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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beef_Stroganoff).

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.

Grilled mushroom and green pepper salad with a basil vinaigrette (perfect for a weekend braai)

Cape Town is experiencing a heat wave at the moment, and this is as good an excuse as any to hand over the braai tongs to the man (or woman) in your live, and escape the hot kitchen. I love South African summer and, after another scorching day in Cape Town, there are few things as perfect as ending the day with an ice cold glass of chenin blanc and a braai whilst watching the sun set over Falsebay.  Perfect late summer evenings like the past weekend just reminds me again of how privileged I am to live in SA with our moderate climate (minus the heat wave of course) and fantastic wine.

Currently our favourite steak cut is rib-eye. It’s soft, juicy and absolutely succulent! I rubbed the steak with a dash of olive oil and NoMu’s Coffee Rub. NoMu (http://www.nomu.co.za) makes the best rubs I have ever tasted and is locally produced and preservative free. It also tastes fantastic, of course, and I have included their rubs in everything from steak to chicken pie! I am not going to go into detail about braaiing a steak-there are many excellent websites and blogs that cover that topic, and usually my participation in the braai goes as far as prepping the food.  What I do want to tell you about, is the salad.  In this heat (and keeping low carbs in mind), there is no other alternative except a salad. This salad recipe is also vegetarian, and filling enough to serve as a main meal with crusty bread and cheeses.

For this salad, I roasted mushrooms and green pepper over the coals, and added them to a bed of mixed lettuce ,rocket, fresh, plump tomatoes, cucumber, parmesan shavings topped with a basil and chive vinaigrette.

Salad recipe:

6-8 mushrooms, grilled over coals on a skewer and halved

half a green pepper (any colour will do), cut length wise in thick strips and across into large blocks, grilled over coals on a skewer until roasted

bunch of mixed lettuce, including rocket, shredded

1 tomato, cut into wedges

1/3 cucumber, cut into slices

1/4 cup parmesan shavings

handful olives

whatever other ingredients you would like to add to make the perfect salad

Mix or layer all your ingredients in a large salad bowl, and add your mushrooms, peppers and parmesan last. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.

Basil and chive vinaigrette:

50 ml red wine vinegar

25 ml olive oil

25 ml balsamic vinegar

6-7 leafs basil, finely chopped

3-4 springs chive, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients together and mix very well. Drizzle over the salad just before serving.

Bolognaise, feta and rocket pizza

Who does not like pizza?  This is one of my favourite weekend recipes- the bolognaise sauce can simmer and reduce until just right, whilst the home-made pizza dough rise leisurely in the window sill. I aim to use Italian flavours for the bolognaise  just because both pizza and bolognaise are of Italian origin. This also gives me the opportunity to nip back some of my herb plants which encourages new growth.

This is definitely not a low-fat recipe, but, as mentioned in earlier posts, I reduce the amount of sugar and preservatives found in bottled tomato sauce and frozen pizza basis, by rather making my own.  I know precisely what goes into everything that the pizza is made up of, and can make whole wheat or gluten-free pizza basis by replacing the cake flour that I use in this recipe with either whole-wheat or gluten-free flour, which is readily available at health shops these days. You can also of course not add cheese at the end and create a lactose-free pizza, but I honestly don’t know what a pizza without cheese is. This recipe gives approximately three pizzas.

For the base:

1 1/2 cup flour

150 ml luke warm water

5 grams (1/2 sachet) instant yeast

10 ml sugar

pinch salt

45 ml olive oil

Add your flour and salt to a mixing bowl (no need to sift), and make a well in the middle of the flour. Add the olive oil. In a separate measuring jug, add the yeast and sugar and 150 ml lukewarm water.  Mix and leave for 5 minutes until frothy. Add to the flour, and start kneading. The more you knead the softer the dough will become. Knead for 5-10 minutes until your dough feels silky and everything has come together. You should be able to press the dough lightly with your finger and see it return to shape slightly. Rub with a drop or two olive oil (which prevents it to crack and dry when rising) and cover with a damp cloth. Place somewhere warm and sunny and allow to rise for 1 hour. Roll out on a surface that is slightly covered with flour and shape accordingly.

For the bolognaise sauce:

200 gram lean mince

1 brown onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1 tin tomato paste

1 can whole peeled tomatoes or cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

salt and black pepper to taste

Heat a dash of olive oil over moderate heat in a pan. Brown the onion and garlic, and add the mince. Brown the mince, then add the tomato paste and canned tomato. I rinse my cans (for recycling) with 40-50 ml water, and add that to the sauce as well. Allow to simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until reduced. Add the parsley, basil, and oregano, mix well and set aside to cool.

For the pizza:

Prepared pizza base (above)

Prepared bolognaise sauce (above)

1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced

5-6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced

2-3 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1 wheel feta, crumbled

handful fresh shredded rocket

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. There is no need for a tomato base as it is already included in the bolognaise sauce. To assemble the pizza I first cover the base with the bolognaise sauce, followed by the peppers and mushrooms. Lastly I cover everything in cheese and feta, and bake in the oven until golden and bubbling. The pizza crust should be golden and crisp. Once the pizza is out of the oven, add shredded rocket to serve. Bon apetit!