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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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