Old-Style Spanish Beef Stew

Recipe from Upcoming Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight Event on February 1

Take a trip to the past with Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight
Courtesy Photo

Colonial cuisine takes center stage at the upcoming Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight event at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park on Thursday, February 1, from 5 to 8 p.m., when the old Spanish fort hosts an interactive evening during the monthly 1st Thursday series downtown. Visitors will be able to speak with soldiers dressed in authentic garb, listen and dance to old Californio music, and watch as dishes are prepared with traditional methods while sipping on wine and hot chocolate.

One such dish on the menu is Spanish Beef Stew, a recipe adapted from Bess A. Cleveland’s 1965 book California Mission Recipes. “Beef was a standard source of protein for the 200 residents of El Presidio de Santa Barbara in the late 18th and early 19th centuries,” said Anne Petersen, the S.B. Trust for Historic Preservation’s executive director. “The Spanish fort maintained herds of cattle to support the population, and all parts of the animal were consumed as food or processed for leather and tallow. This recipe is particularly suited to tougher cuts of meat. After simmering for hours, the beef makes a flavorful broth and develops a more tender texture.”

In case you miss the event, here’s how to make this easy dish at home.


4 pounds lean beef

6 quarts water

1 Tbsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

1 clove garlic

3 stalks celery

2 dried log red chilies

2 turnips

2 carrots

2 cups garbanzo beans, cookedime

Cut meat into 2-inch cubes; place in a large kettle; add water and bring to a quick boil. Skim until no scum remains, and then add salt and pepper. Add onions, garlic, celery cut into 1-inch pieces, chilies, turnips, and carrots. Simmer for 2 hours. Add the cooked garbanzo beans and let simmer until all vegetables are well done, about 1 hour. Serves 6 generously.


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