Anna To­bias’s Slavic stews

Ser­bian cook­ing may not have the come-hither look of Mediter­ranean food, but it makes up for it in flavour. Try putting a gen­tle spin on clas­sics, like goulash made with smoked pork, or creamy stroganoff spiked with cor­ni­chons

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Anna To­bias Anna To­bias is a Lon­don-based chef, for­merly head chef at Rochelle Can­teen; @to­bi­asanna

All they need is some­thing good and plain to mop up the sauce. A boiled potato is your ally ...

I’m a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Serb. Even though my Mum was born and raised in Lon­don, fam­ily life is still punc­tu­ated through­out the year by Ser­bian cel­e­bra­tions, for which re­li­gion and food pro­vide a rea­son. Ortho­dox Easter is one: we dye eggs red, play a game a bit like conkers be­fore the meal, and my mum makes re­form­torta, an Easter treat beloved by my brother and un­cle – lay­ers of hazel­nut sponge and choco­late cream. Ev­ery year, many Ser­bian house­holds also ob­serve slava, which is when we mark our fam­i­lies’ pa­tron saints on their tra­di­tional feast days. Ours is St Ni­cholas, so we cel­e­brate on 19 De­cem­ber, and mum and I bake a bread and a cake to take to church in hon­our of the dead.

There is def­i­nitely a quiet com­pe­ti­tion at the church bread-ta­ble – who has mas­tered the dec­o­ra­tion tech­niques? Whose bread is burnt round the edges or a lit­tle lop-sided? And who bought in their breads? (Se­ri­ous cheat­ing).

When I think of eastern Euro­pean food, how­ever, more than bakes and cakes, I think of stews rich in pa­prika and car­away, gar­nished with dill and served with pick­les. The sum­mer’s glut of veg­eta­bles pre­served, yo­ghurts soured and meats smoked or dried, all to see fam­i­lies through a year’s eat­ing.

Eastern Euro­pean food might not have the “come-hither” at­trac­tion of Ital­ian cook­ery, flirt­ing with the eyes of the eater, but what it may lack in looks, it cer­tainly makes up for in flavour. Nowhere is this truer than with stroganoff and goulash, two stal­warts of the Slavic kitchen, which I’ve adapted for you to­day.

I make my goulash with pork, more of a Ger­man way than Ser­bian, but I love the yield­ing qual­ity of slow­cooked pig’s cheeks along­side the smoky sausage, pa­prika and car­away – de­liv­er­ing flavour in ev­ery cor­ner of your mouth. I’ve also tweaked the clas­sic stroganoff recipe to echo my mum’s. I only re­cently found out that she adds cor­ni­chons to hers – which, when I chal­lenged her on it, she sup­ported with an old French news­pa­per cut­ting which in­structs the cook to add a hand­ful be­fore serv­ing. So, I tried it, and like how the bite, crunch and pickle of the cor­ni­chon off­sets the cream. And some­how means you can eat more of it ...

I would like to en­cour­age the prac­tice of “leav­ing well alone” to

bor­row a maxim of El­iz­a­beth David’s. Here are two dishes de­li­cious as they are: all they need is some­thing plain for you to mop up the sauce with. A boiled potato is your per­fect ally.

Beef stroganoff

It might seem ex­trav­a­gant to be us­ing fil­let (and it is!), but, as you’re cook­ing the beef so quickly, it re­ally makes a dif­fer­ence – the meat stays so ten­der. I’ve spec­i­fied tail as this was tra­di­tion­ally a less ex­pen­sive cut used for stroganoff – you could try to con­vince your butcher to sell it cheaper on that ba­sis.

Serves 6

1kg beef fil­let tail

100g but­ter

1 tbsp veg­etable oil

2 onions

Half a bunch of dill, stalks and fronds 300g but­ton or chest­nut mush­rooms, thinly sliced

1 tbsp sweet pa­prika

200ml dou­ble cream

Juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp cor­ni­chons, chopped

Salt and black pep­per

1 Cut the beef into 1cm strips. Sea­son with salt and pep­per.

2 Melt half the but­ter with the oil. When it’s hot and fizzing, add the beef and fry hard and quick, so that the meat browns on the out­side but re­mains rare in­side. Set aside.

3 Slice the onion and finely chop the dill stalks. Add to the pan with the rest of the but­ter and cook un­til soft, then add the mush­rooms and cook for about 10 min­utes, or un­til slip­pery. Stir in the pa­prika and re­turn the beef to the pan. Add the cream. Heat through. Squeeze in the lemon and add the cor­ni­chons.

4 Chop the dill fronds. Sprin­kle on top. Serve with boiled, but­tered pota­toes.

Pork goulash Serves 4, gen­er­ously

1kg pork cheeks or pork shoul­der 100g flour

1 tbsp olive oil

4 smoked sausages (chorizo also works very well), cut into chunks 2 onions

4 red pep­pers

2 gar­lic cloves, sliced

1 tbsp sweet pa­prika

1 tsp hot pa­prika

2 tsp car­away seeds

1 large glass of white wine 1 lemon

1 bunch of chives, finely chopped 200ml sour cream

Salt and black pep­per

1 I think it’s nice to leave the meat in quite large pieces, so leave the cheeks whole or, if us­ing shoul­der, then cut into 100g pieces. Sea­son the flour and toss the pork in it.

2 Heat the olive oil in a heavy-lid­ded casse­role pot (Le Creuset or the like) and brown the pork, then set aside. Brown the sausage in the same way.

3 Pre­heat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Peel and slice the onion, then soften in the pan. Use a potato peeler to peel the pep­pers – they don’t have to be per­fect, just so there won’t be too many shards of skin at the end. Slice the pep­pers and add to the onions. Sea­son your veg­eta­bles. Cook for 5 min­utes or un­til they start to soften.

4 Add the gar­lic, pa­prika, car­away, wine and the juice of the lemon.

5 Rein­tro­duce the pork and sausages, stir to­gether. Put the lid on and put in the oven. Check the pork af­ter an hour; it’s sur­pris­ing how much liq­uid the pep­pers and onions let out but if it’s look­ing a lit­tle dry then add some wa­ter. The sauce is the most de­li­cious part of this dish, so you want to make sure there’s plenty of it. Put back in the oven for an­other half an hour or so. The meat should be ten­der and giv­ing.

6 Finely chop the chives. To serve, put a gen­er­ous dol­lop of sour cream on the pork with a good sprin­kle of chives on top. Serve with some plain, boiled, but­tered pota­toes.

Fil­let might seem ex­trav­a­gant but it makes a dif­fer­ence – the meat stays so ten­der

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.