Classic Ways with Beef – Mum’s Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff – My Mother’s Classic Dinner Party Dish:

My mother was a woman of great character.  Cookery was not something that she ever wanted on her personal CV but when my father became the GP in a small seaside town, she was thrown into ‘Entertaining’ .  It was expected that the doctor had a formal drinks party at Christmas for ‘significant’ patients.  And, the doctor’s wife always did the food for the local tennis tournament.  Dinner parties were scheduled and planned with meticulous attention to detail and involved regular kitchen catastrophies.  In those days there was no such thing as a microwave or a ready meal, so when disaster struck my mother used to resort to dishes she could make quickly.

Janet and Alastair Maclean

Being the ‘Doctor’s Wife’ was not a role she anticipated, asked for or relished.  But there’s usually a silver lining and perhaps as a result I learnt to cook, to bake cakes when we ran out at the tennis tournament, to rescue dinner party disasters and to watch over the pans that she abandoned in favour of company and conversation. Beef Stroganoff was a recipe my mother found in her favourite cookery books.  In her new role as ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ she had invested in a series of ‘Cordon Bleu’ cookery books, which quickly became well thumbed.  Many of the dishes I learnt from her would have originated from there.  I know her own favourites to make were the desserts and despite her hatred of cooking she made a particularly excellent pavlova.  Beef Stroganoff was a dish she turned out on a regular basis because once you’ve worked out the timing and realised that the dish depends on excellent meat it’s really not a  hard dish.  I don’t have the books any more and if I am honest I rather regret that.  Even though I seldom follow a recipe, they have some sentimental value.


When the people from Scotch Beef  PGI offered me a voucher to make my ‘best’ beef dish I did scratch my head a bit.  Perfect beef for me is cooked simply.  It doesn’t need fancy treatment.  My own favourites range from a simple griddled sirloin steak to beef cooked with Guinness and then finished with fresh orange juice and zest, to the boeuf bourguignon (in the picture below) that I learnt to make as a teenager staying with a French family in Savoie.  But I love Scotch Beef and the idea of a free sample to cook with encouraged me to take part in the challenge, particularly after I’d enjoyed a Scotch Beef Dinner at Plateau and learnt more about the strict rules that makes this meat so special.

boeuf bourguignon

Beef Stroganoff is a dish I love, but see bastardised, stewed into insignificance and treated like a goulash.  It’s something that I learnt to make with fillet or rump steak, soured cream, a little brandy, mushrooms and onions.  My version takes about 15 minutes in total.  It’s not a cheap recipe but it works with perfectly aged tender and lean cuts of beef that can be seared quickly. Ideal for some top quality Scotch Beef fillet.

scotch beef butcher

Anyway, I made my way to Moen and Sons, the closest Scotch Beef Butcher to me to buy my beef.  I came home with a whole bag of goodies and managed to make a good Boeuf Bourguignon along the way for the freezer (casseroled beef actually freezes very well).  And  a lovely piece of fillet for my Stroganoff.  There are a number of benefits to shopping from your butcher rather than buying packs at the supermarket, not least that a butcher will advise you on the best way to cook your meat, tell you how much you need and give you an insight into what cut of meat will work best for the recipe you have planned.  I wonder how the butcher would make a Stroganoff?

moen and son butchers


So what we are talking about here is classic beef stroganoff .  The beef strips are sauteed, not stewed.  For that reason you need good quality, well flavoured lean beef.  Scotch beef is perfect – the grass fed meat has a sweet flavour that complements the brandy perfectly.  And, the tender meat really doesn’t need to be stewed.  You can however cook the mushrooms and onions in advance and keep them warm for an hour or so.  And, that means you can finish the dish off in just 5 minutes if your mise en place is already done.  You can even make a ‘more Scottish’ version by replacing the cognac with whisky.  In which case it is sometimes called Scotch Stroganoff!

Classic Beef Stroganoff

Serves 2
Prep time 8 minutes
Cook time 8 minutes
Total time 16 minutes
Allergy Milk
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Gourmet, Serve Hot


  • 200g Fillet Steak
  • 250g Button Mushrooms (finely sliced)
  • 1 Medium Onion (peeled and finely sliced)
  • 50ml Creme Fraiche or Soured Cream (Soured cream can be made with double cream soured with lemon, or bought, pre-soured. Creme fraiche will give a lighter result)
  • 20g Unsalted Butter
  • 50ml Brandy


Step 1 Thinly slice the onion and mushrooms. Cut the beef into small finger sized strips. Put to one side
Step 2 beef stroganoff onions
Melt the butter in a heavy based frying pan and gently cook the onion slices till they are soft and light golden brown. Cover and place in a warm oven
Step 3 mushrooms beef stroganoff
Now cook the mushrooms in the same pan, till soft and fully cooked (about 3 minutes). Add to the onion mix and keep warm in the oven
Step 4 beef strips - beef stroganoff
Raise the heat under the pan and add the meat. Seal all sides quickly before reducing the heat and adding in the brandy. If you like, you can flambe it. I usually don't try to do so. Reduce the liquid down by about 50%.
Step 5 stroganoff cooked
Add the mushrooms and onions back into the pan. Season well with salt and pepper then stir through the cream or creme fraiche and heat very gently till warm through
Step 6 Serve with rice or noodles and a simple green salad

Classic beef stroganoff


I’ll be following this post up with a couple of other classic recipes for beef.   But for now I’ll leave you to enjoy one of my mother’s favourite Simple Dinner Party dishes

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  1. says

    Beef Stroganoff is one of my most favourite Russian dishes, but it has to be cooked just right, as you said, there are too many insipid versions served in the restaurants.
    This recipe has a fascinating history as well.
    Your parents look so young and happy together, a beautiful photo

  2. Pamela Morse says

    This is classy, Fiona.I love the parental pic. This was the first dish I learned to cook. I was about 10 when I decided it was my signature dish. This and lasagna were all I made for about 3 years..I still make it with fake beef, and it is requested by my meat eating partner Bob all the time.

    • says

      I rather like the same dish made with field mushrooms instead of meat (but still with the little button mushrooms too). If you can’t get really good quality steak, it’s better not to use meat at all in my opinion

  3. Rachel Edney says

    Oooh, that looks lovely, and pretty quick and easy too. I haven’t made a Stroganoff for ages, but I’m going to try it out.

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