Friday, 17 August 2012

Recipe: Bragioli (Beef Olives)

This is a Maltese dish which my husband and I both very much enjoyed eating on our honeymoon, and I decided to try and recreate it at home.

The English name of 'Beef Olive' is perhaps a little misleading, in that olives are not involved, except that the finished product is almost a giant olive shape. The dish is essentially some beef wrapped around a central stuffing, the contents of which can vary, cooked in a red wine sauce.

The recipe I used was largely from The Food & Cookery of Malta by Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia, a fantastic little book I picked up from a bookshop in Victoria, Gozo. I did adapt the recipe to serve two, though, and made a few other changes, so have reproduced my version of the recipe below.


Serves 2

2 slices of beef, thinly sliced

4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped/sliced
2 medium-sized carrots, sliced
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
150ml red wine
150ml water
A handful or two peas (fresh or frozen)

1) I fried the bacon first before adding to the stuffing, but other recipes don't say to do this. I just thought it might be nice to get a bit of colour on the bacon. I also then used the fat from the bacon left in the pan to cook everything else in - economical.
2) Make the stuffing by mixing all the stuffing ingredients together.
3) Beat the meat with a meat hammer to make it nice and thin (I used some beef escalopes, which were far too thick, and no amount of beating was going to make them thin enough - I really recommend going to a butcher and getting them to slice you some nice, thin beef!)
4) Put some stuffing on each slice of beef, leaving some of it uncovered, and roll up from the covered end. You then need to secure your beef olives - I used toothpicks, but apparently you could also use string. You should have something which looks like this, but, you know, neater, and with the right kind of beef:

5) Fry the beef olives in the olive oil (or bacon fat if you use my method) until nicely browned. Then add the onions, garlic and carrots and fry gently until softened. Add the tomato puree and stir and cook for another minute or so.
6) Add the bay leaf, wine and water, and let it bubble for a few minutes.
7) Turn the heat down, cover the pan, and simmer gently for 1 hour.
8) Five minutes before the end of cooking time, add the peas.

It's probably a good idea to remove the toothpicks before serving, but I had trouble getting mine out!


As with all Maltese recipes, there are lots of different versions. The bragioli we had in Malta had minced beef inside; other recipes use minced veal or pork. Some have the addition of cheese. I liked this bacon and egg variety though, and will definitely make this again, as it was delicious!

Below are some links to some different bragioli recipes, should you wish to try any of these variations:

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