Food that soothes – Beef Stroganoff, a winter favourite

In contrast to an excellent night out at Chef’s Table (see my previous blog), last weekend was much quieter with a Saturday night spent in.

When I was younger, the prospect of spending a Saturday night at home was scandalous, embarrassing. Admitting you had no plans for a Saturday night left you feeling depressed and friendless. (Remember those fraught teenage years? Getting older isn’t all bad, you know).

These days with a busy life and social calendar a Saturday night spent in is a treat. “Look,” I said to my husband, pointing at the blank spot on the calendar. “We’ve got nothing on this Saturday.”

“Excellent,” he said. “Batman v Superman is out on Apple TV. We’ll watch that.” Okay, not exactly what I had in mind but we are talking Henry Cavill so worth a look, I thought.

What was uppermost in my mind when contemplating this night at home was, as ever, the food. Shall I cook? Do we get a takeaway?

I was in the mood to cook and this is my favourite time of the year to while away time in the kitchen.

Just as getting older isn’t all bad, neither is winter. I’ve talked before about how much I love winter food and my Beef Stroganoff is the perfect example of food that soothes through these darker, colder months.

My decision to cook meant that my husband didn’t need to get off the couch and head out to pick up a takeaway so he was happy. The extent of his exertion on this particular evening was finding the movie on Apple TV and clicking ‘Rent’.

Incidentally, I thought the movie was rubbish. Just as well the food was anything but.

Beef Stroganoff is a fantastic dish because it’s easy to make and yet so satisfying and rich in flavour you feel as though there should be more effort involved. It differs from many other winter meat dishes in that it is not slow cooked with a cheaper cut. I used fillet of beef here but it’s helpful to note that the fillet is quite a large piece of beef. The best part, known as the centre cut or chateaubriand is what you want to use for steaks. Restaurants often serve it for two and cook it like a mini roast. The beef is seared in a hot pan and then finished in the oven until medium-rare before being rested and sliced into pieces for the lucky recipients. Absolutely delicious – I think this might have to show up in my blog at some point.

But getting back to the Stroganoff, you definitely don’t need the centre cut for this dish. In fact, it’s a perfect opportunity to use up the tail end of the fillet because you’re going to be slicing it into strips. Often I’ll invest in a whole fillet (great when it’s on special) because then I can get several meals from it.

I first made this dish whilst studying French cuisine in London (although Stroganoff is originally a Russian dish – nothing like a bit of fusion). As always, I’ve tinkered with the recipe to suit myself. I don’t like to use a lot of sour cream – just enough to add a tang and create a lovely sauce but you may want to add more if that’s to your taste.

I like to serve the Stroganoff with rice that I’ve jazzed up with some sautéed onion and chicken stock but it would also be fabulous with mashed potato or al dente pasta ribbons. Add a green vegetable and you’ve got a stunning plate.

 

Beef Stroganoff with Onion Rice

Serves 4

 

Stroganoff 

600g tail end beef fillet

30g unsalted butter

Dash of olive oil

2 large shallots, sliced thinly

250g mushrooms, sliced (chestnut or portobello are good to use)

1 heaped teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

25ml red wine vinegar

250ml chicken stock (heated)

200ml beef stock (heated)

2-3 tablespoons sour cream

Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste

 

Rice

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

250g basmati rice, rinsed

500ml chicken stock, heated

¼ tsp salt

 

Before you start, make sure your beef has had some time out of the fridge so that it’s lost some of that fridge chill. I always sear the beef in a separate frying pan and get this heated well in advance because you want a high heat.

Now get on with the sauce.

Heat the butter with a dash of olive oil (this helps to prevent the butter burning) in a large frying or chef’s pan over a medium heat and add the shallots. Sweat the shallots until they’ve softened before adding the mushrooms, turning the heat up. Sauté the mushrooms until they’re soft – they will shrink considerably and turn a lovely brown colour. You want to make sure that any liquid released by them has been cooked off so a medium to high heat is needed here.

While the shallots and mushrooms are cooking slice the beef into strips approximately 1cm thick. Season the beef, add a touch of vegetable oil, and pan fry on a high heat. You need to be careful not to overcook as the beef will be reheated in the sauce later. I cook it to about medium rare at this stage and then quickly remove to a plate. You might want to do it in batches – don’t overcrowd the pan.

Now back to the sauce. Once the shallots and mushrooms are cooked to the right point return the heat to medium and add the paprika and mustard. Stir through for a minute or so and then add the red wine vinegar. This should bubble as soon as it hits the pan and will deglaze it nicely.

Add the stocks, season and then bring to a good simmer. You want to reduce the sauce by a half. Once reduced have a taste and make sure you’re happy with the seasoning.

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Add the beef, stirring through gently for a few minutes to finish cooking the meat. Don’t leave it on too long because I think the beef is nice at about medium. Of course, if you’d prefer well done then just heat the beef in the sauce for longer.

When you’re absolutely ready to serve, take the pan off the heat and stir through the sour cream. I’ve said 2-3 tablespoons but feel free to add and taste until you’re happy.

The rice you can prepare twenty minutes or so before you’re ready to eat. Simply sauté the onion in butter and oil until it’s soft and golden. It’s fine here for the onion to catch slightly. Add the rice and stir through, making sure it’s all slicked with the buttery onion. Add the chicken stock and salt, bring to a very gentle simmer, clamp on a lid and cook until all the stock has been absorbed into the rice. I find this tends to take around 15-20 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.

Plate up the rice and Stroganoff and serve with a vibrant green veg – I’ve gone for broccolini, which looks fantastic with the rich sauce and rice.

Chase away those winter blues with this excellent dish – food that soothes.

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