ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The ultimate Stroganoff

I was saying the other day, following the trip to Moscow, that I can cook a tastier Beef Stroganoff than the rather bland version I found in Russia itself.

Inexcusably boastful, I'm sure, so I wanted to back that up with something concrete. Something on a plate. Something you can actually fucking well eat!

Now, it's not a dish I've cooked all that often, and my recipe has probably been slightly different each time. But now I've sampled it in Moscow, it's clearly was high time I came up with my definitive 'Strog'.

The influences are myriad, drawing upon research into very old and traditional Russian recipes for the dish, but I've added a wider Eastern European angle through the inclusion of chicken livers.

There's even a hint of the good old curry house about it, as I looked for ways to include tomatoes, which are apparently one of the traditional components, along with the wine and cream.

And so, this is what I've come up with. Enjoy.

Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients - serves two:

Frying steak, about 1lb, cut into strips
Chicken livers, two or three, roughly chopped (be sure to wash them and remove any manky bits!)
Woodland / Chestnut Mushrooms, a few, roughly chopped
Onion, one large or two small, roughly chopped
In goes the liver...
Large plum tomatoes, two, quartered

White wine
Sour cream
Garlic salt
Black pepper
Olive oil

To serve:

Rice, long grain / wild
(and perhaps some slivers of gherkin as an authentically Soviet garnish)


Prepare a spice rub by combining roughly two parts paprika to one part garlic salt and one part black pepper. Coat your beef with a dusting of the spicy mix.

Spice rub
Heat a little oil in a big lidded pan, and start frying your onion and mushrooms at a fairly high temperature. After a couple of minutes you can add the chicken livers - it doesn't matter if they break up or disintegrate a bit.

(I know a lot of people these days are squeamish about liver, but it's only a small quantity, it's a staple of Eastern European food, and it really adds something).

After maybe three more minutes you can put in the seasoned beef, along with any of the spice rub that you didn't use. Stir everything well in the pan, making sure all the ingredients get mixed up.

Once the beef and liver has started to brown, you can add the big chunks of tomato.

Another five minutes and you can add a generous splash of wine, before covering and turning the heat down.

Now is the time to start cooking your rice, by the way.

Keep the Stroganoff on the hob for 15 or 20 minutes or so to allow the flavours to infuse, before finally adding a glug of sour cream and stirring it all in.

A couple more minutes - make sure it's all hot - and you're ready to serve.

Wine - if you feel like drinking the rest of the bottle with it, that's fine. Many Russians would have a beer and a vodka simultaneously, but then they're frequently alcoholics...

And there you have it: a kind of modern-traditional-Russian-global-fusion Stroganoff!

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