meat

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melton mowbray pie
The good thing about Melton Mowbray is not only that it sounds like a place in Leicestershire, it actually is a place in Leicestershire. It’s also modifies the noun ‘pie’ to make a pie from said town that uses fresh rather than cured pork. The addition of eggs makes it a ‘gala’ pork pie and if the first thing you thought of was Dali’s wife, you’ll probably enjoy this.

Melton Mowbray pie has EU Protection of Desginated Orgin protection so this, technically, isn’t that.

The model recipe I used is the V-Tol Veal Ham and Egg Pie Recipe, which was made by Gordon Bedson, who also designed aircraft and the Mackson. Anyone like to drive a car built by Nigella Lawson? Didn’t think so.

The recipe isn’t hard but it does require doing several different things correctly. They are – making a hot water paste, boiling some meat, boiling eggs and making a jelly. The V-tol recipe explains the technical details well.

As I was using fresh pork (a bit of fillet) rather than ham, to bump up the flavour I marinated it for a few hours in white wine and a mix of bay leaf, thyme, parsley, rosemary, juniper berries and peppercorns.

The pork went into a saucepan with the marinade and herbs along with a small rack of veal and a pig’s trotter. It was then filled with water to cover and simmered for 30 minutes – skimming as necessary. After removing the pork, I kept the veal bones and the pig’s trotter in there to make a heartier stock and boost the natural gelatine. I let it simmer for another 30 minutes before filtering the stock in a seive with some paper towel in it and then reducing the filtered stock to just two cups.

By this stage you should have a pile of cubed pork and veal. Allow it to cool.

Take the reduced stock and add a leaf of gelatine that you’ve dissolved in a little heated sherry and white wine (actually it might have been calvados and white wine but I can’t remember).

Make the hot paste. It’s actually very similar to a choux pastry but with lard instead of butter, and no eggs in it. The boiling water/lard combo smells, but kneading the warm fluid dough to smoothness is surprisingly relaxing. Roll out and line a greased springform pan with it – reserving some dough for the top of the pie.

Boil the eggs – 10 minutes in boiling salted water and cool them under cold running water to stop the cooking.

So… a covering layer of meat, then encircle the eggs around the middle and fill with meat. Place pastry on top, seal the edges with a back of a spoon. Decorate suitably with the excess pastry and brush with an egg wash. It’s important to make a couple of breathing holes. Put a foil trumpet in them to allow steam to escape while cooking. These holes become useful later.

Place it all in a 200C oven for 80 minutes – just keep an eye on it to make sure the pastry doesn’t burn.

Now you just need to pour the stock into the pie via the breathing holes. It’ll take a couple of goes as it settles. Leave the pie in the fridge to cool and then serve as part of a low maintenance all meat cold buffet as illustrated below.

cold buffet

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yeah it's blurry

You can stop blurry photos like the above with a tripod, which is a three-legged thing. It’s interesting to note that there are few naturally occurring three-legged things.*

Tajines, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, refer to both the lidded slow cooking dish and the slow-cooked braise that’s cooked in it. English is reluctant to accept such ambiguity and if you’ve ever almost eaten a toaster, you’ll know why.

There are more than a few recipes for a tajine but I really like adding dried, or fresh, fruit such as chopped apricots, figs, sultanas and dates. I also like using lamb necks but shanks and diced mutton also works well. They all just melt together; you can’t identify the apricots and if you cook it long enough, you’ll just have to fish out a few bones.

It’s not dissimilar to a curry. The basic process is sautee the onions in olive oil /stir/ add the spices /stir/ add the meat and seal, then whatever fruit and veg you’re using /stir/ then the stock /stir/ and cook very slowly for a few hours with the lid on.

For spices I usually use a couple of tablespoons of ras al hanout and add a few strands saffron with the stock; meat – as mentioned; fruit – ditto; vegetables – usually diced sweet potato and then a tin of chopped tomatoes and soaked chickpeas but yes they’re pulses; enough stock – not so much to cover as to keep it all moist when lidded.

The spices are really only so much riffage on cumin and if you grind it fresh, you’ll not go wrong. Cinnamon quill? Why not.

You can add some chopped coriander at the end to lift it as well as some chopped and roasted almonds.

Another technique is to marinate the meat overnight in a combination of the spices, olive oil, a finely grated onion, and a bunch of chopped coriander and then add the lot to the pan. Seal the meat and then move to the adding the fruit and vegetables stage.

The complete dinner was home made olives, kofta and kangaroo kebabs cooked over charcoal, lots of lebanese bread, hommous, yoghurt, and the tajine with mograbieh and a beetroot salad. Tasty cheese platter and delicious homemade apple pie made an appearance. Myatt’s Field do a very nice tempranillo and eating the meal took the good part of five hours. Hot topics were iPods and children.

*I’ll acknowledge that ants have two sets of three legs.

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veal cooked in milk

I’ve just been painting the nursery (no not the one with the lamps) with this natural paint that’s entirely mineral based and cuts down on the associated non-biodegradable toxic waste. Unfortunately it’s like painting with coffee. It flies everywhere and after two coats it still looks like an undercoat (it takes three). I’ve often wondered what painting in the 17th century was like, now I know. On the plus side it avoids the speckled history of the paint industry, washes off easily enough, and doesn’t smell.

Much easier is this veal dish I made a couple of weeks ago. Not only is it easy, but it’s about as close to a perfect meal you could hope for. It’s a big call I know, but it uses a few simple ingredients that compliment the feature ingredient, is unfuckuppable and you get that elusive feeling of a really special meal without having tried to hard.

There was one minor hitch. It was in a French magazine that I get every quarter in a swap with Gracianne. It means bodgy translation from French by me and this time I found out that Cocos de Paimpol, wasn’t ‘something coconut’ but a kind of white bean from Paimpol and my friends were saved from veal cooked in coconut milk.

The veal is non-bastard veal from White Rocks Veal and cooked as one piece.

two onions
one stick of celery
six button mushrooms
1 litre full cream milk
600ml cream
rack of four veal chops

250 gm dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
three sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf

Brown the veal in a little hot oil – to the brown that you’d like to serve it at..
Sautee the onions, celery and mushrooms in a little oil in a heavy casserole. Add the rack of veal and then filled with the milk and the cream to cover. Allow to very gently simmer, covered for one hour.

Take out the veal to allow it to rest. Strain the cooking liquid and then reduce it to a sauce/one-coat roll on paint like consistency. Reducing in a wide frying pan will hasten things.

The recipe suggests cooking the beans in water for about half an hour. I thought of adding them to the casserole dish at the 25-minutes-from-finish point but ended up finishing the beans in some of the cooking liquid.

Carve the chops and serve on the beans with the sauce. See if you can manage, unlike me, to get the garnish in the middle.

Tastes fabulous, cooks perfectly, and is really only about half and hour of actual kitchen work. Don’t forget the bread.

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lamb roast

Mag’s been put to bed so that means…Sunday roast.

A few helpful things:

Lamb
You can make a nice lamb stuffing with (roughly)
a cup of fresh breadcrumbs, a knob/thumb of melted butter, 1/3 cup of fire raisins, grated lemon peel, and 2 tbs of chopped mint and 2 tbs chopped parsley and a couple of sprigs of thyme.
The shoulder of dorper lamb had already been boned and netted – I carefully peeled back the net, unrolled the lamb, spread it with stuffing and rerolled and netted it. Just let it sit for a while in some EVOO and rosemary before roasting.
You could always debone it yourself or ask a butcher, anyway these are usually called “easycarve roasts”.


Roast Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Leek Pie (not pictured)

Bit like a quichey bastila (No!). Instead of shortcrust get some sheets of filo pastry and a springform tin. Rub the tin down with butter (just the inside) and then brushing one sheet at a time with butter, line the inside of the tin. Work around the tin 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 12 o’clock, rock. A little tearing is unavoidable but if you layer it enough there should be enough overlap so the filling doesn’t run everywhere when you put it in. You can trim it or scrunch it up for a scrunchy effect – I think I used about 10 sheets of filo pastry.
For the filling – sliced leek sauteed gently in butter, small oven-roasted cubes of sweet potato, chopped broccoli – ever so slightly pre-cooked in butter, goat’s cheese, toasted sesame seeds, some thyme, oregano and salt and pepper. 8 eggs and 300mls of cream (and if you’re using Bannister Downs cream, it’s good, make sure you give the pack a bit of a shake and a squeeze).
Cooks in about 20 minutes.

Potatoes Dauphinoise
Had this at Bouchon Bistro on Friday night (which is really good) so I made it at home. The trick is cooking the potato slices in milk with a bouquet garni and nutmeg*. You ditch the milk when the potatoes have been cooking for 15 minutes. Give the casserole dish a bit of a rub with butter and cut garlic cloves. then layer the potato slices, seasoning as you go along, filling with hot cream, and topping with grated gruyere. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes.

Roasted Beetroot
Roast beetroots until skins peels off by hand. Dice and then serve with sour cream and chopped mint.

Coconut, Chocolate and Vanilla Soufflé
This is close enough to the recipe to save me typing it out. While you’re boiling the milk add a sliced vanilla bean and about 2/3 cup of dessicated coconut.

Drinking notes: Don’t know what it is but Bishops Finger is just so right at the moment.
Possible jingle:
(to tune of “L-A-C-H-L-A-N”, Your Wedding Night)
Well guests they will linger
If you’re giving the Finger

chocolate coconut vanilla souffle


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