Ingredients (for 8-10 people)
– 1 lb of dry white beans to soak overnight (I personally tried without soaking and have not really seen any difference…)
– 2 lbs of fresh spinach (some use frozen spinach)
– Oil (one of the star ingredients of Tunisian cuisine)
– 1 onion, minced
– 6 cloves garlic, mashed
– 2 lbs of beef, you can use beef shank (fat) or cheek
– 1 beef or calf foot (I don’t always put it but it is true that this is what contributes to the pkaila’s smoothness and flavor)
– 1 to 2 tablespoons of harissa (according to taste)
– 1 bunch of fresh mint, minced
– 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, minced
– Salt and pepper
Preparation of Spinach Confit
Option 1: use the ready-made spinach confit can if you live in France
Option 2: microwave (for the purists, skip to option 3)
This is a method that I just found out about and that I used this time around. Against all odds and no offense to the purists (including me), there is absolutely no difference in taste or texture with the traditional method. For this method, place the 2 lbs of (previously drained) frozen spinach on a plate. Pour 5 spoons of vegetable oil (or olive oil) on top. Heat in microwave oven for 15 minutes. Repeat this step 3 times. Just stir a bit and add 5 tablespoons of oil in between each heating in the microwave. Once this is complete, chop the spinach confit in the blender, pour into a jar and cover with oil. In the end, you should get a spinach confit that you can store in the fridge for at least three months.
Chop fresh spinach (or use frozen chopped spinach). Cook over medium heat in Dutch oven and stir quite regularly with a wooden spoon. Once spinach is almost done with releasing steam, start adding oil. Continue to stir and add oil fairly regularly (for about 1 to 1½ hours) until color turns black but spinach is not burnt.
Preparation of Pkaila
Drain the spinach to extract the oil. Sauté the garlic, onion, harissa, the cow’s (or calf’s) foot, the beef in this oil for a few minutes. Then add the beans, spinach, salt, pepper and cover with water.
You have two options for cooking the pkaila:
Option 1: Dutch oven
Simmer covered on low heat for at least 2 to 3 hours or until the meat is tender. Add mint and coriander 30 minutes before the end of cooking.
Option 2: Pressure cooker
Cook for 1h15 in pressure cooker. Add mint and coriander and simmer for another 10 minutes or until you reach desired consistency.
Pkaila is most generally accompanied by couscous but can also be served without couscous and with Tunisian bread aka ‘Italian bread’.