Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Every Cook's Dream Dish: Lamb Stroganoff

This dish is probably one of those that I often call misleading ... Why, I hear you ask?

First, the name. Being such a ubiquitous dish in many cookbooks and the British menu, it was a slight surprise to find that it originated in Russia with the beef version, and has been popular in Europe since with many variations of it.

Second, it requires less types of ingredients than perceived. With a name like that, you'd think it involves a combination of millions of spices, ingredients that are in general expensive or hard to get.

Third, the method of preparation is easier than you think! There's no long hours of braising, watching over the oven times, or marinading required at all!

Isn't this essentially what we are all looking for in a recipe? A dish that provides minimal headache over the ingredients, tastes amazing yet so quick and easy to prepare? Not to mention that it's easy to cook in bulk (unlike stir fries), without sacrificing the flavors and results, perfect for a party? Not to mention that for this recipe can definitely fit into the menu of those health conscious too! So here goes:

Ingredients for two
300g Lamb fillet/neck strips/shoulder bits (I personally prefer fillets, as its a whole chunk of solid meat and not too fatty)
Mushrooms (as much as you like, the more variety the better, I used chestnut and closed cup mushrooms)
1 Onion
250ml of crème fraîche/sour cream (I used a reduced fat version)
1 Lemon (juiced and 1 tsp of lemon zest, or if lazy, bottled lemon juice)
3 tbsp paprika (or season to taste)
Salt (season to taste)
1 knob of butter (optional)
Olive oil

So, the meat is first cut into thin slices, about 0.5cm thick or finer would do. Then mix the paprika, and about 1-2 teaspoons of salt for a quick marinade. Mince the onions into chunky pieces, cut the mushrooms into bite size quarters or cross section slices (or whatever shape you fancy) and we're set to go! That probably takes 15 minutes max isn't it?

Time to cook! Heat up some olive oil, as usual. Then fry the onions until brown and soft. Scoop them up and set aside. Do the same for the mushrooms, but add the lamb pieces in when the aroma of mushrooms fills the air. It should be soft and smaller now, given that some moisture is lost. Add the onions back to the pan, and continue stirring them around for a bit before adding the crème fraîche, lemon juice and zest.

Now, the tasting bit. Which you absolutely have to do. Can't imagine a cook who doesn't taste before serving, pretty risky even for the pros. I tried mine, and found it slightly too spicy for a stroganoff, hence leveled off some of the heat with a pinch of sugar. Sugar works to counter a bit of saltiness too, as in this case you shouldn't add water to this dish as its meant to be creamy and thick. If desired, you can add a small knob of butter, it does add a nice creamy flavor to it.

When you're happy with the taste, serve with rice, and eat right away. In this case, I used wild red rice, has more of a nutty taste which I love, a nice change from the usual white rice. The whole process took about 30 minutes or less, great for those of you who are rushed for time yet still want to eat something wholesome and delicious.

There's another venison version of Jamie Oliver's website, with parsley and gherkins to match, will try that sometime soon! Now that summer's here, it's time to bring up the BBQ!

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