“This stew is commonly prepared at the end of June, for the Saint Juan and Saint Pedro festivities. The “true” yam is a tuber in the Dioscoreaceae family and is not related to the yam of the American South (which is actually a sweet potato). It is considered a typical food in the rural zones of Cuba, and it was a staple in the diet of the slaves brought from Africa to work on the sugar plantations. The slaves who were forced to work in the kitchens of the sugar plantations incorporated this food into Cuban cuisine.
In older recipes of this traditional dish, the spices used were culantro, cumin, and saffron, to add color. Cuban campesinos (people who live in the countryside) add the guaguao pepper (a small, very spicy pepper).” – Madelaine Vázquez Gálvez and Imogene Tondre
Recipe excerpted with permission from Cuba: The Cookbook by Madelaine Vázquez Gálvez and Imogene Tondrez from Phaidon Press, 2018. Click here to purchase your own copy.
- 1⁄2 lb (230 g) tasajo (salted dried beef)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 small green bell peppers, finely chopped
- 1 large white onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 lb (460 g) pork, loin or tenderloin, coarsely diced
- 1⁄2 small chicken (1 lb 5 oz/600 g), coarsely diced
- 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 3 large tomatoes, diced
- 3 ears field corn, cut crosswise into 1 inch (2.5 cm) disks
- 1 yuca (cassava) root (7 oz/200 g), peeled and chopped
- 2 large taro roots (1 1⁄4 lb/560 g total), peeled and chopped
- 2 medium white or yellow sweet potatoes (1 lb/445 g total), peeled and chopped
- 1⁄2 small yam (3 1⁄2 oz/100 g), peeled and chopped
- 1 green plantain, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (tomato puree
- 1 ripe plantain, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1⁄2 lb (230 g) pumpkin, diced
Note: One option for preventing the green plantain from discoloring the stew is to cook it separately in its peel in the beef cooking water.
- In a container, combine the tasajo and enough water to cover. Let soak for at least 12 hours, changing the water every 4 hours, to remove the salt.
- • Drain the beef and cut in half. Transfer to a large pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, drain the water, add fresh water, and bring to a boil again to remove the salt. Drain and return the beef to the pot. Add water to cover 3 or 4 finger-widths above it. Add the bay leaf, cover, and cook over medium heat until softened, 1 1⁄2–2 hours. Reserving the cooking water if desired (see Note), drain the beef and cut into medium pieces.
- • In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bell peppers, onion, and garlic and sauté until the onion turns translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked beef, pork, chicken, and 2 tablespoons of the lime juice and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until the liquid reduces slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the corn and 8 1⁄2 cups (68 fl oz/2 liters) water and cook until the meat is soft, about 30 minutes.
- • Add the yuca (cassava), taro, sweet potatoes, and yam. Dip the green plantain in the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice to prevent it from darkening the broth, and add it to the pot. Cook until the root vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the tomato paste (puree), 1⁄2 tablespoon salt, the ripe plantain, and pumpkin and cook until thickened, about 30 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste and serve.