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Sam’s historical recipe corner: Beef olives

Here, we take a step back in time and recreate some historical recipes for you to try at home

Published: October 8, 2014 at 9:31 am
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This article was originally published in the October 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine


In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates beef olives – a deliciously traditional dish enjoyed across Europe.

I’ve often heard about beef olives but in never sounded that appetising. I didn’t realise though that I’ve been eating if for years. My German grandmother would often cook rouladen, which is the same as beef olives, and it’s delicious!

I have early memories of my mum pounding meat with a rolling pin, which I’m sure was for roulade. Most parts of Europe have their equivalent recipes and one of the earliest I found was in Hannah Glasse’s 1747 book, The Art of Cookery. I based my dish on a modern version from bbcgoodfood.com.


  • 400g of beef thinly sliced (any cut)
  • 1 tbsp of dijon mustard
  • 1 medium onion
  • 220g celery
  • 150g carrot
  • 250ml red wine
  • 600ml beef stock
  • 2 tbsp of passata

For the stuffing:

  • 1 small onion
  • 3 rashers of smoked bacon
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 1 tsp of thyme leaves
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil


Preheat the oven to 175˚C. Fry the onions, garlic and mushrooms until soft. Add to the raw bacon and set aside: this is your stuffing.

Place the beef on a flat surface and beat with a rolling pin or food hammer until very thin – this part is very satisfying!

Spread each beef slice with the mustard, add the stuffing and then roll the beef slice (with the stuffing inside). Secure with a cocktail stick or string. Fry on all sides until brown and place in an oven-proof dish.

Fry the remaining onion, carrot and celery in a pan for five minutes. Add passata, red wine and beef stock and stir. Pour over the beef olives and cook in the oven, with a lid on, for three hours.

Remove the beef olives from the dish and keep warm. Blend the remaining sauce until no lumps remain.

My verdict

This was really delicious, despite the fact I let it cook too long so the gravy vanished (as you can see from the photo). But with mashed potatoes and gravy, it’s a very hearty dinner.

Difficulty: 5/10


Time: 210 mins


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