3:10 PM September 28, 2022
My Real Meat Cookbook was published thirty years ago, with the message that far from wanting to encourage carnivores, we should be eating much less but ‘better’ meat.
I wrote about meat from animals raised to the highest welfare standards, often rare breeds, so important to the biodiversity of these islands. Meat produced in this way is expensive, a treat for high days and holidays, and this was the thesis of my book, crammed full of recipes to last a lifetime of eating meat only occasionally.
How relevant today, with the price of meat and products such as butter, cream and cheese rising apace, not to mention the cost of switching on the oven for the Sunday roast, which will probably soon be regarded as a culinary curiosity.
My oven is switched off. I have, in recent weeks, dusted down a pressure cooker, a slow-cooker and a venerable Breville Country Kitchen cast iron electric frying pan; pieces of kit I acquired early on in my career as a food writer, and not much used since. All of these I have been using to cook so-called lesser cuts of meat, from ribs, bellies and legs; less expensive perhaps, but so very tasty.
I use the pressure cooker – actually a compact and easy to handle pressure frying pan – for smaller cuts, such as pork ribs and lamb shoulder shanks. Last week I used it for my favourite pork and rice with Iberian aromatics, frying sliced onion and celery, then adding diced pork belly – with the skin on for the lovely lip-sticking finish, a splash of fino, some pimenton dulce and a little water; use stock, if you have it, and saffron if you can. I cooked it under pressure for 15 minutes and let the pressure drop. Then I added 100 grams of Valencia rice and 150 ml water, together with salt and pepper and brought the pan up to pressure for another 15 minutes. In a conventional oven I usually cook this dish for at least an hour, adding the rice half way through.
The slow cooker came into its own with a piece of brisket. Again, I browned it all over, put it into the ceramic pot, tucked some halved shallots, carrot chunks and celery around the meat, added some seasoning, rosemary, a bay leaf and a splash of red wine. I put it on at 10am and it was perfect for dinner. This is going to become a winter favourite, served with horseradish mash. I will report in due course on the meatloaf, roasting, as I write, in my electric skillet.
On a local note, let us congratulate Pomona for celebrating their twentieth anniversary. Under Martin and Leslie’s careful stewardship, this excellent shop goes from strength to strength, with fabulous and carefully sourced produce, much of it organic, whether cheese, meat, charcuterie or wine. I have a weakness for the chanterelles they sell at this time of year. They might sound expensive, but you only need about a hundred grams to make one of our favourite vegetarian dishes, a gratin of waxy potatoes and wild mushrooms. Without an oven, of course, the cheese on top does not brown in the microwave, but a scattering of parsley covers the gap.
On a vegetable note, I have just seen that the shallots I bought recently, not from Pomona, have come from New Zealand. New Zealand? Hello, air miles? To quote our new Prime Minister: That. Is. A. Disgrace.
– Credit: Frances Bissell
Gratin of wild mushrooms and potatoes (Serves 2)
400 g waxy potatoes
100 g chanterelles or 200 g mixed mushrooms
Butter or olive oil
100-150 ml double cream or crème fraîche
100 ml milk
100 g grated cheese – see recipe
Finely chopped parsley
Slice the potatoes and par-boil until not quite tender. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Ideally, they should not be washed, just brushed or lightly scraped to remove any debris. Slice if large or leave whole, and gently fry in a mixture of butter and olive oil until just cooked through. The chanterelles have such a distinctive flavour that the smaller quantity is sufficient. If using oyster or chestnut mushrooms I would increase the quantity.
To assemble, butter an oven-proof or microwave-safe dish. Layer the potatoes and mushrooms, adding seasoning as appropriate, finishing with potatoes on top. Beat the milk and cream and pour over the potatoes. Scatter on the cheese. I have variously used Lancashire, Gruyère and Cantal; all good.
Bake for 30 minutes in a conventional oven, pre-heated to 180 or so, or cook on 600 w in the microwave for 4 to 5 minutes. Check and turn the dish round, then cook for a further 4 minutes. Let it stand for a few minutes before serving, and hide the lack of crustiness with a scattering of parsley.
©Frances Bissell 2022. All rights reserved.