Reality Check!!!

One of the motivators behind this blog was to cut through the crap - to get real!

In a country where our standard of living is high, what we eat is not just a matter of subsistence, but is treated as a form of entertainment (more on that another time, perhaps). As a result, competition for the consumer dollar keeps advertising executives and "marketeers" (yes, that's deliberate) cleverly buzzing about. The result? A mal-informed, mis-educated and confused audience frequently overwhelmed at the simple task of cooking dinner.

"Celebrity Chefs" have done a lot to bring food entertainment to the masses, and many of them have been great advocates of getting people to cook at home - an irony when you consider they come from the restaurant game. Yet even these guys can send off some mixed messages.

Take Jamie Oliver for example. Love him or not, he has inspired a nation not known for great cooking to get up and have a go. His recipes are frequently conversational (think, two lugs of olive oil) yet structured enough to be able to glean the requirements without going through it with a fluoro highlighter. However when I see Jamie Oliver on television, I can't help but think "and who is going to clean that up?" - he's here and there and everywhere with a bit of this and a splash of that.

Bill Granger on the other hand comes across as very organised. His recipes are pretty good, but after a while seem all too sanitised. I dare say there are women across the country wondering how on earth someone can spend a day in the kitchen with children all dressed in white and remaining that way.

From time to time newspaper and magazine writers depart economic reality when dreaming up their contributions. A case in point popped up on my screen just the other day - a recipe for beef stroganoff as I was browsing the morning news with the caption,

“Once considered a fashionable dinner party dish in the 1970s, we take another look at this old favourite.”
The recipe is by Cindy Sargon, published in Epicure last year. I had never heard of this person but via google I am informed she is a "celebrity chef". One thing I know for sure is that she looks a lot better naked than I do these days!
This casserole is a saute rather than a braise, and using eye fillet makes this a quick dish to cook as the tenderness of the cut reduces cooking time...
get real! With beef fillet costing upwards of $40/kg these days, who on Earth can afford to cook like this? And even if you've got the dosh, wouldn't you... I don't know... think of something else to do with it?

You see, I can understand people not having time to braise a stroganoff, and a quick sautee is just the ticket - agreed. Where I differ (apart from finding use of words like caramalise in the context of sealing beef stupid), is that I want people to find cooking approachable, and throwing $40 worth of steak into a quick dinner is, for most people, unfathomable.

Coincidentally, days before, I had prepared my own contemporary and accelerated version of stroganoff, that had been designed to use up left overs from various bits and pieces. Unlike Sargon, my fledgling business does not afford me to fritter away money (not just yet anyhow - order up folks!).

Instead of beef, I used a pack of veal scallopine ($14.50), tender owing to the youth of the beast, cut into thin strips and quickly seared.

In a mixing bowl I threw together roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, 2 lightly beaten eggs, a splash of cream, garlic, some finely grated parmigiano, salt & pepper.

Once the veal strips had cooled (we don't want scrambled egg-coated veal strips on this occasion) these went into the mixing bowl as well. By this stage it looks a bit like chunder, but stick with me...

All of this is then tossed through cooked pasta and (if not warm enough) lightly heated before serving.

It might not be authentic, and I won't be posing in Black and White anytime soon, but this was delicious, quick, easy and relatively cheap meal to cook - it's the kind of thing I hope will relay what can be done at home by an untrained cook with good produce, a little creativity and a slap of commonsense.


t h e - g o b b l e r said...

I agree Grocer. Ms Kwong lost me a while back when she opened with, 'Now first take your Waygu steak...'
That aint happenin' on my budget girlfriend!
Also the very notion of a braise means that the type of meat MUST be a secondary cut. It kind of misses the point to use anything else? Dishes like these take time & if you haven't got it why bother?
Grill a kebab instead.

Lucy said...

Beautiful. Simple. Unfussy.

Now that's getting real.

I reckon the word celebrity gets bandied about too often now. I mean if Sargon's a celebrity, why do I not have a clue who she is? (Actually, I don't know who anyone is these days...:-))

purple goddess said...


try being a single mum, studying full-time, on a TOTAL budget of $276 a FORTNIGHT.

THAT's when I learned to cook.. when I had to find good, real, wholesome, fun food.

And 10 years on, I still cannae bring myself to buy Wagu/Kobe/Iberica Jamon/ Insert trendy expensive ingredient of the month, for a family meal.

Ignore me, I'm feeling all humbuggery right now. ;)

Duncan | Syrup&Tang said...

A great post, grocer! I had missed Ms Sargon's appearance in Epicure. So sad. Ever since she insisted on leaf gelatine in a pannacotta (on whatever mediocre tv show it was), I have taken her with a pinch of salt. Actually, I haven't taken her anywhere. And as for her casserole which is a saute not a braise... huh? There seems to be a technique confusion here (or I need to rush back to my basic definitions book... excuse me). But hey, we're all earning three times the average wage and import our own truffles every year, don't we? Beef fillet casserole sounds like a perfect extravagance for impressing the neighbours.