Beef Rouladens aka Spanish Birds

This is a delicious and comforting traditional Czech dish that my grandma made for us when growing up. The name can be misleading because its origin actually lies in Bohemia: this dish dates back to the 16th Century, to the reign of Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Rudolf II, the eldest son and successor of  Maxmilian II and Maria of Spain.  Maria was very particular when it came to food. She would bring chefs from Spain to cook for her and her royal family. One of the known culinary specialities served at the royal banquets was a steak of veal rolled and stuffed with vegetables.

The name of the dish was later coined by Mrs Rettigova, the author of probably the most famous Czech cookbook ever written, which dates back to 1826. She also coined the well-known dish “Moravian Sparrow” which consist of roasted pieces of pork belly or shoulder marinated in garlic and caraway seeds, served with dumplings and sauerkraut.

Before getting on with the recipe I should add that no birds were harmed in the making of this dish 😉

PRE: 30 minutes           COOK: 2.5 hours          SERVES: 2-3


  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 large onion or 2 small finely chopped
  • 4 thin cuts of rump beef steak
  • 2 tbsp butter


  • 8 rashes of unsmoked back bacon
  • 1 boiled egg
  • 1 medium size carrot
  • 2 pieces of dill pickled gherkin
  • 4 tsp of Dijon mustard


  • 1.3L beef broth (1.5 Extra Rich Beef Stock Pot from Knorr)
  • 1 boiled egg
  • 1 medium size carrot
  • 4 pickled gherkin
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 pieces of all spice berries
  • 2-3 tsp all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt and pepper


Using a rolling-pin or tenderiser gently pound beef steaks to flatten them to ¼ inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper and spread 1 tsp of Dijon mustard evenly on one side of each pounded steak.

Lay 2 slices of bacon on each piece. Add a quarter of a gherkin, carrot and boiled egg. Roll the meat with the fillings tightly wrapped and bind with thread. These are your birds.

Melt the butter over a medium heat in a large skillet. Add the finely chopped onion and sauté over medium-to-high heat until soft and gold in colour (approximately 4-5 minutes). Stir frequently to avoid burning the onion.

Add the Spanish Birds to the skillet and sear them from all sides for about 2-3 minutes over high heat. Add bay leaves and all spice berries. Pour the beef broth mixture over the Birds so they are covered by 3/4. Cover with a lid and let it simmer over a low heat for 1.5 – 2 hours or until meat is soft.

When the meat is tender, carefully remove the rouladens from the hot broth with a large slotted spoon to an oven proof dish. Cover it with silver foil to keep it warm.

Now for the sauce. Add chopped vegetables (chopped, gherkins, carrot and egg), 2-3 tbs of vinegar into the skillet and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until sauce reduces by half.

Add the flour to 1 cup of water and whisk briskly with a fork to blend. Pour the flour mixture slowly into the hot broth. Increase the heat from medium to high and bring the sauce to boil. Continue to whisk frequently for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Reduce the heat to low, remove bay leaves and all spice berries from the sauce. While the sauce is bubbling remove threads from the Birds. Using a large slotted spoon carefully place the Birds back into the hot sauce, cover and warm through for a few minutes. Season to taste.

Serve with boiled rice or potato dumplings sprinkled with fresh parsley.



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