The inspiration for this recipe comes from the Lika region of central Croatia, where game meat is very much the norm. It’s forested and rural, it’s mountainous and it’s a haven for anyone that has a penchant for hunting.
I had some beef cheeks sitting in the freezer so I thought I’d try a Croatian recipe that comes from the Lika region. It’s generally made using venison, cooked casserole-style with beetroot and a few other tid bits. My use of collagen-rich beef cheek has the result of meltingly-rich meat in a thick, beetroot-stained sauce that screams for lots of bread to mop the plate clean.
When I saw a recipe on a Serbian blog I was inspired to add something to my casserole, topping it with little scone-like biscuits, just as Jelena did on her turkey casserole. I followed her recipe fairly closely but instead of cured ham I used finely ground pork crackling as well as a little freshly grated beetroot for flecks of colour. Pre-made crackling is available at some Eastern European deli’s but I just roasted up a piece of pork rind myself. You can get the rind at most butchers, so all you need to do is ask for it.
Heat a large saucepan over a high flame, add the oil and seal each piece of beef on both sides. Remove the beef and set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium-high and, using the same pan, add a little more oil and sauté the onions for a few minutes until soft. Add the garlic and bacon and sauté for a couple more minutes. Add the beetroot and wine, then add the seared beef, stock and seasoning. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Top the saucepan with a lid, leaving a gap for steam to escape. Cook for approximately 2 hours, or until the beef is very tender, stirring regularly.
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Mix the flour and baking powder and rub in the butter. Add the crackling, parmesan, beetroot and parsley, rubbing with your fingers to combine. Gradually add the milk until it just comes together. You may not need all of the milk so go with how it feels.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the work surface, place the dough in the centre and flatten it, then top with another piece of plastic wrap. Using a pin, roll the pastry to 5 mm thickness. Remove the top layer of plastic and, using a 3 cm cutter, cut rounds from the rolled dough.
Place the cooked beef & beetroot stew in a large casserole dish, or several small ramekins, top with the rounds of dough and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley and a generous scoop of sour cream.