Vaca Estufada


Pot-roast Beef: a delicious dish of tender beef

Vaca Estufada is a traditional Portuguese pot roast of which there are many versions. It is also found in other parts of southeast Asia where Portugal had settlements.

Often it is cooked until the meat is so tender as almost to fall apart; in that case it is best to chill the meat before slicing with a very sharp knife, covering with juices and warming in the microwave before serving.

Many versions are recorded here, including two historical ones by Guilhermina Maria “Guilly” Ribeiro Gutierrez and Maria Celestina de Mello e Senna

Vaca Estufada by Marie Celeste de Figueiredo

4 lb 7 oz | 2kg girello beef

3-4 bay leaves

1 large onion

2 tbsp “Lea & Perrins” sauce*

2 tbsp “Kikoman” soy sauce

1 small tub of tomato paste

2 tbsp vegetable oil

pepper to taste

4-5 potatoes quartered

4-5 carrots quartered

  • Worcestershire sauce

Cut the onion into six pieces diagonally and fry in the oil until brown, then add tomato paste. Continue to fry and stir until it begins to boil.

Place the beef in the sauce, then add cold water to cover the beef. Put in the bay leaves, Lea & Perrin sauce, soy sauce and pepper and cook till beef is tender.

Add in potatoes and carrots and cook gently until done.

Vaca Estufada from Ricardina Francisca de Sales Botelho da Cruz, courtesy of Paul Danenberg and Yvonne Husband

3½ – 4½ lb |1.5-2 kg blade bolar roast
salt & pepper
3 cloves garlic, very finely minced
2 medium onions, very finely chopped
2 tbsp thick soya sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
potatoes peeled and quartered
carrots, peeled and quartered

Poke meat all over with skewer or carving fork, especially the fat side. Season with salt & pepper. Place in a suitable dish to hold meat and all the marinade. Sprinkle garlic and onions over the meat. Mix the sugar into the soya sauce and pour over the meat. “Rinse” the cup and spoon of the sugar and soy mixture with the vinegar and pour over the meat. Turn the meat and ensure that it is well coated all over.

Cover the dish and leave in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Turn the meat regularly and redistribute onion-soy marinade over the meat.

In a heavy pot heat 1 tbsp oil. Remove meat from marinade and seal all sides in the hot oil.

Reduce the heat, add all marinade ingredients, cover pot with lid and cook for 1 hour per kilo plus a little bit, or until well done. Turn meat over half way through.

With 40 mins to go put in the potatoes and carrots. Turn potatoes once or twice. Remove beef from pot to carve.

Serve slices of beef on white rice with vegetables alongside and sauce spooned over.

Vaca Estufada from Ken Harper, Lusitano CA Bulletin 24/3

3 lbs | 1.4 kg Beef Chuck Roast, Tri-tip or similar stewing meat (whole)
3 tablespoon thick soy sauce
Pepper and Salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion minced or 4 shallots minced
3 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can of tomatoes crushed or 4 med size fresh tomatoes diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 cup of wine
2 cups broth or water
3 bay leaves
2 cloves
3 tablespoon thin soy sauce
3 tablespoon Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce – or to taste
1 lb | 450g carrots, peeled and cut in thirds
4 potatoes, peeled and cut in half

Large frying pan
Large slow cooker
Large deep platte

Coat meat with thick soy, salt and pepper and let marinate for at least an hour. Remove meat and drain from marinade, but reserve the marinade liquid for later and blot the meat dry with a paper towel before browning.
On the highest temperature heat a large heavy pan and when hot add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, introduce the meat and brown the meat on all sides (this should take a minute per side or so). A pan with high sides is good for this to avoid splattering. Remove the meat from frying pan and set aside in a platter.
Over medium heat sauté onions/shallots in the same large heavy pan with the oil drippings from the browned meat; add a tablespoon of oil if needed. Sauté until soft and translucent, then add tomato paste until it caramelizes a little, then add tomatoes and garlic and sauté for another 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes break down a bit.
Place the tomato sauce base and leftover marinade in the slow
cooker and place beef on top.
Deglaze the pan with a cup of wine/broth and pour over beef.
Add carrots and potatoes with remaining seasonings to slow
cooker, and top off with water or broth until meat is mostly
submerged in liquid. Slow cook on high for 2 hours, check the
potatoes and carrots for doneness (test with a fork) and remove and set aside vegetables when done. Slow cook the meat an additional 1.5 – 2 hours until tender.
When the meat is done, carefully remove it from the liquid and let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing (resist the temptation to cut into the meat at this point). If you are going to serve it soon reheat the carrots and potatoes gently in the gravy (simmer, do not boil). When the gravy is hot, arrange the meat and vegetables in a deep platter and pour over the hot gravy and serve with a side of rice.

*** It is sometimes nice to let all the ingredients marinate overnight in the refrigerator and serve it the next day. When ready to serve you may arrange the sliced meat, carrots and potatoes in a deep oven safe dish, and gently heat in the oven covered at 300 degrees for about 30-40 minutes until thoroughly warmed.

*** If you don’t have time to do all the steps just sauté the onions and
when soft add the tomato paste, tomatoes and garlic and then just combine everything in the slow cooker for a pretty good pot roast. It’s important to sauté the onions to make them soft before adding the tomatoes for two reasons: flavor development and the tomatoes will prevent the onions from becoming soft

Vaca Estufada from “Guilly” Canavarro Remedios

2lb (900g) beef
¾ dsp salt
3 cloves of garlic
1 piece of cinnamon, size of ¼ cigarette
1 large onion, quartered
1 piece brown sugar,(1) size of a walnut
2 large tomatoes, quartered
4 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tsp Chinese sauce(2)
¼ cup wine or water

(1)     Presumably this refers to jagra (Chinese block raw sugar)

(2)     This probably means soy sauce

Get a nice firm piece of beef, wide and rather flat, with a good layer of fat on the top. Wash, drain, then fork it well, rub over with the salt and go on forking on all sides. Add the rest of the ingredients. Add wine or water.

Put the beef and ingredients in a pan, just large enough to fit the meat with the fat part on top. Add water to cover about half the meat.

Bring to the boil, then simmer gently until quite tender.

Boil 6 whole potatoes in plain water till half done, then put them in the pan with the beef and boil till done so that they acquire the taste of the gravy.

Remove the potatoes and keep them warm until the beef is quite tender, and ready to be served.

Before serving slice the meat and place neatly along the centre of a dish surrounded by the potatoes.

Strain all the juices into a small pan and thicken by adding ½ tsp of flour mixed with 1 dsp of water. Stir until it boils and thickens. Pour this over and around the meat and potatoes.

Adapted from Maria Celestina de Mello e SennaBons Petiscos. Read the original recipe | Leia a receita original

1.4 kg beef shin
800g tin of diced tomatoes
2 medium onions, diced
100g piece of pancetta or bacon
4 carrots
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp thick sweet soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 small stick of cinnamon
3 bay leaves
4 cloves
½ cup white wine
1 tbsp port wine

Cut the pancetta into pieces about 1cm x 1cm x 3 cm. With a thin, sharp knife, stab holes in the beef, widen the holes with a finger and stuff in the pancetta. Marinade the beef in soy sauce, thick sweet soy sauce, salt and pepper.

In an oven-proof saucepan, sauté the onions and tomatoes and set aside more than half of the resulting salsa.

Add the beef, white wine, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves and enough water just to cover the beef. Bring to the boil.

Cover the saucepan and put it in the oven and cook at 140°C for about 1 hour. Add the carrots and continue cooking in the oven for another hour or until the beef is tender.

Remove the carrots, return the saucepan to the stove, carefully turn the beef over and continue cooking uncovered to reduce the juice.

Finally, add the carrots, salsa and port wine.

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