This week I have been

cooking Sher wagyu fillet of beef, in more ways than I imagined I would. What a challenge: what could I do with a whole fillet? These are the dishes I made: beef stroganoff;  Russian-style beef pies (pierogi, or piroshki); stir-fry with leeks and snow peas; tataki; a little appetiser served on nasturtium leaves; a variant of beef Wellington; plain pan-fried steaks; and I gave some of the fillet to neighbours, who turned it into a big salad. Check out www.sherwagyu.com.au  – home delivery is possible.

Wagyu handles differently from other beef. At least, I found it so. It’s more fragile – that is, it needs to be handled with care. High temperature searing didn’t suit it. Medium heat cooked it as fast, and it still browned when it needed to. It loves mushrooms, I found – so stroganoff and the beef pies were very special. But it also likes greens – leeks, snow peas, and nasturtium leaves, whose soft pepperiness is an ideal complement to the softness of the meat. As for the Wellington, I used some pesto and a red capsicum puree instead of the usual pate and mushrooms.

A word about beef Stroganoff, which is one of the dishes that has been interpreted in some appalling ways. It’s a dish to prepare quickly, like a stir-fry, but with sour cream. Forget long cooking, forget tomato paste, it’s strips of fillet with some onion and mushrooms, and a sauce made of stock (if you have it), mustard and sour cream.

It was named for a Russian count, Pavel Stroganoff, whose French chef submitted the recipe to a culinary journal. It is likely that it was a variation of an earlier dish, because something similar appeared in the first Russian cookbook. Elena Molokhovets’ book A Gift to Young Housewives was first published in 1861, and was in print right up to the Revolution of 1917. Hers was a simpler recipe, but the combination of mushrooms and sour cream is a Russian favourite.

French cuisine features lots of dishes named for Russian aristocrats of the 18th and 19th centuries. It would be fun to make a meal of them: Veal Orloff, Nesselrode pudding, beef Stroganoff, strawberries Romanov. They are the legacy of the aristocracy’s fondness for all things French, including champagne, which had a huge market in Russia – for much sweeter champagne than we would now drink. French chefs found employment in grand Russian households, and even the great Careme had a spell in Russia.

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