Beef Ragout a la Stroganoff with Spaetzle

Region: Russia, France, all over Germany

Russia had a strong influence on (East) German Cuisine after the second world war. Former East Germany, the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) or GDR (German Democratic Republic), used and modified many dishes from Russia and other Eastern Bloc States. If Bœuf Stroganoff found its way to Germany though the GDR is unclear. With food being rationed, filet of beef was probably an ingredient not many had access to. Strictly speaking, Bœuf Stroganoff  might not even be Russian. It is most likely French, with Russian influences.

There are at least three theories on how the original recipe was created:

One states that a French cook, Charles Brière, worked for Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov and influenced by his time in St.Petersburg he is said to have submitted the recipe to the French Magazine La Revue de l’Art Culinaire in 1891. Almost all Russian noble families afforded the luxury of employing a French cook in those times.

Another version describes that an unknown cook created the meal for Count Grigory Stroganov (1770-1857) and because the count was without teeth chewing tough beef was impossible.

A simpler version of the refined Bœuf Stroganoff appeared in 1871 edition of “A gift to young housewives or a help to reduce housekeeping charges” by Elena Molokhovets. Her version included a simple sauce based on a butter and flour roux with bouillon, mustard, sour cream, salt and pepper.

It became popular in Germany in the early 1950s. In 1958 the German Composer and author Friedrich Holländer wrote the Stroganoff Song in which he described how Count Stroganoff in a restaurant requested a raw piece of filet of beef and a sharp knife. He used the meat to demonstrate to his present friends how he had cut up Mr. Schmutschkinoff who he had caught in flagrante with his very pretty wife. Afterwards he returned the butchered meat to the cook who whipped up a ragout he then named after Count Stroganoff.

Somehow, this version has a bit more drama than the others. It is, however, purely fictional.

Traditionally, the real Bœuf Stroganoff calls for filet of beef, which would be cut into small strips. I think that this is a mutilation of that prime cut, and given the cost of it and the actual culinary value of this simple dish not necessary.  I am sure that there will be some people who call my version a mutilation of this all time classic. However, I feel confident, that this simple version I suggest here, using ground beef, will win over many people.

Serves: 4   Difficulty: medium    Preparation time: 90 minutes


  • 300 g (10.6 oz) Mushrooms
  • 150 g (5.3 oz) Pickled Cornichons (small Gherkins)
  • 80g (3 oz) Pickled Pearl Onions
  • 5 Shallots, finely chopped (of which on TBS will be used for the vinaigrette)
  • 2 TBS Butter
  • 500g (1 lbs) Ground Beef
  • Freshly Ground Salt and Pepper
  • 1 heaped TBS Flour
  • 200ml (7 fl 0z) Beef Stock
  • 250g (8.8 oz or ½ lbs) Sour Cream
  • 2 TBS Dijon Mustard
  • 2 TS ground Mustard Seeds
  • 1 TBS Vermouth
  • 4 Sprigs of Parsley

If you want to make the Spaetzel yourself you will need:

  • 300g Flour
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 Pinches of Salt
  • ½ TS Freshly Ground Nutmeg
  • 6 TBS Sparkling Mineral Water

Serve it with a Romaine Salad with Vinaigrette

  • 2-3 Small Romaine Salads
  • 4-6 TBS White Wine Vinegar
  • 4 TBS Olive Oil
  • 2 TS Dijon Mustard
  • 1 TBS Finely Chopped Shallots
  • ½ Bunch Freshly Chopped Chives
  • ½ Bunch of Freshly Chopped Parsley
  • Freshly Ground Salt and Pepper
  • 2-3 Pinches of Sugar


Start with the spaetzle dough. Unlike what you read or see on YouTtube, you don’t need fancy equipment. At minimum, you can make spaetzle with a wooden spoon, a bowl, a wooden board, and a long knife:

Combine 300g (10.6 oz) flour, 4 whole eggs, 2 pinches of salt, ½ TS freshly ground nutmeg, and 6 TBS Sparkling Mineral Water in a bowl and blend using your favorite mixer for 5 minutes.  Use more water if the dough is too dry.

If you ever wondered what the wooden cooking spoon with the hole in the center is for…; well, it is made for beating spaetzle dough.

What follows is what scares people about making spaetzle: It is beating the dough; a bit of a work out. You need to beat air into the dough. With a wooden cooking spoon, beat the Spaetzle dough for 5 minutes or until you see air bubbles. I use my hands for doing this; messy, but less strenuous. Afterwards let the dough rest for 1 hour.

In the meantime, prepare the salad:

Cut 2-3 small romaine salads into bite size pieces. Rinse and drain. In a non-metal bowl combine 4-6 TBS white wine vinegar, 4 TBS olive oil, 2 TS Dijon mustard, 1 TBS finely chopped shallots, ½ bunch freshly chopped chives, ½ bunch of freshly chopped parsley, freshly ground salt, pepper, and 2-3 pinches sugar.

Preparing the Ragout:

Finely chop 5 shallots. Cut 300 g (10.6 oz) Mushrooms into slices. Tip: use an egg cutter for this to safe time.

Safe the smallest mushrooms and cut into quarters. Keep quarters separate from slices; we will use these at the very end.

Cut 150 g (5.3 oz) Pickled Cornichons (small Gherkins) into slices, cut 80g (3 oz) Pickled Pearl Onions into halves.

In a large skillet, melt 2 TBS of butter, and glaze shallots. Add ground beef and fry until it begins to crumble. Add mushroom slices (not the quarters) and fry for a few minutes. Dust with 1 heaped TBS of flour and stir. Add 200ml (7 fl oz) beef stock, 2 TBS of Dijon mustard, 2 TS of mustard seeds, and 250g (8.8 oz or ½ lbs) sour cream. Set to low heat and add cornichons, pearl onions, and chopped parsley. Season with salt, pepper and 1 TBS of vermouth. Keep warm on very low heat.

Boiling the Spaetzle:

Bring a large pot of salt water to a boil.

Place dough onto a wet wooden board, and using a long knife, spread it thin on the board, keep it wet using the boiling salt water and then scrape it into mildly boiling water. If it gets sticky, wet with water from the pot.

Cook for a few minutes until spaetzle start to float.

I found a video that shows how to do make spaetzle the original way. It is in German, but you will get the main points outlined above. Note how he beats the heck out of the dough.  Must be a good way of relieving tension.

And yes… It does make a big mess… that is the fun part!

Again, as mentioned above, if you have access to good quality off the shelf spaetzle, go ahead and use them. In fact, any type of pasta will work fine.

Melt one TBS of butter in a small pan, fry the mushroom quarters we saved until they are well browned.

Serve ragout with spaetzle on a pre-warmed plate, decorate the fried mushrooms over it and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.

Cover Romaine salad with vinaigrette and serve on a separate plate.

Serve with a dry white wine or beer.

And now:


One thought on “Beef Ragout a la Stroganoff with Spaetzle

  1. Pingback: Cheese Spaetzle with Porcini Mushrooms | MoreThanBratwurst

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