Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Beef with Tadzhik Accent and Is There Such a Thing as Russian Gravy?

In short, we don't really do gravy. Or at least not the way the Brits do. We are not that big on sauces altogether. It is completely normal to have a dish with no gravy at all! (Shock, horror!) Our salads and pickles play that role - moisturising the food and cutting through fats and carbs.

There are exceptions, of course. And today's dish is one of them. This is a recipe for a very typical braised meat. It has 'gravy', but not as you know it. It is basically a rather thick stock. With quite a lot of spices.

Which brings me to another peculiarity of the Russian and Ukrainian cuisine. We don't really do spices. My babushka's spices cupboard consisted of bay leaf, salt and black pepper. Full stop. Mum got a bit more adventurous. She gets a spice mix from a Tadzhik market stall. She has no idea what's in it, the guy just throws anything he can think of (or so it looks) into a paper bag. As far as I can detect it's cumin, dry oregano and marjoram, powdered ginger and chilli powder, maybe something else, but it's hard to tell. I recon any supermarket herb and spice mix for beef would do.

The dish doesn't look too attractive (and I blame my photography too), but please give it a chance. Steak and kidney pie doesn't look too appealing either (especially if you remove the pastry). And yet, it's delish...

Ukrainian Braised Beef with a Tadzhik Accent


800g think chunks of beef steak - despite the name, I used stake for stir frying, as my mum and babushka would only 'braise' the meat for an hour or so.
3-4 medium onions - sliced
1 large green pepper - deseeded and thinly sliced
a good helping of beef spice mix (make sure it has a bit of chilli)
salt, pepper
Stock cube (optional)
Sunflower oil for frying


Brown the beef with a bit of sunflower oil in a large casserole or thick bottomed pan, set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the same pan and fry the onions. When the onions are soft and slightly golden, add the beef, spices, seasoning, peppers, stock cube and enough water to cover the meat by at least 1cm. Leave to braise for at least 1 hour.

Mum makes it without stock cubes. She recons that the meat will make the gravy meaty enough. But I think that a stock cube wouldn't hurt.

Serve with rice or buckwheat kasha.

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