Tag Archives: British

Having a Butcher’s

12 Mar

Everyone has someone in their lives for whom it is difficult to buy presents. They seem to already have everything, and nothing gets your creative juices flowing.

I am not one of those people. If you get me something food-related, I will be a happy camper. But my excellent boyfriend went above and beyond the call of duty for my last birthday, and made me the most joyful of the all the outdoorswomen. He bought me a voucher for a butchery class at the Ginger Pig at their shop in Marylebone.

Best birthday present ever!

I won’t write a play-by-play description of the class because I think you should experience it for yourselves. But I will say that if you like to cook meat, and want a much better understanding of what quality and cut of meat to look for, this class is for you. I now know the difference between wet-aged and dry-aged beef, and the parts of the cow from which come sirloin, ribeyes, and fillet steaks.

Some highlights from the class:

– I just barely learned how to tie butcher’s knots! I never got my knot-tying badge during my short-lived period as a Girl Scout, and tying three knots took me about ten minutes of alternating tongue-sticking-out concentration with choice words questioning the knots’ intelligence, parentage, and sexual preferences.

– I also won a steak by lifting 35kg of beef and holding it out with my arms straight for four seconds. The prize-winning effort sounded like this:

Butcher: 1!

Me: OWW.

B: 2!


B: 3!


B: 4!


– At the end of the class, my classmates and I were given an amazing dinner of rib roast, potatoes dauphinoise (AKA kiss your healthy-eating streak goodbye), salad, and chocolate-laced bread-and-butter pudding for dessert. Delicious, but definitely oof-inducing.

After the class, I toddled home with my steak and the standing rib roast I’d learned to prepare.

Sexy beast.

Rib roast in the raw. Love the purples and reds!

It made a fantastic dinner for a group of friends with blanched purple sprouting broccoli, T’s heavenly Yorkshire puddings, and carrot cake for dessert (of which more tomorrow!)

Dinner is served!

Joints of beef like this one exemplify the idea that the more money you spend on a cut, the less time and effort required to make it tasty. While stewing steak takes a long simmer in a flavourful braise to reach optimum deliciousness, all a standing rib roast needs is to be rubbed with a little neutral oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and after a quick sear, to be roasted for 15 minutes per kilogram, plus an extra 15 minutes at the end, in a 180C/350C oven.

My 2.5kg roast (which fed 5) took 90 minutes to cook. After roasting it, I wrapped it in foil and left it to rest for half an hour. You will be tempted by the delicious smell of hot roast meat to cut in right away, but if you do so, you’ll lose all the meat juices and get dry roast beef. Even if your meat is no longer piping-hot when you serve it, it’s worth it for its tenderness and juiciness.

Well-rested roast beef.

Members of the Society for the Appreciation of Roast Beef.

You can find further information on Ginger Pig’s butchery classes on this website. They offer lamb, sausage-making, and pork courses too.

Delicious Bambi

8 Mar

Farmer’s markets are to me as 1-day sales are to a clotheshorse; much to my wallet’s chagrin, I tend to make impulse purchases. Two weekends ago, my spontaneous buy was a rolled venison joint from the Wild Game Co. at Broadway Market. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but temptation and T’s encouragement overruled my tentativeness.

So in a rare burst of culinary creativity, I made something up. And it worked! The joint turned into a falling-apart tender pot roast, with rich sweet-and-sour gravy.

Now, I know there are people out there who are wary of eating venison, but I think they’ve just watched Bambi too many times! Venison has an incredible flavour unlike any other meat. In its deep and earthy taste, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s flesh from a wild animal.

The important thing to remember about venison is that it’s very lean compared to other meats. Imagine a deer scampering around a forest, compared to a cow standing in a field grazing. To compensate, the meat needs long marinating and cooking time to become well and truly tender. This is not weeknight cooking. But if you want to feed friends a fantastic dinner on a Sunday, it’s not a bad way to go.

The recipe was largely inspired by my mother’s brisket. Her method is infinitely simpler (Brisket. Can of Coke. Chili sauce. Onion soup mix. Bake for six hours.) but I think my pot-roast has the same balance of sweet, tangy, and savoury flavours. The fruit, juniper, and caraway go especially well with the gaminess of the venison.

Braised Venison with Red Wine and Forest Fruits

Serves 4-5

1 1.1kg (2.5 lbs) boneless rolled leg or haunch of venison


1 750ml bottle dry red wine (I used Rioja)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 heaping tablespoons good blackcurrant or blackberry jam
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
6 juniper berries, smashed
2 bay leaves
5-6 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped and stems binned


2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 sticks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
500ml (18 oz) beef stock
1 400g tin/14 oz can chopped/diced tomatoes
70g dried cherries
salt and pepper

The night before, put the venison in a big bowl with the marinade ingredients. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat your oven to 125C (260F). In a large Dutch oven or casserole, warm the oil over a medium-low flame. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and sauté gently until the vegetables soften and start to brown, about 12 minutes.

Add the venison joint, stock, tomatoes, cherries, and what remains of the marinade. Bring to a simmer, then cover and put in the oven for 5.5 hours.

When time is up, remove from the oven and take out the venison. Leave to rest covered in foil, then carve.

Meanwhile, put the casserole on the hob over high heat, and cook down the braising liquid until it’s as saucy as you want. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with starchy and green vegetables. (I had parsnip mashed and blanched purple sprouting broccoli, but it’s your call.)

Fit for a Queen

5 Mar

Coronation Chicken was originally invented in the early 1950s to commemorate Elizabeth II’s ascent to the throne, and even in these more affluent and cosmopolitan times, the recipe is a tiny time-warp to 60 years ago. The stuff is a sandwich filling standby in the UK – go into any sandwich shop and you’ll see a fluorescent yellow mound of mayonnaise-laden, curry and chutney-spiked chicken salad studded with raisins.

My version of Coronation Chicken substitutes yogurt for mayonnaise for both health and taste reasons (there’s a future entry in my mixed emotions about mayo), uses turmeric and garam masala in place of curry powder, and ratchets up the flavor with sautéed onions and garlic. The apple and the raisins add sweetness and texture contrast to the creamy chicken. It makes a splendid lunch by itself or on toast, and is my favourite way to use up any leftover roast chicken!

Diamond Jubilee Chicken Salad (inspired by Gourmet’s Curried Chicken Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Raita)

Serves 2

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon garam masala
0.5 teaspoon turmeric
0.5 teaspoon salt
2 roasted chicken breasts or chicken thighs, shredded (from a store-bought rotisserie chicken, or you can make your own awesome roast chicken)
200g/1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Braeburn apple (or another sweet and crisp fruit), cored and diced
2 tablespoons raisins/sultanas

Heat the oil over a medium flame, then add the onions. Fry until translucent and turning soft, 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic, garam masala, turmeric, and salt, and sauté for another minute.

Scrape the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the chicken and toss until the meat is well-coated, then stir in the yogurt until everything is creamy and yellow. Add the apple and raisins, stir, and serve.

Stilton, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like Cheese

1 Mar

I’d like to think that I’m the opposite of picky. I’ll try anything once, no matter how unusual, thanks to parents who insisted that I couldn’t know if I disliked something without tasting it first. But while I’ve acquired most adult tastes, I have one prejudice left over from childhood: I don’t like unmelted cheese. Not much makes my heart sink more than the sight of a fistful of shredded cheese on top of a cold sandwich or a salad. I know the taste is innocuous compared so many other edibles in the world, but I just can’t handle it.

My few exceptions to this rule are of a strong-flavoured sort, and Number One is the smelly, craggy magnificence that is Stilton. Whether it’s tossed into spinach salad with apples and walnuts, piled onto crusty bread, or just in crumbles on the cutting board, I am an equal-opportunity consumer of the blue stuff. I just can’t get enough of its pungent umami punch.

Last week I found a new way of using Stilton: in a stew. In this particular concoction, the cheese rounds out the earthy sweetness of the beetroot and red wine and brings out the meatiness of the beef. With some crusty bread and a green salad, it’s a wonderful meal for an early-spring evening when winter hasn’t entirely loosened its hold.

Beef Stew with Beetroot and Stilton (adapted from Alan Rosenthal’s Stewed!)

Serves 3-4

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
750g/1.75lbs chuck steak, cut into 3-4cm/1.5 inch pieces
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
250ml/1 generous cup good red wine
250ml/1 generous cup beef stock
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
400g tin/14 oz can chopped/diced tomatoes
350g/12 oz raw beetroot (approx. 4 beets), peeled and cut into 2cm/1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
150g/5 oz Stilton, rind trimmed off and the rest crumbled

Preheat the oven to 140C/280F. Warm the oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. When hot, add the meat (in two batches if your pan can’t hold all the meat in one layer) and brown it all over for 3-4 minutes. Remove the meat from the pot and leave aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pot, then put in the onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and caraway seeds. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and sauté everything gently until the onion softens and starts to turn translucent, around ten minutes.

Pour in the red wine, stock, vinegar, and tomatoes and turn the heat back up to high. Be sure to scrape your spoon against the bottom of the pot to deglaze the tasty brown bits. Once everything is simmering, put in the beetroot and the beef and some salt and pepper, then put the lid on and pop into the oven for 2.5-3 hours.

When you’re about to serve, stir two-thirds of the crumbled Stilton into the stew. Ladle the stew into bowls, then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.