Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Archive for March, 2013

The right ingredients

We now know we have been duped over the years by all sorts of people in the supply chain.  From unscrupulous suppliers (or possibly organised crime gangs) to meat processors to processed meat assemblers to the supermarkets to our governments both national and international.  And they may eventually get around to changing labelling practice in a few years time.  In the meantime, there is an easier way to ensure your health and well being.  It’s time to re-acquaint yourself with your friendly local butcher.

This has been the one good news bit to fall out of the horse-meat scandal.  (I will not go over old ground – but horse-meat is not the problem – it’s the fact that we didn’t know and the whole of the supply chain colludes in making sure we don’t know).  Butchers have been the winners – every cloud does have a silver lining.

One of our butchers in Devon has a sign he put up around Turkey time.  “Your butcher is for all the year – not just Christmas!”  A fine sentiment, that doesn’t usually have much impact.  Until the recent scandal, that is!

We queued out of the door on Saturday at our local butcher in Bourne End.  The weather here is lousy at the moment.  Grey.  Wet.  Cold, easterly wind.  Early spring, in other words.  Daffodils are up though, and we have a pair of long tailed tits feeding in our garden with a gorgeous thrush hopping about and singing like mad too.  But the weather drives us to comfort food.

I had beef stew with dumplings and mash in mind.  I asked if he had some shin of beef, and asked for a large pound of it.  Shin needs to be slow cooked.  But when he brought it out, I thought it was a fillet of beef.  (RAW MEAT WARNING – the photo you are about to see may make vegetarians a little queasy…)  I would normally get Neil to cut it up for us, because their knives are just better than mine.  But I was already licking my lips and forgot to ask!  And you wouldn’t have the photo if it were all chopped up.

The best bit

The best bit

Slow cooker out of storage, as it is quite the best way of cooking a casserole.  I started with a frying pan though, because I like to give it a good kick start.  Sweated a mixture of onions and a shallot.  Then fried up the meat cubes coated in flour (seasoned with paprika, salt and black pepper), followed by brown cap mushrooms.  That’s it.  I used to always use Guinness for the liquid – but didn’t have any, but did have some red wine.  So, I swilled out the gorgeous stuck on bits out of the frying pan (chefs call this de-glazing).  Added a squirt of balsamic glaze, a spoonful of mustard, 2 bay leaves, some dried herbs and a tablespoon of mushroom ketchup.  I needed some more liquid, so just added water to cover the meat.  Here’s my added extra fun ingredients.  I ground up some (7) juniper berries in a mortar and pestle.  Washed that in with some lemon juice.  And finally added a good sprinkle of nutmeg.  (Trust me, it works)

Day 2 'leftovers'

Day 2 ‘leftovers’

Why did I do such a large portion?  And twice as much mashed potato and carrot & turnip, as we needed?  Simple.  This is what I call intentional left-overs.  Today’s meal will be easy and micro-waved.  The dumplings were a great comfort too.  Don’t you just love bad weather?

National Pie Week

Yes it was National Pie week – last week.  And you didn’t know?  Shame on you!

I didn’t either. But we were away in Devon for the weekend and visited one of our favourite pubs – The Ring O’ Bells in Chagford, on Dartmoor.

It really is a nice place (written before – they do have lunch sized portions as well as large – which suits us fine).

The deal was £10 for a Pie and a Pint – well, we couldn’t resist.  Three were on offer: Beef and Ale; Chicken and Leek; and venison with Juniper and cranberry.  naturally, as I have written this last, you know which one we had.

Hot lard pastry isn’t the easiest thing to make.  When myOld Bull & Bush mate Julian had a go recently, and he managed to get covered in an explosion of flour as he poured the hot fat in.  Unpleasant and a little scary!  But chef at the pub had done wonders as he usually seems to.  Good mash, splendid root veg and cabbage, and a stand alone pie.  Presented with a quarter cut out and pulled back to reveal the wonderful concoction within.

In best “pie” tradition, the gravy was very thin- ‘pie and liquor’  as it was called in London.

The problem with profit in a pub that feeds you so well is that we didn’t have room for pudding.  As ever though, it guarantees our return, sooner rather than later.

I am already looking forward to National Pie week 2014!

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