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by Arabella Boxer (Penguin Fig Tree, 2012)

One of the most treasured titles in my library is the original Arabella Boxer Book of English Food, and I wrote about it in my very first book, How To Eat and, indeed, used a recipe from it. I am so glad this seminal volume - with it's compendious knowledge, elegant wit and range of recipes - has now been reprinted; she is an inspiring writer and deserves a new generation of reader. I have chosen this recipe for beef olives for two reasons: the first being that it has almost gone from popular memory; the second, my maternal grandmother used to make them.

Beef Olives

One of the best of the old dishes, rarely seen today. This would have been served for Saturday Lunch in a country house.

Serves 6


  • 6 thin slices of buttock steak or topside
  • 55g shredded suet
  • 30g soft white breadcrumbs
  • 2 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 45g butter
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced
  • ½ tablespoon flour
  • 275ml beef or chicken stock


  1. Lay the slices of beef on a sheet of cling film and cover with another sheet. Beat them out until very thin. Trim the edges to make a roughly rectangular shape; chop the trimmings and put them in a basin with the suet and breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the bacon, orange rind, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix well, adding the beaten egg, then divide the stuffing between the 6 slices of beef. Roll each one up and tie with string.
  3. Melt the butter in a casserole and brown the sliced vegetables quickly, stirring constantly. When they have coloured, take them out and put in the beef olives. Brown them on all sides, then remove them also.
  4. Shake the flour into the casserole and blend with the butter. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then add the heated stock and stir till blended, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Put the vegetables back into the pan, and lay the olives on them.
  6. Cover and cook gently for 1½ hours, either on top of the stove or in a low oven, 170°C/gas 3.
  7. To serve, remove the string and lay the olives on a bed of mashed potato. Spoon the vegetables over the top, moistening with the sauce.