Beef Stroganoff

It’s July. It’s summer. It’s Ireland so winter fare still makes a regular appearance on the menu! It is part of what we call our Sum-inter menu – if the Gods can combine seasons so can we!

So Beef Stroganoff – not exactly a summer dish but very tasty. This recipe is at least thirty five years old and has fed hordes of family and friends through the ages. While there are very few ingredients in the sauce, it is still delicious. Quick to prepare, slow cooking and the dish is done. We serve it with boiled long grain rice.

And the photograph? The pot was empty before I had a chance to snap!

Serves 4
1½ lbs – 2lb rib steak, cut into pieces
1 large onion, sliced
Good pinch of curry powder
1 tablespoon of flour
2-3 tablespoons tomato purée
1 pint good quality beef stock
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 ounces butter
2 teaspoons English mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons sour cream

1. Place the beef in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, mustard and curry powder and make sure meat is coated in this mix
2. Heat the butter in a saucepan and fry the onion until soft
3. Add the flour and combine thoroughly, cooking for a few minutes
4. Add the stock in stages making sure that with each addition, it is combined with the onion-flour mix and there are no lumps
5. When coming to the boil, add in the tomato purée, salt and a generous grind of black pepper
6. Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the meat
7. Add the meat to the sauce and simmer for c.1 hour until the meat is tender
8. Add the sour cream and cook for simmer for another 10 minutes
9. Serve with boiled long grain rice.

Beef, Ragu

Slow-cooked Beef Ragu


Mince may be a flexible ingredient but we often tire of it too! Today, we wanted a pasta dish but with something a little different. Suggestions were made for salmon and cream sauce, carbonara, bolognaise, tomato and basil but the teen greeted all suggestions with a ‘meh’ response.

For a change, I slow cooked beef Ragu in the oven made with a strip of beef rather than minced meat. Yes, it was very rich but it was also rather delicious. Cooking it slowly gave the dish time for the flavour to deepen. The meat absorbed all the other flavours and liquid. At the end of the cooking process, it simply fell apart. The completed dish really was a winner!

The preparation was also quick. As this was oven cooked, I didn’t pre-fry anything so there was no added fat. This recipe serves 4-6.

2lbs rib steak
1 large onion, sliced in rings
4 cloves of garlic, chopped in small pieces
1 tablespoon of parsley, chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary, stems removed
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes in own juice
1 pint good quality beef stock
¼ pint red wine
4 tablespoons tomato puree
Salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 220 C
2. Cover the bottom of a heavy casserole dish with the chopped vegetables and lay the meat flat out on top
3. Mix all the wet ingredients and herbs together. Season with salt and pepper
4. Pour this mix over the meat and vegetables
5. Place greaseproof paper over the top to help seal the dish and secure the lid on top
6. Place in the oven and after 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 150 C
7. Cook at this heat for 3 to 3 ½ hours – it is done when the meat is falling apart and the sauce has reduced
8. Remove from the oven and mix together
9. Cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes
10. Serve with pasta of choice


Lamb, Slow Cooked Shanks

Slow cooked lamb shanks  

When the weather is freezing, my need for red meat escalates accordingly. This time I didn’t want anything too heavy so I threw together the following recipe for lamb shanks cooked in the oven. Instead of using red wine, which I felt might overpower the dish, I opted for white wine and it worked very well.

While light in consistency, the sauce was quite intense in flavour. When I tasted it, I longed for some fresh French Bread to dip into it as it was delicious; I’d be completely happy with that on its own! The final dish? It’s rather hearty but perfect winter fare. I ate mine with creamy mashed potato because I am such a creature of habit while the Teen chose whole wheat pasta and both complimented it very nicely indeed. Other alternatives would be to serve it with green beans or flageolet beans instead of potatoes, rice or pasta.

The dish takes time to cook but we think it’s worth it.

Lamb Shanks

(Serves 4)

4 lamb shanks
1 large onion, chopped finely
6 large cloves of garlic, chopped finely
4 large carrots, diced
12 fluid ounces white wine
Tin of chopped tomatoes
4 fluid ounces good quality chicken stock
Bouquet garni
Salt and ground black pepper
Sunflower oil for frying

1. Preheat the oven to 220C
2. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy casserole dish
3. Brown each of the lamb shanks, removing each from the dish when done and setting aside
4. Add another tablespoon of oil and when hot, add the onion
5. Cover with the lid and allow to soften for a couple of minutes
6. Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes
7. Mix in the carrots, coating them with the onion and garlic mix
8. After cooking these for a further two minutes, add the wine and bring to a gentle boil
9. Stir in the tomatoes and stock
10. Season with salt and pepper and tuck the bouquet garni into the sauce
11. Place the lamb shanks on top of the sauce and cover with the lid
12. Pop into the oven and after 10 minutes reduce the heat to 165
13. After 40 minutes, check the casserole and cover the meat with sauce
14. Return to the oven
15. After 1 hour and 45 minutes, remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce down for 15 minutes
16. Replace the lid and let it stand for 15 minutes before serving with an accompaniment of your choice.

Ratatouille, Ratatouille, Vegan, Vegetarian

Ratatouille – not exactly traditional but we love it!

Once every few weeks, I make Ratatouille. The choice can be for any or all of three reasons – we really like it, what’s in the fridge and its versatility. This rustic mix of vegetables is a firm favourite in this house where it is eaten alone, with roast chicken and steamed new potatoes, with steak and roast potatoes, with fish, with pasta, with rice…

There’s a fierce amount of chopping involved but it is so worth it. While I generally stick to the traditional ingredients, I have changed my cooking method. Instead of using the stove, I now prepare and cook it in a heavy casserole dish (lid on). I think the flavour is a tad deeper while the Teen thinks the cooking method has no effect on the flavour; she believes they taste the exact same. What I particularly like is the fact that I can pop it in the oven and not have to watch it!

French traditionalists will probably baulk at my approach and recipe. I invite them to my home any time if they want to cook the dish for me! 🙂



3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large aubergines, cubed
2 large courgettes, cubed
2 red peppers (or yellow peppers), chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a tin of chopped tomatoes)
1 tablespoon tomato puree (a second can be added mid cooking if a more intense flavour is preferred)
2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
A heaped teaspoon of sugar (optional)

1. Slice the aubergines lengthways, score and sprinkle generously with salt. Leave aside for about 30 minutes. Wash and then pat try. Chop into chunks
2. Preheat oven to 180C degrees
3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy casserole dish. Add the onion, cover and sweat for about 5 minutes
4. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes
5. Add the aubergines, peppers and courgettes. Cover and sweat for about 5 minutes
6. Stir in the tomato puree followed by the fresh or tinned tomatoes
7. Add the herbs
8. Season with salt and pepper
9. Cover and place in the oven for 30 minutes
10. Take out of the oven, stir and return for another 20 minutes. At this point, a second tablespoon of tomato puree can be added. Sugar may also be added if the tomatoes seem to make the mix a little bitter
11. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for about 10 minutes before serving.



Beef, Curry

Beef Curry with no substitutions!

photo (2)

Curry? While a firm favourite with many, it doesn’t seem ‘cultured’ enough for a dinner party. That’s what I thought but this recipe I tweaked from Hardeep Singh Kohli’s ‘Oxtail Curry’ is always well received. From the cook’s point of view, it’s perfect. Yes, there’s a bit of preparation and cooking at the start but once it’s in the oven, there’s about two hours free until serving. The dish is so rich, all that’s needed is Naan Bread or plain Basmati Rice.

What’s so good about this recipe? For me, it’s the spicing. When I read the recipe first, I found the measures a bit daunting. Everything else is a teaspoon of this and a half teaspoon of that where as this recipe calls for more robust flavouring. It all makes for a deliciously, deep-flavoured sauce. And there’s something about the spices chosen too – they all tend to be larder essentials so there’s no sourcing anything unusual in far away Asian Markets.

Meat? I made the original recipe with oxtail and it was totally sublime. Getting good quality, meaty and affordable, oxtail, however, is not always possible so I tried this with rib steak and it worked perfectly. This cut of steak is great for slow cooking and absorbs the flavour more effectively than other cuts.

The recipe is great as it is. I couldn’t resist experimenting but when I did, it never turned out as nice as the original. The sauce is very rich so I thought maybe I would use tinned tomatoes instead of passata to make it lighter. What a mistake! It was nice but it was not half as nice as when passata is used. I learnt my recipe.

This is Beef Curry with no substitutions!

Other praise for this recipe? Apart from the fact that it is all cooked in the same heavy casserole dish, it is gluten free, nut free and dairy free. Oh, and it’s even better the next day!


Beef Curry

2lbs rib steak, cut in equal chunks
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 star anise
4 cardamon pods, lightly bruised with the back of a knife
5 peppercorns
4 large red onions, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 chilli, finely chopped (preferably a Scotch Bonnet)
1.5 inch piece ginger, grated
½ orange, 3 strips of pared zest and the juice
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ground coriander
11 fluid ounces passata
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
Serve with plain boiled Basmati rice

1. Preheat the oven to 180C
2. Chop the onions, garlic and chilli as finely as possible
3. Grate the ginger
4. Heat the oil to a medium heat in a heavy casserole dish. Add the cumin seeds and allow to sizzle for a minute (be careful not to let them burn)
5. Add the star anise, cardamon pods and peppercorns, cooking for one minute
6. Reducing the heat, add the onion, ginger, chilli and garlic and cook until the onions start to become soft (about ten minutes)
7. Add the orange zest and continue to cook the onions for another ten minutes (or until they look carmelised)
8. Add the tomato puree and cook for 2 minutes
9. Add in the turmeric, garam masala and ground coriander and stir through the mix. At this point, add salt and ground black pepper (more can be added at the end)
10. Increasing the heat, add the meat chunks. Cook for about 3 minutes to brown the pieces
11. Add the passata and bring to a simmer. Include the bay leaves too
12. Place the lid on the casserole dish and ransfer to the oven, reducing the heat to 150C after about 10 minutes. Cook for one hour
13. Stir in the orange juice and allow to cook for another 30 minutes
14. Take the dish out and leave covered for another 20-30 minutes while the plain Basmati rice is cooking

Beef, Family Stories and Food, Goulash, Goulash with Issues

Goulash with issues…

From toddler to post-teen, I spent oodles and oodles of time in Spain. No – to my shame – I never mastered the language and no, I never developed an ability to tan. Pale Irish skin and auburn hair meant the most I could manage was a light beige after months (and months) in the sun. I resented my parents so much – I was convinced that if I could only go to the local caravan park like some of my pals I would be golden brown…

Why all this time on the Costa? Many of Dad’s business interests were in the area. Well, in the area is stretching the imagination. If he brought us with him, it meant wrenching us away from our house on the beach, strapping us into the car, ordering us not to speak to one another (as one word could always erupt into a fight) and making us endure what has never been surpassed as ‘the’ most excruciating journey. Miles and miles travelled in a hot car with no air conditioning in sweltering heat with a child (me) who got car sick on a level only equalled by the the girl in the Exorcist.

This was no ordinary trip. It involved dirt tracks and winding around hairpin bends until we reached the top of a mountain. There we would alight from a hot car into blistering heat with no breeze and among us, a child (me) who reeked of  stale ‘parmesan’. Happy days – not!

Spanish food is still a firm favourite but Spain is also where I was first introduced to Goulash. Near where we lived was a restaurant called ‘El Conejo Loco’ (the mad rabbit) run by a Hungarian beauty and her frequently inebriated Spanish husband. There were many heated exchanges between the two and pots full of drama. To a child, it seemed funny but when I look back, we dined regularly in the middle of a never-ending domestic war. She would hold the balance, smile at the guests while he swiped bottles of brandy and reverted back into the kitchen where he would roar demands, laugh loudly and cook brilliantly. Except for one dish. That was her domain. She made Goulash like her mother made and it was divine.

While others gazed at perfectly cooked Gambas (and they stared back with their beedy little eyes), I would tuck into a plate of Goulash served with noodles and a dollop of sour cream. It was simply the best thing ever. I always wish I had got the recipe but I was precocious enough without stalking elders to ask for recipes too.

Now, when winter sets in, Goulash is made and served exactly as all those years ago. It will never equal that lady’s but it is definitely a firm favourite in our home. It is meant to contain beer but I leave it out – mainly because I like to drink rather than eat the stuff! Here’s the recipe I cook and it is one of those wonderful dishes which indeed tastes better the day after.



1½ lb rib steak, cubed
3 level tablespoons flour
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 red pepper, seeds removed and sliced
2 level teaspoons Paprika
3 level tablespoons good quality tomato puree
Nutmeg, a pinch freshly grated
Salt and pepper
2 ounces plain flour
½ pint beef stock
1 tin chopped tomatoes
¼ pint of ale (optional)
1 Bouquet Garni
Oil for frying

1. Pre-heat the oven at 160c
2. Place the 3 tablespoons of flour on a plate. Season with salt and pepper
3. Toss the beef pieces in the flour
4. Fry the onion and pepper in the oil until soft for about 3-4 minutes
5. Add the meat and fry for about five minutes until golden brown
6. Add the paprika and fry for another minute
7. Reduce the heat
8. Add the tomato puree, nutmeg and flour and cook for another couple of minutes
9. When the flour is cooked, gently add the stock and mix, making sure to eliminate any lumps
10. Add the tin of tomatoes
11. Season with salt and pepper
12. Transfer to a casserole dish
13. Add Bouquet Garni
14. Cook slowly for about 1½ hours
15. Remove the Bouquet Garni and add the beer
16. Leave stand for about 15 minutes
17. Serve with noodles and sour cream. Alternatively, it can be served with mashed potato.