Beef Stroganoff: Quick History, Quicker Recipe

What we consider stroganoff these days is far removed from the dish’s humble beginnings – as is the case with pizza. The origin of the name of the dish is not clear, although it is often attributed to the Russian foodie diplomat Count Pavel. The first recorded recipe from the late 19th century used beef cubes, sour cream and had no mushrooms at all, whereas later recipes contained tomato paste. The most noticeable transformation of the Russian dish happened in China. Before World War II a variation of beef stroganoff was served in Chinese hotels and restaurants with the addition of mushrooms, and it was served with rice rather than the traditional accompaniment of crisp potato straws. This version proved to be popular and has since been exported all over the world as what we recognise as stroganoff. These days stroganoff is served either with straw chips, rice or pasta and uses sweet cream rather than sour. Stroganoff purists will no doubt turn up their noses at such bastardization of the recipe – but I see it as a celebration of the evolution of cuisine and no doubt my recipe is not safe from such criticism. However, the speed and simplicity of this recipe is enough to compensate. It also doesn’t hurt that it is yummy and has that warming home-cooked feel.

All you need is for one portion is:

75g uncooked rice

1 600g carton (or tin) of mushroom soup; I like the New Covent Garden one

100g stir fry beef

One clove of garlic

1 tsp of your choice of oil

Salt and pepper

Now for the cooking…

Boil the rice in a sauce pan with about 140ml of water (so we are looking at a 2:1

ratio of water to rice). You should have fluffy rice in fifteen to twenty minutes. Check the instructions on the pack if in doubt.

Add the oil to a frying pan and throw in the garlic. Once you start to smell the aroma of the garlic add the beef, season with salt and pepper and stir fry; alternatively sautée the beef on its own with seasoning. This should all take about five minutes.

Transfer the beef to a plate and add about a quarter of the soup (approximately 150g) to the pan. Leave to reduce by half, or your preferred thickness, stirring every so often. This should take about three minutes. Return the beef to the pan and stir through the sauce. Serve with the rice.

For an extra kick in the vegetable department add some peas or green beans to the rice five minutes before the stroganoff is ready. For a vegetarian alternative try Cauldron’s marinated tofu strips in place of the beef.

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