As you may, or may not, know, slow cooked beef is one of my favourite foods. Indeed, this is my second such recipe of the year, the first being a rather exquisite beef bourguignon. Beef, prepared in this way, has become a regular fixture on my eating calendar for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I have taken the decision to stop eating meat flippantly. Meat is expensive, nowhere near as sustainable as vegetables or pulses and unhealthy if eaten too often. Indeed, the world could do with each and every meat eater indulging in a little less animal. Secondly, when I do decide to give in to my carnivorous tendencies, the best cure for an absence of meat is a rich, deep and delicious beef stew. I don’t mean to preach, this isn’t the Vegetable Church.
Beef stroganoff, as you might imagine, is a traditionally Russian dish. However, it has, in recent years, become famous around the world in various different guises. Indeed, stroganoff often makes use of the slightly more expensive cuts of beef, which isn’t really favourable to my cause. As such, this is a slow-cooked version, which allows the use of the cheaper, yet delicious, cuts of beef. The beef stroganoff is, in my opinion, better off for this change. The flavour is so dark, rich and creamy and the taste of the beef penetrates the entire dish completely. However, this recipe remains true to the traditional elements of the stroganoff: it is creamy, satisfying and chock full of mushrooms.
• 500g diced beef
• 250g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
• 75ml French brandy
• 2 onions, finely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
• 2-3 bay leaves
• 1 tsp paprika (smoked is nice)
• A generous sprig of fresh thyme
• 600-700ml beef stock
• A knob of butter
• 150ml crème fraîche
• Olive Oil
• A few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
1. Heat the oven to 180C. Fry the onions in a good slug of olive oil, begin to brown the meat. Sauté the mushrooms in the brandy on a high temperature, until browned. Transfer all of the ingredients above to a large, cast iron, oven pot and continue to cook. Tip in the garlic, bay leaves, paprika, thyme and butter. After stirring for five minutes pour in the beef stock, place in the oven and cook for a minimum of two and a half hours, but preferably three or more.
2. After the designated period of time return the pot to the hob. If necessary reduce the liquid, before adding the crème fraîche. Season to taste and serve with mashed potatoes, garnish with a little parsley.
Cost: Diced beef, here in Wales, is roughly £1 per 100g serving. Therefore, this jolly lovely pot of food comes in at an impressive, and rather rough, £7.50. That price includes the mashed potatoes and constitutes, I think, a rather frugal feast.