Harland: A retro world - Beef Stroganoff

WE SEEM to be living in a retro world these days. Retro cars, retro radios, retro watches, and even retro food, which is having a moment in culinary circles right now, as trendy chefs delve into the past to breathe fresh life into almost forgotten classics.

In the 1960s working in London, I was part of the "prawn cocktail" generation of diners. This classic starter was king of dinner parties often followed by another time-honored classic Beef Stroganoff. Both dishes, and many more favorites from the 1960s and 70s, are starting to make a comeback reappearing on food blogs and restaurant menus.

While I still enjoy the occasional prawn cocktail at home, I cannot remember the last time I had Beef Stroganoff so last week I decided to take a culinary stroll down memory lane and get cracking in the kitchen.

Beef Stroganoff is a Russian dish of sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with sour cream. The commonly accepted history of the dish is that a French chef who worked for a wealthy St. Petersburg family created the dish for a cooking contest in 1891.

Following the Russian custom of the day, he named the prize-winning dish for his employer, the wealthy and well-known gourmet Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganoff.

After the fall of Tsarist Russia, the dish was popularly served in the hotels and restaurants of China before the start of World War II. Russian and Chinese immigrants, as well as United States servicemen stationed in pre-Communist China, brought several variants of the dish to the United States.

Red meat was strictly rationed during WWII in the US so very few cooks could afford the luxury of Beef Stroganoff. But, after the war was over, it became the signature dish of “gourmet” cooks across the country.

It wasn't long before the dish started to become popular with the Brits. I like this recipe:

Ingredients: Serves four

1 red onion
1 clove of garlic
1 lemon
2 handfuls of wild mushrooms
2-3 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley
500 g fillet steak
1 tsp paprika
olive oil
1 knob of unsalted butter
1 small glass of brandy
50 ml sour cream

Method

Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, then finely grate the lemon zest.

Clean and slice the mushrooms.

Pick and finely chop the parsley.

Place the beef between two sheets of cling film.

Hit with a rolling pin until ½ cm thick, then cut into finger-width slices.

Mix the paprika, lemon zest and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper together, and use to dust the beef.

In a large frying pan over a medium-low heat, fry the onion and garlic in a little oil until softened.

Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms and butter, sautéing until the mushrooms are golden brown, then tip onto a plate.

Add a little oil to the pan and fry the beef for 2/3 minutes, turning, until browned but still pink inside.

Stir in the mushroom-onion mixture, add the brandy and reduce for 1 minute or until almost disappeared.

Remove from the heat and stir in the cream and parsley.

Delicious served with pasta and country bread.
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