A plateful of this warming Jwaz Zitoun – Olive Stew is in order, now the temperatures are slowly dropping. The days are getting shorter and the nights will soon be long and cold. Autumn is near.
Succulent iron-rich beef, sweet carrots and potatoes complement the contrasting strong olive flavour. Making this a dish you will want to make repeatedly when the call for good home-made comfort food is near.
After a storm earlier in the week, the temperatures suddenly dropped and I was like really!? It can’t be. I NEVER EVER thought I would miss cold rainy England for its weather yet somehow I do – only in summer. In winter it does get cold in Algeria and then I am glad I’m not facing an even colder winter in Britain! Alhamdu’lillah
After a day of cooler weather we are back to warm but not stifling heat at home. The climatiser is on less often so that’s a positive in terms of the electricity bill too.
Brits love fish and chips and their favourite conversation topic, the weather….
My husband’s first meal in Britain was just that, fish and chips!
The last time I ate proper fish and chips, by that I mean from a fish and chip shop, was back in 2008/9 when I was working in admin. That’s very sad indeed.
I don’t eat a lot of fish. A few exceptions are Tuna and white fish such as Cod/Haddock but they (white fish) have to be battered and fried or breaded and baked for me to be interested.
Back to this beef olive stew.
Olives are in abundance here in Algeria as they are in most of the Mediterranean countries. Same as with fish, I don’t care much for olives. I find them too bitter when they are in dishes such as salad but I do love them in this stew.
Also they are great stuffed into fried rice balls better known as Arancini along with chicken and cheese. I had those also for the first time here in Algeria where they are called Boulettes de Riz/Roz.
Again, back to the stew.
I was introduced to Jwaz Zitoun by my husband’s family last year when we first moved here and it immediately became a favourite of mine each time my sister-in-law cooked it.
I knew of the dish beforehand but I’d never tried cooking it because my husband loathes olives. He isn’t here right now which means I can freely cook with olives without having to cook a second dish just for him *Winks*.
Cooking the olives before adding them to the meat or more often chicken stew is what I believe to be the key to this dish. Cooking olives alone in water takes away a lot of the salt and some of the bitterness associated especially with green olives.
My in-laws only use carrots with the olives as the vegetable element but I like adding potatoes, it bulks out the stew and thickens the sauce slightly. Why Carrots? well, they bring natural sweetness to balance out some of that leftover bitterness in the olives. It’s a beautiful contrast in flavour that compliments the other.
Unlike the more famous Moroccan version of this olive stew Tagine Zitoun, most Algerians don’t use preserved lemons to flavour the stew. Instead we/they suffice with a cinnamon stick and a bay leaf. Both add only a subtly of flavour in the plated dish and unless you use them both regularly it would be hard to recognize.
I adapted my recipe from this Food52 recipe.
Enjoy this hearty jwaz zitoun – olive stew the next time you have some pitted green olives you want to use up, You won’t regret it.
Jwaz Zitoun bel Lham – Olive Stew with Beef
- 200g pitted green olives
- 1-2 tablespoon olive oil (or a neutral oil such as sunflower if you prefer)
- 4 pieces beef, medium in size, preferably from the chuck or beef round,
- 1 onion, grated
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely or crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick (cassia bark)
- Salt, to taste
- Black pepper, ground, to taste
- 200g carrots, cut on the diagonal into 1 cm rounds
- 1 potato, large in size, cut into eighths
- 700ml hot water, plus more for cooking olives.
- Fresh Parsley, chopped
- Wash the olives with cold water then In a medium pan half-fill a pan with water, add the olives and bring to a boil, lower the heat slightly to a fast simmer and cook for 20-25mins.
- Meanwhile in a 2litre cooking pot fitted with lid, seal the beef on all sides, add onion, garlic, salt (start with 1/4tsp and adjust at the end because olives are salty when they have been preserved, usually with salt/brine), pepper, bay leaf and cinnamon stick to the pot, cook with the lid on for about 5 minutes until onions are soft and translucent – you may need to stir now and then to avoid the garlic burning.
- Add carrots and water, bring upto a fast simmer, cover. Then you can either cook on medium-high heat for 1 and half hours, adding drained pre-cooked olives and the chunks of potato in last half hour. Or cook for 2 and half hours on low heat-steady simmer, adding olives and potatoes in last 40 minutes. Decorate stew with fresh parsley leaves.
You can cook this stew in a traditional clay tagine pot (long and slow method), reduce the amount of water you add because the tagine pot is excellent at sealing in the moisture providing you don’t keep removing the lid to check on your stew!
The amount of water you use for the stew also depends on the size of your chosen cooking pot. You need enough to cover the beef to begin with and you may add more throughout the cooking process if you see the stew drying out before the meat and vegetables are cooked. Potatoes/vegetables in general also release water into the stew.
The first cooking time given depends on the age of the cow/beef when slaughtered. Ours was around 5 yrs of age. Older the cow = longer cooking time.