Creamy beef stroganoff with paprika (and a bit of history)

Some days I just need  a wholesome and filling home-cooked meal.  Days when the weather is miserable, or when you are missing someone. A home-cooked meal, reminiscent of times spend with family, and a warm kitchen filled with laughter, stories and the rich aromas of simmering pots of food. Yesterday I had a day like that, and after rummaging through my fridge, armed with mushrooms, cream and beef strips, I realised the answer was beef stroganoff.

I feel very strongly about plagiarism, and usually try to create my own recipes using standard guidelines, or if I adapt them, reference the source. It’s a bit more difficult with recipes-how do you find the original source?  Recipes are like plants, they grow and adapt to their environment and people use them according to personal taste.  For the stroganoff I followed the basic principles (or so I thought)-cream, onion, beef strips, mushrooms and cream, but added smoked paprika-an ingredient which I absolutely love and have come to respect after an incredible visit to Hungary. But that’s a story for another day.  Imagine my surprise thus, when I did a google search into stroganoff and found paprika in its history!

Beef stroganoff, as the name suggests, has Russian origins, dating back to the 19th century. Back then it was beef cubes made with mustard and bouillon, and served with a dollop of sour cream, but it is only in the 1938 publication of Larousse Gastronomique where beef strips were used and tomato paste and mustard was optional. Today, it is a widely popular dish served around the world, either on rice or noodles (favoured in the US), usually with a creamy white wine style sauce. Larousse Gastronomique lists the recipe with cream, paprika, veal stock and white wine, but many recipes exist today with or without white wine, tomato paste and sour cream (

It thus seems that I reinvented the wheel by adding paprika, but I am very glad I did!  It contributes a slight smoky spiciness and brings out the flavour of the beef. This is another wonderful example of an evolving recipe that grows and adapts to its environment and the culture that it is used in.

This recipe gives 3-4 portions:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

200 grams beef strips

100 grams mushrooms, sliced

1 brown onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

5-100 ml cream

1 tablespoon good quality paprika

2 tablespoons fresh, chopped parsley

1 cup rice, cooked according to instruction

Cook the rice according to instruction and set aside when ready.  In a large pan, heat the olive oil over moderate heat, and sauté the onion and garlic for 5-8 minutes. Add the paprika and fry for another minute. Add the beef strips and fry for 10 minutes or until almost done. Add the butter and sliced mushrooms and fry for another minute or 2 before adding the cream. Simmer for 5- 10 minutes and add the parsley. Stir through, and serve a a bed of rice.

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