You know, I am not entirely sure about the origins of stroganoff, that ‘classic’ Russian dish. If you look into its origins, as I have after leafing through my encyclopedic Larousse Gastronomique, the story seems plausible enough. Back in the 18th century, there was this rich family of merchants and financiers called the Stroganovs, who wandered amongst the elite within Russian society, rubbing shoulders with nobility and whatnot. And one of them employed a French chef, who one day stumbled upon this wonderful combination of thinly sliced beef, thinly sliced onions, thinly sliced mushrooms and lashings of sour cream.
Such was the success of this dish, a member of the Stroganovs named themselves after it, so that it may live on in perpetuity and as tribute to the family. It could, by all accounts, have been Alexander Grigorievich Stroganoff of Odessa. Or perhaps it was Count Pavel Stroganov from Novgorod. Some say that it was Vladivar Stroganoff, who set up a successful trading post in the Netherlands. Which leads me to the problem. There are far too many vagaries to the tale and far too many people laying claim to this recipe. It is the culinary equivalent of “I AM SPARTICUS!” and as such, I would say that any stories you might hear about stroganoff should be taken with a pinch of paprika. Especially since I just made up the one about Vladivar.
Perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much about the provenance of this dish though and simply get on with the business of enjoying it, because for such a simple premise, stroganoff packs one hell of a punch. Warm, comforting and indulgent, this is the sort of plate that you associate on a cold, blustery day. However, in a nod to its universal nature, I would say that it goes down equally well in summer. Particularly this light and healthy version, using Quorn steak strips, instead of beef. There is a twist with this, in that I like to throw tarragon into the mix, to add a delicate aniseed touch. It really does lift the overall flavour and compliments the sweet spice.
That I have served it with tagliatelle here might rustle a couple of feathers. Most people serve up stroganoff with rice but this alternative carb goes well, as the sauce clings nicely to the ribbons of pasta.