Monday, March 29, 2010

"Just stir it, Una!"

Well, actually my gravy did need sieving. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...

This particular journey began - as so many do - with "mystery freezer meat", a packet of meat that was roughly recognisable as beef schnitzel, but only because it said so on the packet. It'd been in my freezer for a long time, and since it's not the sort of thing I generally buy, I don't really know how it got there.

Luckily, my Edmonds cookbook provided me with a chance to get rid of it. Beef olives (p124) are little packages of beef schnitzel, rolled up around stuffing and then cooked in gravy. Sounds like fun.

I had been led to believe that making the beef olives would be fiddly. Actually, that part only took me a few minutes. I whizzed up the stuffing ingredients in the food processor - a few moments and I had my stuffing ready to go. Then I spread it on the schnitzel, rolled them up and  fastened them together with toothpicks.

That bit was easy. It's from this point on that it all turned to custard. Or to horribly lumpy gravy, to be more precise. You see, I'm not an habitual gravy eater. If ever I did make gravy, it'd probably be from a packet, but here I'm obliged to stick to the recipe.

And according to the recipe, I should heat some oil in a frypan, and brown my beef olives. So far, so good. Then, move them into a casserole dish, and begin the gravy: "Stir flour into frying pan and cook for one minute. Gradually add stock, stirring constantly. Bring to the boil. Add soy sauce". Ok, that doesn't sound too difficult. Except that the moment I put the flour in, it turned into big yellow lumps.

I stood, adding stock, stirring and trying to mush out the lumps, for what seemed like an absolute age. The lumps refused to disappear, and all I could think of was that line from Bridget Jones' Diary: "I think the gravy's going to need sieving". Meanwhile, my beef olives were sitting in their casserole dish on the benchtop, getting cold and attracting flies. Eventually I decided to go by my movie-acquired theory and sieve the gravy.

Well, it got the lumps out. A tricky business, though, holding the sieve over the beef olives with one hand and trying to pour my (by now ultra-thick and very lumpy) gravy from the frying pan with my other hand -  a third hand would have been very useful for scraping out the frying pan. The result was not wonderful. A very thick, very salty (two tablespoons of soy sauce? One would be plenty) ultra-concentrated dribble of gravy on each beef olive. I deviated from the recipe here, and poured some water into the frying pan to collect the remainder of the sauce. Having achieved this, I poured my diluted gravy over and finally put my beef olives, now swimming in watery gravy, into the oven.

40 minutes later, when pulling out my beef olives, I used a teatowel as an oven mitt, which I then placed on an element which was still on from cooking the veges. Luckily I noticed before the smoke alarm went off and/or the house burnt down. The teatowel's ruined though.

As for the beef olives: Yet another reasonably good result, despite my making a  complete mess of the recipe. I have to say Edmonds recipes are very forgiving. I found the sweet prune stuffing slightly odd in contrast with the salty gravy, but if you reduce the soy sauce, that would be less of a problem. The watery gravy had thickened up and even my old freezer-meat wasn't tough and chewy like I expected - though of course it'd still be better to use fresh schnitzel.

If you have the knack of making gravy without lumps, go ahead and try this recipe.  Go easy on the soy sauce and you'll have a decent result. If you don't like prunes, do a different stuffing of your choice; and if I've put you off with the gravy nightmare, there's no reason why you couldn't use packet gravy instead.


  1. First up - loving the blog! It's a very comforting read for an expat :)

    A gravy thought: you may have done this, so apologies if this is redundant, but when I do make gravy from scratch, it helps to mix the flour with a little bit of cold water so it's a runny paste. Add it to the pan slowly, and stir liek a crazy woman as you do. I've never achieved totally lump-free gravy, but it does seem to help...

  2. Oooh... I haven't had beef olives in YEARS!! I'm inspired now! Thanks :)

  3. Hey Rebecca - thanks for reading! No, I didn't do the mix with water thing because it didn't say to in the recipe. I think the idea is to brown the flour before adding the liquid. But blow that for a game of soldiers - I'm doing it your way next time!

    Bryn: Yay for being inspirational! I bet yours will be way better than mine. Did you find any ground ginger, by the way?

  4. Well done Robs. I've never achieved edible Beef Olives, they always seem tough, and have given up. Gravy, well what can I say, I tend to use a small whisk and hope for the best.c

  5. Yeah, I nearly brought out the whisk, but didn't want to scratch my pan. Must buy a non-stick whisk..

  6. I tried making beef olives tonight - think they are called "steak rolls in chicken gravy" in some old NZ cookbook. You do the meat stuff the same, brown with an oinion, then cook in a casserole dish with a maggi cream of chicken soup, made up with 600ml water - I simmered this on the stove first to get it going. Really tasty and meat was tender. Recipe said moderate oven 2 hours, I did gas mark 7-8 for about 1hr 15 mins and was fine. Also a note re gravy, if you don't mind butter calories, a good bet is equal parts butter and flour, melted together and gently cooked, before adding stock for gravy or milk for white/cheese sauce. Happy cooking!


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