I read the perfect Cold War thriller in October. International intrigue, double agents, and recipes at the end of every chapter. It was a gripping blend of spycraft, geopolitics, and Soviet cuisine.

For folks who can’t handle the adult themes and language in Red Sparrow*, I’m happy to share one of the best recipes from retired-CIA-officer Jason Matthews’ book: A hearty beef stew that takes 45 minutes to cook.

Bon appetit!


  • 2 Tbl. flour (for dusting)
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 4 stalks thyme, leaves removed and chopped with scissors in a cup
  • 2 pieces of bacon, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 packet of beef stew meat, cubed
  • 2-3 c. Beef (or chicken) stock
  • 2 Tbl dijon mustard
  1. Season and dust the beef cubes with salt, pepper, and flour. Heat skillet until hot and brown beef aggressively. Remove to a plate.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and saute bacon, onion, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and thyme together until soft.
  3. Return beef to pan, cover everything with beef broth, and simmer, uncovered, until the meat is tender.
  4. Blend in dijon mustard and serve.

The result is a textured and hearty stew that is even more delicious in the days that follow. KIller spy cuisine, if you know what I mean.

*This book is R-rated for language, themes, and explicit material (our Soviet protagonist is trained in seduction in an environment that is clinical and explicit). It is shocking and violent at times and definitely not for the faint of heart. I love reading about Cold War espionage but I don’t have any illusions about how brutal it was and this book doesn’t hold back, either. The recipes are delightful though — heavy and rich in an increasingly carb-free world.