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Shared by Ilanit Menachem

Ispetti (Spicy Beef Stew)

Yield: 6-8 servingsTime: 45 min plus 2 H inactive

Shared by Ilanit Menachem

Ispetti in brown ceramic bowl over yellow embroidered tablecloth.
Photographer: Armando Rafael. Food Stylist: Judy Haubert. Prop Stylist: Vanessa Vazquez.

Ispetti (Spicy Beef Stew)

Yield: 6-8 servingsTime: 45 min plus 2 H inactive

Family Journey

Chendamangalam, IndiaGivat Ko’ach, IsraelRishon LeTsiyon

Ilanit Menachem’s grandmother used to start her cooking for Shabbat early on Friday morning, perfuming her house with dishes like this spicy tender beef stew and the Shabbat bread appam. By 10 a.m., Ilanit couldn’t wait any longer to try the dishes. She would sit down for a bite with her brothers and her aunts and thankfully, there was still always enough left for dinner. 

Beef chuck takes time to become tender, so be sure not to rush this recipe’s long cooking time. Serve it with rice and appam to soak up the sauce. 

Read more about Ilanit’s family in “Ilanit Menachem’s on a Mission to Preserve Cochini Jewish Recipes” and try her recipes for Cochin-style pastel (fried pastries filled with spiced chicken), and appam (Cochin-style shabbat bread).


  • 5-6 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 3 ⅓ lbs beef chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 hot green pepper, thinly sliced and de-seeded 
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium cubes
  • 6 red tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons tamarind paste (optional)
Soups & StewsMain CoursesShabbatMeat Gluten FreeSouth AsiaMiddle East


  • Step 1

    In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the meat cubes and lightly fry until golden, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.

  • Step 2

    Add the onion to the same pot and fry until it begins to turn golden, 5-7 mins. Add the dry seasonings, garlic and hot pepper and continue to fry for another 3 minutes until aromatic. Add the meat cubes, potato, tomatoes, tomato paste, tamarind paste, vinegar and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

  • Step 3

    Lower the heat to a very low flame and cook, covered for about two hours (or more) until the meat becomes very soft and the sauce has thickened. Be sure to mix occasionally, adding water as needed to maintain a velvety sauce.