Beef olives

Many, many years ago, I went with my parents to a visit a friend of theirs who I knew as Aunty Norah. She was always very kind and nice when I was younger, and I think I realised she was glamorous without actually understanding what it was. She was slim with very dark hair, a pretty, friendly face, and seemed tall and slim. She worked as a secretary, or maybe she was a telephonist, at the lab where my dad worked.  We had moved away and were visiting the area and she invited us for dinner.

We arrived and she said she had cooked us beef olives. I had no idea what they were but as I liked both beef and olives, and as my mum said Norah was a wonderful cook, I was looking forward to dinner. I was disappointed, because although my beef was tender and delicious, sadly I seemed to have missed out on the olives. I was too polite to mention it, except as we were going home in the car, and my parents laughed and said the olive was the rolled up beef! I think I may have grumbled that it was a silly name, but I have never had a beef olive since, but while looking through one of my little old cookery books, I came across a recipe.

This is from the A1 Cookery Book, published in 1901 and written by Helen N. Lawson:

Beef olives (fresh meat)

  • 1½ lbs rump steak
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp minced parsley and lemon thyme or a thin layer of veal forcemeat
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pint of stock
  • 2 or 3 slices of bacon
  • 2 tablespoons of port wine
  • thickening of butter and flour
  1. divide steak into thin slices about 4 inches long and 3 wide
  2. brush over with egg
  3. spread with a layer of veal forcemeat or the herbs
  4. roll up the pieces very tight and fasten with a small skewer
  5. put the stock in a stew-pan that will only just hold the olives
  6. lay in the rolls of meat, cover them with the bacon which remove before serving
  7. stew them very gently for two hours
  8. take them out, remove the skewers
  9. thicken the gravy with flour and butter and flavour with two tablespoons of port wine
  10. give one boil, pour over meat and serve very hot

There is another recipe using cooked meat – I guess the leftovers of the Sunday roast!

Beef olives (cooked meat)

  • the remains of cold beef
  • forcemeat
  • thickening of butter and flour
  • mushroom ketchup or wine
  1. cut some slices of beef rather thick
  2. spread with a little forcemeat on one side of each piece and roll up very tight and secure with narrow tape
  3. have ready some gravy in a small stew-pan, put in the olives and stew gently for about one and a half hours
  4. arrange on a hot dish after cutting off the tape
  5. thicken the gravy with a little butter and flour and flavour with pepper and salt and mushroom ketchup or wine
  6. pour round the olives and serve

I think for us, the long cooking times would leave the meat tasteless and probably like old shoe leather, but maybe the sort of beef we have these days is younger and more tender.

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