One could make the argument that in the age of the world wide web, there’s no need for reference books anymore because you can just google anything. I’m guilty of this; when my boss and I are debating the meaning of some obscure word, she turns to the Oxford dictionary and I turn to dictionary.com, and I often wonder if the younger generation even know what Encyclopaedia Britannica are?! If they’ve only ever known the internet, why would they bother reading through paragraphs of information in the hopes of finding the answer to their question when you can ask google directly?
Some would say cookbooks fall into this category of defunct reference books because why have only one version of a recipe when the magic of the internet can give you thousands, within seconds. I used to be one of these people but I’ve recently fallen back in love with cookbooks. The internet can give me a million and one versions of a dish but it helps if I already know what I want to cook. Trouble is, a lot of the time, I don’t, and for me, flipping through a cookbook is a lot easier than trawling through the internet. Particularly when the food stylist has done their job right.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been flipping through the new cookbook from Sophie Thompson, last year’s Celebrity Masterchef winner. As a keen watcher of cooking shows, it’s not surprising that I really enjoyed the show, and right from the outset I was a big fan of Sophie (and Wayne, because who couldn’t warm to that guy!). Sophie’s bubbly nature and love of food was evident throughout the series, but what the book really cements is how central family and friends are to her culinary adventures.
This is something I know many of us can relate to. As much as I crave those posh dining experiences and seek out those insanely technical dishes which are sometimes more art than anything else, the bottom line is that I love food because it brings people together. I really enjoyed the little ‘snippets of Sophie’ she’s included with each recipe, making this cookbook so much more than a compilation of instructions but a really heartwarming as well as stomach-warming read!
It took me a while to decide what to cook first but I finally settled on the Beef Olives because they are not something I’ve ever eaten before and just sounded so luscious and comforting!
Beef Olives (A Sophie Thompson recipe)
- 6 pork sausages
- generous sprinkle of nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs (I used fresh herbs as we had some in the fridge)
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 12 black olives, stoned and chopped (I omitted these as I’m not a huge olive fan)
- 2 rump steaks, approximately 250g each
- 1-2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 400mL red wine
- 250mL water
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
To make the stuffing, take the sausage meat out of the casings and combine well with the other ingredients, season with salt and pepper.
Bat out the rump steak, giving it a bit of beating with the meat mallet or rolling pin. This will tenderise the meat, as well as flatten it. Cut each piece into two so you have four thin pieces of beef.
Lightly dust your work surface with a bit of flour and lay your beef strips on top. Divide the stuffing mix between them and then roll up your lovely floury meat parcels. Secure each one with string – you’ll need 2-3 pieces per beef olive.
Heat the oil in a large frypan and brown the beef olives for about 5 minutes, until golden on all sides. Transfer to a lidded casserole dish.
Add the chopped onion to the same frypan, adding a splash more oil if necessary, and cook until golden brown. Add the tomato puree and brown sugar, then cook for 1 minute.
Pour in the wine and bubble for 2 minutes before adding the water, and returning to a simmer.
Pour this over your beef olives in the casserole dish, cover and simmer very gently for 2 – 2.5 hours, remove lid in the last hour to reduce the gravy. Check on your beef olives occasionally but don’t stir them too much.
Remove the string before scattering with fresh parsley, then serving! Sophie serves hers with a buttery mashed potato, while I opted for a parsnip and carrot mash – either way, both are a great accompaniment.
I’m happy to report that these beef olives went down a treat and will definitely be making another appearance especially as we head into another English winter… the beef is so tender, the stuffing is unctuous, and the red wine gravy is simply rich and delicious. I also tried Sophie’s Very Lemony Polenta Cake recipe the following week, much to a certain someone’s delight!
Thanks to Faber & Faber for sending me a copy of this fabulous book, but as always, all opinions are mine, mine, and mine alone!