[ Viani Bay, Vanua Levu, Fiji, 16-44.80 S, 179-53.52 E ]

Fijian beef is tough though tasty.  Cattle in Fiji do not lollygag in closed pens while they fatten up.  As an example, Charlie & George Rounds's cattle roam hundreds of acres of Nasasobu Bay hillsides and are virtually wild animals.  When they want to slaughter an animal, Charlie uses his trained dogs to corner a cow while he or his brother, George dispatch it with a gun.  They then gut and dismember the animal and pack it out of the jungle hillsides in pieces.  You can imagine what a grueling job that must be.

Wanting a way to cook this less-than-coddled beef, Philip developed this spiced-by-fire recipe that will satisfy the souls of the meat and potatoes set, who will scarcely notice that the beef is a wee bit chewy.

This recipe uses "stir-fry" meat, beef that has been cut into short strips.  The smaller cut makes helps the meat to be more tender.

500 grams (~one pound) beef strips for stir fry or "stewing beef"

1 medium onion, sliced in pieces

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

3 small tomatoes, diced

250 ml (1 cup) dry red wine

1 Tbsp paprika

1 Tbsp dried basil

1 Tbsp prepared habeero sauce (see Les' recipe for "Fiji Fire" or use a thick, chunky and spicy commercial hot salsa)

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp Indian spices*

Olive oil

Saute onions, black pepper  and minced garlic over low heat until onions are translucent.  Remove onion mixture to a separate plate.  Increase flame to medium-high level, add beef and more olive oil if necessary.  Brown beef until almost all beef liquid is reduced.  Add half the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze the beef-onion residue.  Cover pan and saute 2 minutes.  Add back the onion-garlic mixture; add tomatoes, cover and saute for 5 minutes.  Use the remaining red wine to make a mixture of paprika, habenero sauce, Indian spices, salt and basil and add to pan.  If mixture is too dry, add more red wine or some water.  Saut for an additional 5 minutes until the beef-gravy mixture starts to thicken.  Spoon beef mixture onto mashed potatoes or rice.  Serves two.  Expand recipe for additional servings.

* Whatever you can obtain; in Fiji we buy a powdered mixture containing coriander, chilies, fenugreek, cumin, fennel, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and curry leaves