In the 15th century the woods of Impruneta, in the hills near Florence, provided the charcoal used by the pot and earthenware makers of the region and Impruneta was the place where most of the firing ovens were located. Young apprentices were usually given the task of keeping an eye on the ovens during the night, and peposo was the traditional dish they left to cook overnight so that they could eat it for breakfast.
The name of the dish comes from the large amounts of pepper (pepe) which were added to cover the taste of slightly spoiled meat in medieval times, when no refrigeration was available. Meat, garlic, tomatoes and water, with liberal quantities of pepper and peppercorns, were put in an earthenware pot which was placed near the mouth of the pottery oven, where the heat was gentle, and were left to cook. Today the dish is slow-cooked much in the same manner on the top of a hob.
The dish, while strongly flavoured, is not as hot as a curry and makes a very good party dish served with spinaci all'aceto balsamico and good bread. Wine to accompany should be red, robust and strong. Recommended wine is a Barbaresco from Piedmont, north west Italy or a good Cote de Beaune from Burgundy, France.
||3 Hours and 10 Minutes
|Extra virgin Olive oil
- Remove any excess fat away from the meat and then cut the meat into cubes (about 3 by 2 by 2 cm or 1¼ by ¾ by ¾ inches).
- Place the tomatoes in a bowl and add freshly boiled water to cover. After 60 seconds, drain and add cold water to cover. Peel the tomatoes, cut into eights and put to one side.
- Coarsely chop the garlic. Put the oil (best quality) in a deep pan, add the garlic and cook over a low fire until golden.
- Raise the heat, add the meat to the pan and cook for four to five minutes, stirring to brown the pieces on all sides. Remove any excess oil.
- Add the tomatoes and enough water to cover the meat. Add sea salt to taste, all the freshly ground pepper and the peppercorns, (part) cover the pan with the lid, lower the fire to the absolute minimum so the dish simmers very slowly, and then forget it for about 3 hours (or until the meat is tender) except for occasional stirring which should be frequent during the last 15 - 20 minutes.
- The stew should not be liquid nor soggy; if after 3 hours this is still the case, increase the heat to evaporate any excess liquid, but be careful to stir well in order to avoid the stew sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- It is best if the whole peppercorns are of different varieties (green, white, red and black mixed together in equal quantities), but use freshly ground BLACK pepper to add that little bit extra 'bite' to the dish.
- The tomatoes MUST be ripe. Many supermarkets buy their tomatoes (and many of their other vegetables) once or twice per year. They are bought while quite hard and unripe, and then chilled until required for sale: this can be fine for some salads but for little else. However, even the best supermarkets keep their tomatoes on display too long, and, when they are starting to ripen and soften properly, they often put them on sale at a reduced price. Look out for these special offers.
- This dish benefits from the use of best quality olive oil.
- In the second and third hour of cooking, occasionally stir the stew with a wooden spoon and alternate the position of the lid to best control the amount of liquid in the saucepan; in the last fifteen minutes, stir every 2-3 minutes and in the last five minutes stir every minute.
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