Beef Tagine with Apples, Sesame, and Raisins

DSC_0540.aJPGI love summer food; love the shift from stovetop to grill and outdoor eating, the fresh vegetables, and the salads, berries, and summer fruit. But with the advent of warm weather, I have to set aside BRAISING, which is my favorite way to prepare meat. Braising, in which (usually) meat is (usually) first browned and then cooked slow and low in liquid, is the best way to cook cheap cuts of meat (unless you plan to barbecue them – more about barbecue and a fabulous weekend competing with friends at the British Barbecue Society’s Grassroots Shake and Sauce – and winning the prize for Best Newcomers! – in another post). But in hot weather, the thought of turning your kitchen into a sauna courtesy of a six-hour braise is only slightly less appealing than the thought of eating the stew that results. Moroccans, however, have mastered the hot-weather braise. I’m speaking, of course, of the tagine. Continue reading

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Mexican Milk-Braised Brisket

DSC_0288aAlmost exactly a year ago, I ate at El Suadero, the Monday night Mexican pop-up at Sitka and Spruce in Seattle, which is where I had the unforgettable eponymous milk-braised veal brisket that inspired this dish. Sometime after I returned to London, I set about finding boneless rolled veal brisket, which is what I decided that I needed to recreate it. Starting from the premise that I would only buy free-raised veal, I bought two rolled veal briskets from the lovely people at the Wild Beef Company, which sometimes trades at the Borough Market, and excitedly told my father what I planned to make. My father, who is not a religious man but can have a cruel streak, intoned ominously, “Thou shalt not seethe the calf in its mother’s milk.” Continue reading

Beef Rendang

DSC_0118aWhen we were all a little younger than we are now (i.e., college-aged), it seemed that everyone fell into two camps on the subject of New Year’s resolutions. We were ardent believers, list-makers, inquisitive interrogators (“what are your New Year’s resolutions?”). Or we were hardened cynics. New Year’s resolution haters. I have to confess I fell more into the first category. I was extremely anxious if I hadn’t identified my New Year’s resolutions by Christmas, and I took them very seriously. The problem is: the day after one of the most dedicated partying nights of the year is not the best time for personal fortitude. Nor was it possible (for me, anyway) to rectify personality defects by sheer force of will. By mid-February, if I made it that far, like almost everyone else I invariably had broken my resolutions.

Now that we are older and the gloss of our idealistic zeal has been tarnished by years of hard living, the best that most of us can manage is a dry January. That is why I propose that we take a leaf from the book of that lofty body the United Nations, and adopt the more gentle practice of making non-binding New Year’s resolutions. The high-minded sentiment is there, without the guilt. Continue reading

Braised Short Ribs with Cepes

Since my move to Bermondsey, my Saturdays have fallen into a pattern. I get up early, so I can get to the Butchery (now only a five minute walk from my flat) soon after they open. Then I slaver over the meat case, which Nathan the butcher and his young disciples have stocked full of lovely cuts of rare breed meat. Then I count my money, which usually isn’t enough. (Like most of the Maltby Street traders, the Butchery only takes cash.) After I’ve made my purchases, I call friends Jess and Will, who (I like to imagine) have been waiting by their phones like addicts waiting for a call from their dealer, and I announce what I’ve bought. My first Saturday back from Seattle, it was, “dry-aged Dexter flatiron, Old Spot streaky bacon, and marrow bones!” Two weeks ago: “Two whole pork jowls!” And last week: “two kilos of white park dry-aged short ribs! Oh my god they’re so beautiful! Streaky bacon! And one-and-a-half kilos of marrow bones!” Continue reading

Braised Baby Artichokes with Chestnut Honey and Thyme

In the microuniverse of blogging, there are few controversies more spirited than the debate over sponsored posts and advertising. I personally don’t like advertising banners and badges on blogs – they’re distracting, unsightly, and (perhaps irrationally) they make me slightly suspicious of the blogger. My attitude may be self-indulgent – after all, great segments of bloggers’ conferences are devoted to “monetizing” your blog. (I admit I have never been to a bloggers’ conference.) But I figure this is MY blog and I can do what I like with it. I sneeringly turned down advertisements from a reputable Large London Grocer and I have decidedly mixed feelings about blogging restaurant reviews from places that offer free meals in exchange for a review. (Chris, at Cheese and Biscuits, does a nice job of describing the queasy internal conflict that goes along with the freebie here. He gets way, WAY more freebies than I ever will.)

All that said, however, I have a slightly different attitude to products. I think this is probably because I make everything from scratch and it’s hard to hide behind a raw ingredient. Plus if I’m lucky it gives me the opportunity to cook with something that I might not otherwise have tried. I’m pretty choosy about what I’ll accept – I have to like the people that are offering the item to me; e.g., I have to respect their ethos and their approach to food-sourcing. But I was pretty excited when the nice folks at Seggiano (a small family-run Italian food importer) invited me to choose some items from their catalogue. A box duly was delivered on Monday, and yesterday I took a crack at creating a recipe from one of the most intriguing of the contents: chestnut honey. To be clear: I got the honey for free, but I am not otherwise being paid to write this post. Continue reading

Rabbit Ragu

For a long time I didn’t ‘get’ rabbit. “It tastes just like chicken,” people told me. Why not eat chicken, then, I wondered. It was like frog’s legs (which, by the way, taste like chicken only if one imagines one’s chickens cold-blooded and amphibious). I.e., it seemed to me like bourgeois foodie one-upmanship. And there’s the cute factor. When I tweeted about making this ragu, someone replied mournfully that their father had killed their pet rabbit and they never got over it. I too had a pet bunny as a child, and I have cats, and the little rabbit carcasses uncomfortably remind me of my kitties. But if you are a carnivore, wild rabbit is about the most sustainable meat you can eat. Rabbits breed, well, like bunnies (apparently a wild rabbit will have five to six litters a season), unlike most animals we eat they spend their whole lives outdoors, they are killed humanely, and the meat consists entirely of lean white-meat protein. Rabbit beats all or almost all other lean meats for protein to fat ratio. In the UK, you can buy a whole two to three kilo wild rabbit for about £4, which, considering that nearly all of that is usable meat, is extraordinarily good value for those of us trying to cook well on a budget. And rabbit doesn’t really taste like chicken, any more than monkfish tastes like lobster.

When I’m cooking lean gamey muscular meat, I like to do three things to it, usually in this order: marinate it; braise it; and stew it. It’s a lengthy process, but once you’ve determinedly battered at the collagens with low, slow cooking, the meat relaxes, absorbs all the delicious braising juices, and attains mythic proportions of deliciousness. The first time I cooked a rabbit ragu I was astonished by how flavourful it was. The meat stood up to the rich sauce, maintaining its density and distinct, subtle flavour. The first time I cooked a rabbit ragu was also the first time I jointed a rabbit. Nobody had ever showed me how, and it’s possible that actual butchers and chefs would throw up their hands in disgust at my efforts, but it wasn’t too difficult.

When you are buying a rabbit (if you’re motivated by environmental concerns, do cook wild rabbit – farmed rabbits have almost the same impact on the environment as farmed chickens), look for a rabbit with firm, dark-pink flesh and a sweet smell. Rabbits shouldn’t smell particularly gamey. You probably will start out with something that looks like this (tender-hearted vegetarians, don’t read further; this blog post has bunny carcass photos): Continue reading

Braised Oxtail with Red Wine and Shallots

If you’re anything like me, you keep the bones from any meat you’ve cooked and use them for stock. I’m a bit fanatical about this: after I ate the Hawksmoor Breakfast, I was so distressed by the thought of all the lovely marrow bones and carcasses from our feast going to waste that I asked for the bones in a doggy bag. (The servers were maybe a little more snarky about my request than they needed to be – but who cares? The stock I made from those bones was fantastic.) I’ve blogged about making white chicken stock, and there’s also a similar concoction called white veal stock made from veal marrow bones, but 99% of the time what I have to hand is beef bones, and I make a brown beef stock. Continue reading

Braised Pheasant with Lentils

The great revelation for me when I moved to London was the availability of affordable game. In the United States, unless you hunt or know someone who does, it is very difficult to find anything more exotic than duck without paying through the nose for it. (Even duck is prohibitively expensive.) This is particularly true in New York City, where I grew up. Wild game? Forget about it. So it was with great excitement (seriously) that I realized in London, not only could I find game, I could actually afford it and get really good at cooking it. Continue reading

Braised Shoulder of Venison with Damsons and Juniper

It is autumn.

YESSSS.

I love cooking in the summer (although I must admit I love it a wee bit less now that I don’t have a grill or a garden) but I REALLY love autumn food. In London, meat purveyors start selling game at prices I can afford and the weather is cool enough so that braised meats are exactly what you want for dinner. Last weekend I took my dad to the Marylebone Farmer’s Market where, as usual, I indulged my addiction to Guernsey cream (more about how I used that in another post), bought some beautiful ripe damsons, and got a gorgeous venison shoulder. Venison in general is a very lean meat, and venison shoulder is a chunk of muscle that gets worked a lot. The best thing to do with a piece of meat like this is braise the hell out of it. Continue reading