I haven’t eaten beef stroganoff for years but in the chilly weather of last week, I found myself craving that comforting sauce of sour cream, paprika and mushrooms.
It was a dish my grandmother used to make quite frequently when I was a girl – a nod perhaps to my grandfather’s Eastern European ancestry and the flavours of the region.
Of all her cooking repertoire, it was my absolute favourite. Fragrant, hot stew was served with a generous portion of steaming rice to soak up the sauce, along with a vinaigrette-dressed green salad of butter lettuce, cucumber and tomato.
Grandmama would serve up the rice and stroganoff straight from the stove on to plates in the kitchen, each portion individually tailored to family members and their known appetites, before one of the grandchildren would ferry them out to the dining room and deliver them to their allocated recipient.
Once everyone had received their plates and my grandmother had taken her seat, Grandad – in his special chair at the head of the table – would say Grace before our family congregation.
As I sit here typing and recalling those dinner rituals at my grandparents’ home with increasingly vivid detail, my heart fills with warmth and love for those two wonderful people who have granted me such fond memories.
The basket you can see in the photos here is the very same that was used by my grandfather as a child – along with his sister and younger brother – to collect mushrooms and berries from forest close to the family home in Yugoslavia (now Croatia).
I’m so thankful that this small relic of my grandfather’s Yugoslavian childhood, his life before World War II and the family’s migration to Australia, has been kept through 80 subsequent decades and now sits on our kitchen bench. It’s especially treasured now he’s no longer with us.
For me there’s something poignant about the fact that such a humble item – a simple woven basket – survived all these years and holds memories of a time and place so removed from today.
beef stroganoff with oven-baked chips
adapted from the recipe in the august 2014 edition of delicious. magazine, by sophie hansen
600g floury potatoes, scrubbed and cut into thick matchsticks
600g beef rump, cut into thick strips
75g unsalted butter
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
200g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
2 large field mushrooms, sliced
1 ¼ cups sour cream
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
Toss the potato chips with some olive oil and place them in a single layer on a large oven-proof tray lined with baking paper.
Place in the oven and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chips are golden brown and cooked through.
While the chips are baking, you can get started on the stroganoff.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a large frypan over high heat and add half the beef rump strips. Fry for a few minutes until the meat is browned on all sides, then remove from the pan.
Repeat with more olive oil and the second batch of beef strips.
Note: Do not try taking a short-cut by adding all the meat in one lot (as I recklessly did). The pan was overloaded, which dropped the heat and started stewing the meat in watery juices (blergh). Hasty and messy mitigation action was required.
Reduce the heat of the frypan to medium and add the butter. Once melted and starting to sizzle, add the onions and mushrooms. Fry for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are glazed and softened.
Stir through the paprika and cook for another couple of minutes before adding returning the beef strips to the pan.
Add the sour cream and lemon juice, stirring through gently to ensure all ingredients are coated in the sauce.
Cook until the sauce has heated through and thickened slightly.
Now, taste it. If you find it too acidic, you can add a tablespoon of brown sugar to mellow it down slightly and balance the flavours. Season with salt and cracked black pepper before a final taste test.
Sprinkle the beef stroganoff with chopped fresh parsley and serve with oven-baked chips.