The Russians have—or perhaps, I should say, had (as everything good is now in the past tense in Russia)— a way of making a glorified " meat ball," not with "left-over" meat, but with the best possible lean uncooked beef. This recipe was given to me by the late Serge Diaghileff, who was not only a great producer and organiser of Russian ballets, but also a great connoisseur of good food.


1 lb. of lean beef, preferably from the fillet, 1/4 lb. of butter, 5 dessertspoonfuls of bread, soaked in milk, 3 tablespoons of cream (in Russia they use sour cream), 3 tablespoons of good stock, salt and pepper. Oil or butter for frying.


Remove all fat or gristle from the meat, and cut into small pieces with a sharp knife. Divide the butter and the bread into quite small pieces, and chop all very finely and mix thoroughly. Season highly with salt and pepper. On no account should all this be put through a mincer—it must be chopped with a knife. On a well-floured board divide into as many bitoques as required, sprinkle and roll them in flour, and shape into small oval steaks, just over half an inch thick. Have ready a pan of boiling oil or very hot butter, and put the bitoques in it. Reduce the heat—or, better still, put the pan on a boiling-mat—and cook very slowly for 15 minutes, turning them occasionally. When done, put on a hot dish, remove the fat from the pan—without, however, rinsing or cleaning it—put the cream and stock in it, replace on the fire, and stir well with a wooden spoon. Pour this over the bitoques. In Russia, as I said, sour cream is used for this, but the same flavour may be obtained by adding a squeeze of lemon juice to fresh cream.