Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Devilled kidneys – best lunch ever?

Just a quick one because it has been a while and I'm on deadline writing about a city I haven't visited for four years. But I made, again from Fergus Henderson's book Nose to Tail Eating a lamb and barley stew last night. Very simple, and to use a Hendersonism, fortifying. While up in Meads butchers I also bought some lamb's kidneys.

To follow Nose to Tail still, I halved them so the shape is retained. I dabbed them in a mixture of flour, paprika (no cayenne) and mustard powder, threw them in a very hot pan.
Two minutes each side, with a good splash of Worcester sauce (lots here – I had to add some at the end, it takes the offally bite out) and I added some lamb stock, although it said chicken. Wait until the stock is emulsifying and then pour yourself a stout (I tried Beachy Head – sadly not great at all. It tasted immature and on the point of fermenting again – although its best is excellent) and pour the kidneys and lovely juice over some buttered toast. Eat.

More updates soon – porc rillettes or potted pork is next.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Trotters, bacon and onion

Another St John recipe - this one sounds delightful: Pot-roast bacon, trotter and prune - in fact there are few recipes in Beyond Nose to Tail that don't have a prune in it. And to demonstrate the effect this is having on my wife - I showed her a jar of prunes soaking in earl grey tea and she screamed thinking it was an eel, or worse.
Anyway, looking very similar to the prunes was the trotter gear, something I did a few weeks ago. Basically trotters boiled, and then the skin, fat and meat put in jars. This is, "something every fridge should have" and so my fridge has six (no room for tonic). Well now it has five because one large Hellaman's size of jelly, fatty, meaty trotter gear is now surrounding a piece of green pork shoulder, along with loads of prunes and a glass of white wine. And what should be loads of black pepper which I forgot, back in a sec...

...oh its smells wonderful and looks like this:

Hmm, granted not that appetising, but he prunes are fattening up, the pork turning and the trotter gear melting into a broth of fatty niceness, half an hour into the two hours on medium heat.
The skin on top is just to keep it moist. It should have been done with a smoked bacon piece, but I haven't managed to find it – even the best two butchers down in Eastbourne (Green Street and Meads) only have it sliced.

I made something similar with beans in a tomato sauce with the shoulder and it was tender and rich, so I can only imagine f it was smoked it would be even more so. Therefore to accompany it, something fresh, light and wintery - beetroot, red onion, red cabbage, creme fraiche and chervil* salad. No, I don't have chervil, so parsley is making an appearance. Grate it all, mix it up with capers...ah capers...where have you been...a 'little gesture' of balsamic and olive oil.

Bring on half past eight

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The cheek of it

I have had beef cheeks once before; it came served with a spoon. It was in a restaurant in Argentina, called La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar that gave a healthy nod to the movement to molecular gastronomy. Molecular gastronomy is often associated with Ferran AdriĆ  and the Greatest Restaurant in the World (TM), El Bulli, and Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck, known as the Greatest Restaurant in the World (TM). Neither chef, however, would describe what they do as pure molecular gastronomy, however, they do use some of the scientific and chemical principals.

How does this relate to beef cheeks? Well it is a tough piece of meat, and one of the most common applications behind molecular gastronomy is, as was once explained to me by a chef so desperate for a Michelin star I though he was going to cry under the stress (they were being released the next day), that meat, that is vacuum packed and cooked slowly, alters in molecular structure therefore making it incredibly tender. Cooking meat does this, of course. However, some cuts lend themselves to this, as do steaks. Briefly, meat packed in plastic bags, vacuumed and put into thermostated water baths. Not got one, well the Khymos blog suggests doing it yourself, by putting a steak into a plastic ziplock bag, and the in a bath for half an hour. And then flash fry it. The perfect steak.

OK, as we are being all experimental and scientific, my experiment with beef cheeks will not involve thousand pound equipment, but good on marinating and then very slow cooking.

The steps will be included in the next entry, but as I'm about to embark on it, I thought I'd share a few thoughts...

Liver bolognese

Liver is probably my least favourite offal cut. Bloody to the point of silvery to taste, it can often overwhelm the palate if it isn't carefully balanced.

I was following Simon Schama's recipe printed in the Guardian just over a year ago. Chicken livers were essential - see previous post – so I had added them along with mince beef and pork. It turned out fabulous. The taste of the liver subtly shone through what can often be a dish so overpowered with flavour it lacks direction. With the liver, it gave a deep satisfying smack of meat, and a richness that lifted it beyond its status as a quick dish. I would definitely add chicken liver again to the bolognese. It also tasted much better the day after, as you would imagine.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Bloody liver

Oops - forgot the wine...

OK, sorted red. Simon Schama recommends white if you are going to eat it that day (to melt the meat), but red wine if leaving it for a day. I put in red regardless. It will bubble for a good few hours – going sledging – and I want a rich, dark sauce for a rich rewardingly comforting dish.

In the spag: carrots, celery, loads of garlic, onion and a bit of yellow pepper I had laying around. thought about fennel, but decided against it. Sauteed nice and slow with the lid on. Once done I put in mince beef and mince pork, about half and half (It seems to be fairly agreed that a mix of cow and pig is necessary). Meanwhile I drained the pot of chicken livers of quite a lot of blood, dried them with a kitchen towel, and the sauteed them in butter that was bubbling until, as Simon Schama put it, 'the brown side of pink'. The taste was strong, meaty and bloody. I don't think that I could handle them alone (see below), but in a bolognese then it should add a dark and meaty texture often lost with minced meats.

I also found a recipe in Julia Child's (the woman in the Oscar-nominated Julia and Julia) book, which I found after seeing the film on my book shelf, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, for chicken liver mousse which I think I will definitely try, having never approached anything even remotely like that.

OK, I'm going sledging with me wife, while the bolognese sauce bubbles. Will cardboard work?

Chicken liver spag bol

My long suffering wife is a little bored of trotters, tongue and other twiddly bits. "Can we just have a spag bol tonight?". As she is spending all day teaching horse riding is a blizzard, I thought I'd better agree.

However, as Saturdays are really the only days I can experiment with the long cooking times offal often needs, I was delighted to find two Italian recipes claiming the essential ingredient is chicken livers – one by a non-culinary hero of mine, the historian Simon Schama (

He said: "Bacon is not as essential as the mashed chicken livers which, in a true bolognese sauce, are really obligatory: they give the dark substance and pungency you're after)"

So, up to Meads Village Butchers, where the young lad told me they had a run on pretty much everything because of the blizzard, got out their last pot of chicken livers.

So after an aborted attempt to walk on the snowy downs and narrow avoidance of the Ship Inn, I am home and ready to cook.

Tongue peeling

Thank you to the friends in the Ship, Meads, Eastbourne, who went over and above in trying my freshly cooked tongue (that will teach them right for showing an interest). Anyway, apart from some comments against the smell – there was pub quiz on and it was packed – those that tried it were impressed. As was my family who I forced it down. It was done for my grandad and I left him a lump for the sandwiches. Even my 11-year-old sister, Martha, tried a bit, although even peeled, it showed signs of taste buds (or what ever they are) so I had to slice some off. Some said it was 'hammy', others gobbled up seconds. It was still warm when I served it with some fresh beetroot (boiled, not roasted due to time constraints, i.e. that extra pint in the pub), however, it was cold in a sandwich the next day when it seemed in its prime. With a texture like a boiled ham, but not as tough as cold roast beef, it was delightfully tasty – a hint of fat, and the merest offal gusto. The first day I had it with just English mustard, however, it was better the next day with a bit of mayo on the other side and some crunchy lettuce.

Anyway, I would definitely do tongue again. Very easy. I would suggest that whereas the tip and middle of the tongue are leanest, it seemed the back of the tongue and the under hanging part were a bit fattier, and tastier.

A success.