Beef Stroganoff with Cucumber Pickle

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the beef Stroganoff

4 Steaks (Fillet)

2 oz / 50 g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 Onions, finely sliced

2 tsp Paprika

150 g (5.3oz) mixed mushrooms (button, portabella, shitake), sliced

2 tbsp Brandy

5 fl oz / 150 ml fresh beef stock

5 fl oz / 150 ml Sour cream

1 handful Fresh Parsley, chopped

For the cucumber pickle

1 Cucumber

1 Shallot

2 tsp Caster sugar

2 tbsp White wine vinegar

Method

First make the cucumber pickle. Put the vinegar, finely chopped shallot, sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Trim the ends of the cucumber then use a potato peeler (or a mandolin) to cut long, thin ribbons of cucumber (discard the first slice which will be mostly peel) and then toss the cucumber in the vinegar mix and set aside whilst you cook the rest of the meal.

Sweat the onion in a knob of butter over a low heat. When the onion is soft add the paprika and cook gently for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Gently fry the mushrooms in a large knob of the butter until they are cooked, all the moisture has evaporated off and they are beginning to turn golden. Remove from the pan and add to the onions.

Heat a heavy based frying pan on the hob.

Cook the steaks the way you like to eat them. You will find a useful guide here

While the steaks are resting return the mushroom and onion mix to the pan. Pour in the stock and brandy and cook over a high heat until it is reduced to almost nothing. Remove from the heat and stir in the soured cream. Heat gently until warmed through but don’t over heat or it will split.

Divide the onion / mushroom mixture between warmed plates. Slice the steaks and place on top of the sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with the cucumber pickle and sautéed potatoes.

 

 

Rain, Motorbikes and Pancakes.

It was 1982; I was 18 years old and heading to Cornwall for my first holiday with Martin; my then boyfriend. I had romantic notions of sunshine and beaches and long days punctuated with ice cream and beer.

Having packed all our gear there was just enough room for me on the back of the bike (a much-loved Yamaha SR500) so I squeezed on between Martin and panniers and top box and tent and we set off. And as we did, the rain began.

Now I learned an important thing about Martin on this trip: I learned that, for him a journey is simply a means to an end. It is not to be prolonged, stretched out or enjoyed and tea breaks are to be avoided at all costs. For him, riding the bike is pleasure enough. For me, to be cold and wet and hungry with restricted movement for 7 hours does not quite make it into the “pleasure” category. We did stop once for fuel and I managed to relieve the misery briefly by learning how to eat Quavers through a full face helmet at 70 mph.

By the time we arrived at the campsite, and despite the fact that I was dressed head to toe in Leather and Gortex, I was so wet that water was running out of the top of my boots. Before I could even think of getting warm and dry we had a tent to put up.

I am normally a cheerful, positive sort of person but by this stage I hated Martin, I hated bikes and I hated Cornwall. This relationship was clearly doomed.

We put up the tent and I have to admit I was grateful for Martin’s earlier membership of the Scouts and by the time the last peg went in a weak and watery sun was trying to break through the clouds. My brave boyfriend suggested a walk into the village: I sulked all the way but twenty minutes later we found ourselves at Trevaunance Cove peering in through the steamy windows of The Frying Dutchman and drooling over the incredible aromas.

We both ordered Smugglers’ Pancakes, fat, crispy pancakes topped with cheese, tomato and paprika. We ordered them with chips to which we got the incredulous response “With chips? Are you sure? … You haven’t been here before have you?” They were, of course, right – these were very filling pancakes; but it had been a long day and we were incredibly hungry…

I can still remember the spicy softness of those pancakes and how, with every mouthful I was a little warmer, a little dryer and a little happier. And they truly transformed my life turning hatred into love – without them, who knows what would have happened because 30 years later I live in Cornwall – within walking distance, in fact, of Trevaunance Cove.

As for Martin – we have now been married for over 27 years and yes we still have a motorbike but we also have a car for rainy days and we have sorted out that little problem about stopping so tea breaks are now a feature of every journey.

The only casualty of this encounter is The Frying Dutchman which, sadly, no longer exists.

I have included here a recipe for Smugglers’ Pancakes – it’s my own version and it changes every year so it is hopelessly lacking in authenticity.  In 1982 I was a vegetarian but now I’m not so I have added bacon to the mix.  Sometimes I add onion and garlic and I have tried chorizo instead of bacon – or brie instead of cheddar but they will always be called Smugglers’ Pancakes in our house in tribute to the beginning of my love affair with Cornwall.

Smugglers’ Pancakes Recipe

 

Smugglers’ Pancakes

Ingredients

For the Pancakes

110g/4oz plain flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

275ml/10fl oz skimmed milk (or use 2/3 whole milk and 1/3 water)

50g/2oz butter

For the Topping

Grilled bacon

Sliced tomatoes

Grated Cheddar

Paprika

Method

To make the pancakes

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl and add the pinch of salt.

Break the eggs into the flour and whisk until incorporated.

Add the milk, a little at a time, whisking as you go until you have a smooth, lump free, batter. You may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the flour is well whisked in. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the batter to settle.

Melt the butter in a small pan then use a pastry brush or some kitchen towel to grease the frying pan (be generous) before you make each pancake.

Heat the frying pan and pour in around 2 tablespoons of batter, swirling the pan as you go to ensure a thin, even coating all over the base of the pan. Return to the heat and cook until the edges of the pancake start to come away from the pan (no more than a minute).

Use a spatula or fish slice to lift the edge of the pancake to check if it is golden brown all over. When it is, it is time to flip the pancake. You can either do this with the spatula or, if you are feeling brave, try the more traditional approach and toss it. The pancake needs to be able to slide freely in the pan before it can be tossed.

Once flipped, the pancake needs only 30 seconds or so on the other side, as soon as it is set it is done. Slide it out of the pan, add the topping of your choice and serve.

If you are serving pancakes to a group of people stack them between sheets of greaseproof paper as you make them and keep them warm while you make the rest.

For smuggler’s pancakes place a cooked pancake on a baking tray, top with slices of tomato and 2 rashers of grilled bacon, sprinkle with grated cheese and season with a pinch of paprika. Place the tray under a grill or in a hot oven until the cheese has melted and the tomatoes are warmed through. Slide onto a plate and enjoy.