Beef and Cardamom

Beef stew full of the flavours of cardamom and bay leaves. Its simplicity makes it a good choice for Fodmap, Gluten Free and Paleo diets.

I was inspired by a meat pie we enjoyed at Wilderness Safari’s Doro Nawas camp in Damaraland, Namibia, when we were searching out the remarkable desert elephants. I recognised strong notes of cardamom and bay and have worked on combining these ingredients to create this slow-cooked beef dish.

As you know, when using herbs and spices their quality is singularly important. For this recipe, I have found dried bay leaves add little flavour (suggesting they were old, even though recently purchased). So, I use fresh leaves in this recipe, at their best when still young in late spring when I reduce the number because of the strength of their flavour. (The bay tree on our balcony in London is one of the treasured herbs I grow in this small space – despite having to battle for more than half the year with pigeons trying to nest in the greenery!)

You can select any slow-cooking beef; but for this dish I particularly like beef cheeks, which is one of those ‘undiscovered’ cheap cuts. Polenta or mashed potato are good accompaniments; and the soft meat falls apart making a very tasty pie that is easy to assemble. (Gluten Free pastry recipe)

Diets for which Beef with Cardamom is suitable:

Diabetic, Dairy Free, Fodmap, Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Low Fat and Nut Free, Paleo.


Preparation: 5 mins | Cooking: 3+ hrs | Serves: 3

1 tbsp oil
500 gm (1 lb) beef*
20 cardamom pods
5 bay leaves, fresh
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper


HEAT the oven to 150 C/300 F/Gas 2.
TRIM the beef and cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes.
HEAT half the oil, to a high temperature, in a thick-bottomed saucepan.
COOK the cardamom for 2-3 minutes until the pods open.
REMOVE the pods from the pan, leaving the cardamom seeds.
ADD half the beef and brown.
REMOVE the beef and put aside.
SCRAPE any remaining meat pieces from the pan and add the remaining oil.
BROWN the remaining beef.
RETURN all the ingredients and the bay leaves, salt and pepper to the saucepan.
COVER with water. (If you use stock, ensure it is suitable for Fodmap and Gluten Free diets if necessary.)
COOK for a minimum of 3 hours. (The juices will thicken and the meat will become very soft.)


– Top with pastry, cook and serve as a pie.
– Delicious served on soft polenta.


** Replace beef with any slow-cooking cut of game meat.

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