Monday, July 12, 2010
Geraldine Dillon isn't much known these days but in the 1960s and 1970s she was well known in Melbourne as a cooking presenter and writer. She had a weekly cooking program on Channel 9 for years, gave demonstrations at Gas & Fuel and at Myers, she wrote for the Age and the Women's Weekly and had a regular cooking column in the Melbourne Advocate. My mother always watched her cooking program and, as it was on during the day (on Friday I think), I only got to watch it during the holidays. My mother used to jot down recipes while watching the program and sometimes we wrote into Channel 9 for a roneoed version. We also went off occasionally on holidays to see her real life demonstrations. We tried lots of her recipes in our family and these recipes were often the reason for us trying different recipes and ingredients. Apart from cooking with my mother, I am sure that Geraldine was one of the main reasons for my abiding interest in and love of cooking.
Recently I was asked by a young colleague if I had a good recipe for beef stroganoff, probably because a boomer would be expected to cook such a thing I speculated. Well, indeed, I had but I hadn't cooked it for decades. And there it was in my copy of the The Geraldine Dillon cookbook, published by Paul Hamlyn in 1974. That was the stroganoff that I had cooked, that my mother had cooked and that I had a vague memory of Bert Newton doing some skit about on IMT one night. However, I thought I really should try it again before giving it out.
I was also mystified by Tania's mention of a recipe with paprika in it. I didn't remember using paprika in beef stroganoff and sure enough there was no paprika in the Geraldine recipe. So I thought I would explore a little. I didn't Google. I just looked at a few of my own recipe books and discovered variants. Geraldine's recipe, which would have come through her Cordon Bleu background, had stock, tomato paste, mustard and sour cream along with the meat, mushrooms etc. She used stewing steak. Margaret Fulton, an Australian cooking icon (@margaretfulton - yes, she's on Twitter!) who was writing at the same time, didn't have mustard or stock but did have mushrooms and sour cream and used fillet steak.
Hmm, I thought, is this really an Anglicized version of a Russian dish or just some Anglo dish given a fancy name? So off I went to my trusty Time Life Foods of the World series - also dating from 1970s. Sure enough there in the book on The Cooking of Russia was a recipe for Bef Stroganov. The recipe was prefixed by the statement: "Bef Stroganov, created in the late 19th century for a Russian count, has become one of the world's famous dishes. The recipe that follows is the classic Russian version. The numerous European and American variations called Beef Stroganov do not in any sense reproduce the dish as it was originally made."
And the differences? Well, Margaret Fulton and Geraldine Dillon both use butter, whereas the Russian recipe uses oil. Apart from that the recipe is pretty similar to the Geraldine Dillon one apart from that she adds stock and powdered mustard, and the Russian recipe made up the mustard in water. It also didn't include tomato paste. However, I found another Russian recipe which this time had both the made up mustard and the stock as well as tomato paste, but no mushrooms though a footnote said that another variant included mushrooms. Both the Russian recipes called for fillet steak.
I decided after all this that the recipe I was still going to cook was the original Geraldine Dillon one. However, I am not very good at sticking to recipes so there were some differences. She said grilling steak: I purchased stir fry beef. She said stock (not sure what kind) I used low salt beef stock. And I didn't include the added salt. I normally use light sour cream but I got the full catastrophe. The Russian recipe suggested doing the meat in two batches as being essential. So I did this. Otherwise the recipe is Geraldine Dillon.
90 gr butter
1 medium onion
250 gr mushrooms
750 gr stir fry beef
2 tablespoon plain flour
1 cup salt-reduced beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan and fry the finely chopped onion until golden.
Slice the mushrooms and add to the onions with a further tablespoon of butter.
Saute for 2-3 minutes, then remove the onion and mushrooms from the pan.
Add the remaining butter to the pan and brown half the meat strips quickly.
Remove from the pan and repeat with the rest of the meat.
Add the flour, stock tomato paste, pepper and mustard to the pan and bring to the boil.
Return the meat and vegetables to the pan, cover and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Once the meat is tender, add the sour cream the sour cream and heat.
Serve with rice or noodles.
So what was beef Stroganoff like decades after I had last had it? I found it pretty rich I must say with butter and sour cream but it's a good taste. As I am much more used to cooking with oil and normally only use low fat sour cream I might try another variant. But pretty tasty really.
Thanks for being the trigger for this trip down memory lane, Tania!