In honour of 100 years passing since the outbreak World War 1, I decided to try and recreate a front-line trench staple, Maconochie. Originally named after the Aberdeen Maconochie Company that produced this soup/stew concoction, many said that when warm it could range from anywhere from horrid to ‘OK’ but when cold ‘it was a man killer’, with people complaining the potatoes within it looked like small black rocks.
Apparently there is also a French version called: Maconóochie and a Polish version called: Maconochski (not really, made that last one up). So here’s the recipe, see below for my review.
Makes 4 servings or 2 servings for a big hungry trench soldier of someone greedy like me
- 340g beef (or one can of corned beef*)
- 140g potatoes
- 3 carrots
- 1 onion
- A tin of white beans (I think I used butter)
- 2-3 big mugs of beef stock depending on how runny you like it
- Plain flour to thicken
- 2 tbsp (lard or rendered beef fat – I used Lurpak)
- Salt to taste
- Cut the beef into small pieces
- Cut potatoes and carrots into ½’ thick slices and chop onions as well
- Boil in a little water the beef, potatoes, carrots and onions until tender, use a slotted spoon to remove from the broth
- I then used a griddle and add cooked the potatoes, carrots, onions, beans and beef over medium heat, making sure to brown the beef
- Return the ingredients back to the stock and use the flour to thicken a little
- Cook until thickened
- Salt to taste
- For a real treat, serve with hard Army biscuits (have no idea what these are though but doubt very much in the day of Penguins etc. these would be deemed ‘a treat’)
So the soup was very easy to make, rough chopping and simple ingredients only but it definitely had a war time appearance, brown and un-enticing. The flour I added to it didn’t entirely mix in, leaving it with white pocks which took a lot of stirring to get rid of (my fault). The smell of the kitchen was delicious though, fried onions and beefy wafts, yum.
Instead of rough cuts of rationed meat, I used organic beef from Sainsburys and cooked it on a griddle. Don’t think they had these things in the trenches but I have to say the outcome was that the meat was INCREDIBLY tough. Forget black potato rocks, this was like diamond hard chunks of lead. I had to navigate my way around them when eating to avoid a potential choking hazard. A slow cook would be much more advisable than how I did it. You can also use corned beef, tempted …?
When cooled, maconochie also gathered quite a hefty film of fat which was slightly disconcerting but which quickly dissipated once re-heated, nay bother.
Cost: 6 pound sign out of 10 (Organic beef was a mistake considering it tasted like boot)
Tastiness: 4 tongues out of 10 (It was very comforting but taste was simple)
Complexity: 3 labyrinths out of 10 (Very simple to make, perhaps harder to make it nicely)
Overall: 4 ladles out of 10
A very underwhelming outcome for this soup but I very much enjoyed learning the history of it although do worry that the original version was infinitely better than my re-hashed version with extra flour.