Pasticada: the Rick Stein challenge

So my husband got a Rick Stein cookbook for Christmas: From Venice to Istanbul. After flicking through it and making me hungry with all the lovely recipes he was talking about, he handed it to me, open on the page for ‘pot-roasted beef with red wine, prunes and bacon (Pašticada)’ and asked me to ‘Slimming World-ise’ it.

Now… given that the original recipe contains 125ml olive oil, 750ml red wine, sugar, bacon lardons and cooked fruit, this was certainly going to be a challenge!

But, I love my husband, and lets be honest, I do love a good cooking challenge.

Some substitutions were easy – bacon medallions cut into thin strips instead of lardons for example. But there were some things I knew I was going to have to leave out altogether or replace with something different entirely.

And not only because of the Syns.

You’ll notice throughout my recipes that I never include celery, even if it’s listed an ingredient in many of the original recipes I use. That’s because I hate it. It’s that simple. It may as well be toxic waste to me!

I also changed the cooking method. Since I was going to be using a lot less fat I opted for using our slow cooker, rather than the oven. But using the ‘high’ setting so that the meat is still slice-able rather than falling apart.

It’s pretty good. The sauce is tangy with the taste of red wine and the beef soft and garlicky. The only thing I would change is perhaps trying to thicken the sauce a bit at the end. But after 5hrs of smelling it cooking I was starving…

So with many changes and a lot less Syns, here is my Slimming World version.


Serves 4

7 Syns per portion


  • Medium lean beef joint, all visible fat removed (I used a Silverside joint just under 1kg recommended by my butcher – it was easy to trim the single layer of fat from the top)
  • Frylight (preferably the Olive Oil one)
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced lengthways into thin strips
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 bacon medallions, cut into very thin strips
  • 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 aubergine, sliced into thin rounds, then halved into semi-circles
  • 1/2 pack baby plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 eating apple, cored, peeled and sliced into 8-10 wedges
  • 8 dried prunes, halved (I used Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Agen Prunes)
  • 200ml red wine (I used one of those mini-bottles of Shiraz, which is technically only 187ml, but this is easier for working out Syns!)
  • 50ml red wine vinegar
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 tsp sweetener
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 carton chopped tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 500g gnocchi


  1. Trim the beef joint and then stab it several times using a sharp knife, pushing the slivers of garlic into each of the stab-holes until all the garlic is used up
  2. Spray the inside of the slow cooker with Frylight and then place the beef joint in the bottom. Pour over the balsamic vinegar, cover and leave for one hour (the slow cooker is still off at this point)
  3. After 1hr add all the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker – vegetables, then bacon, then fruit, then tomatoes, herbs and liquid
  4. Turn the slow cooker onto ‘high’ and leave for 4-5 hours
  5. Then lift out the beef joint with a carving fork, and carve into thick slices
  6. Meanwhile, stir the gnocchi into the slow cooker with the fruit, veg and liquid. Season with salt and pepper then leave for approx 20 minutes until the gnocchi is firm but cooked through
  7. Divide the slow cooker contents between four plates and top with the sliced beef

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