is soft and sticky, stir in the garlic and grate on the tomatoes – cut in half and grate the wet side (discard the skin).


Allow the sofrito to cook and thicken for 5 – 10 minutes before adding the chopped peppers. I had a red and yellow one in the fridge, but green would also be good.


Cook the peppers for 5 minutes before returning the beef to the casserole.


Sprinkle on the Pimentón.

vino tinto

Pour on a glass of red wine with a splash of sherry vinegar and give everything a good stir. Turn the heat up and allow the alcohol to burn off for a few minutes.

patatas y caldo

Put the potatoes in next, along with 1/2 pint of beef stock, 2 bay leaves and a squirt of anchovy paste. Cut the peeled potatoes roughly, insert a small knife and snap (chasquear) pieces of potato off – this allows more starch to escape and thicken the sauce).


Chop the coriander and add that too. Cover the casserole with a lid and remove to a warm oven at 150ºC for an hour.


After an hour grind the saffron with a mortar and pestle and pour in a splash of boiling water. Stir this into the stew and check the seasoning. 1g may seem like a lot of saffron, but it is worth it for the taste! Cover again and return to the oven. Turn the heat down to 120º and cook for 2 hours more. The estofado is ready when the meat is tender.

dos horas

Decorate with a little more chopped coriander then serve with seasonal vegetables (such as cauliflower and green beans) and some crusty bread. I recommend a glass or two of Venta las Vacas (Cow Sale), a Tempranillo from D.O. Ribera del Duero. This is distributed by a company called Uvas Felices – Happy Grapes!

Spanish saffron harvest

About Mad Dog
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14 Responses to Estofado de Carne con Patatas

  1. Que buena pinta tiene MD!! Mucho más sustancioso que la receta de carne guisada que suelo hacer en casa. La probaré a hacer 👏🏼👏🏼😊

  2. Sounds a warming and comforting dish for this time of year. And I learned something new: had no idea saffron was grown in the UK. Color me surprised!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Frank – there has been a recent revival in the UK, particularly Wales and Cornwall, though I doubt it’s better than from Spain and the Spanish saffron is a lot cheaper. I’d love to go and visit a village in La Mancha at picking time. Large groups of familes remove the filaments from the flowers in the evening (post picking) and then they eat a communal supper, which is, of course, laced with the spice.

  3. I’m loving the food in Spain — and will definitely make this when I get home. I love that it contains both pimentón picante y dulce. And saffron! This will be amazing to put on our table.

  4. Ron says:

    As we enter our dark season and the weather turns cold and wet, a stew is often found on our table. But, I’ve never had a stew such as this. We love our saffron buns and savory dishes over this way, so I know this will be a great addition to our stew lineup. There is also a recently developed saffron growing area here in Southern Sweden, but man is it expensive. I was amazed when I learned of it as I thought saffron was only available in more temperate climates…

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Ron! Spanish saffron is a lot cheaper than that grown in the UK. I think it grows more abundantly and that they have mechanised the process somewhat in recent years.

  5. I LOVE saffron.

    I have thought of growing some- I found some in a garden in Hawkes Bay in NZ once. Such a luxurious spice!

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