Archive | beef RSS feed for this section

Oxheart Revisited

15 Oct

I bloody love Brideshead. So does my friend Lauren. And on the last hot day of summer, we were finally converted to the baroque.

By Brisdeshead, I obviously mean the 1981 BBC version. Nothing else will do. I’m not sure if its Jeremy ‘rubs-thighs’ Irons, or the Oxford connection, or the phrase “I’m sorry about your pig”, but together it is sublime. Castle Howard is really the star though – much more than Jezza, or even ole Gielgud.

The other excitement waiting for me at Castle Howard was the butchery there, where they claim to have a good range of offal. FYI they do. And the butchers are lovely! And I got a haul of black pudding, sausages and … an ox heart!

A breakfast of kings went down the following day. But I was most excited about the ox heart! From the estate. Imaginary Catholic-guilt-wine-tasting-idolent-summer-interwar-halcyon-days-heart. Hearts are big. I really wanted to treat the Bridey (the heart) nicely, so decided to treat Bridey as if the cut was a roasting one – but pot-roasting.

First you have to prepare your heart. Abattoirs slash all hearts to check that they are healthy, so it does sort of butterfly open already. Remove the bits of sinew.

Here I am pulling the sinewy heart strings out. Pulling on Bridey’s heart strings. (I wouldn’t actualy sigh over Bridey, but I like the sound/concept.)

Did you know you can put your fist through the blood vessel of a cow? I didn’t until I tried. That’s how big cows are. Massive.

They were a couple of other things I wanted to do with my heart, as well as roasting it, so I sliced a nice muscular part of it off, for a rainy day … you’ll see what I mean …

Next was time to cook my heart. I used the slow cooker. I mean, why wouldn’t you? A better term if you don’t have a slow cooker would be casseroled whole heart, I guess. The idea is to cook a whole heart and then serve it as if its a joint (practise for Christmas really).

What I did was to put the heart in the slow cooker, cover it with water (maybe only just, so a little sneaky bit of heart peeps above the surface) and then cooked it on high for 6 hours. You can see its lying on a bed of onions, carrots and swede. There’s also quite a lot of fresh rosemary tucked around. Snuggly. Turn it over half way through the cooking time.

 

Here I am, doing some carving. Heart makes lovely slices. If I ran a delicatessen counter, I would totally sell slices of cold heart. (Puns about that on a postcard – or the comments – please …)

As you can see, a lovely gravy is made by the veg and the meat together, nothing else added.

Check the grain of that meat out! And it was super tasty. And only a few ingredients. Simple, delicious snackage. The heart was fresh and tender and tasted beefy. BEEFY. But in quite a sophisticated way. I will definitely cook ox heart again. I think it is my favourite of all the hearts.

You can also use it cold in sandwiches. Here is my train baguette. Baguette de coeur de boeuf. Baguette de coeur de boeuf de la Castle ‘Oward.*

 

Castle Howard (*cough cough* Brideshead) suits me, doesn’t it?**

*Can you tell my French is less good than my German – Blutpfankuchen indeed!

** I just realised and stood in front of the sign that said son’t stand on the steps. Sorry. Don’t do that.

 

Advertisements

The versatility of Cold Oxtail – part 2

18 Sep

In the part the first, we saw an ox tail ramen soup made purely from the ox tail stock. You can find that post here. It was of course concerned with the stock. Now we turn our salivating attention to the meat. Lovely, sticky, cardomanny, tamarindy meat.

The reson I decided to cook an ox tail and eat it cold was due to the paucity of cold offal snacks available to your average offaltarian. Do you ever see kidney sandwiches in the supermarket? No. Is there a liver salad waiting to be dressed in the chilled cabinet? No. I work. Sometimes I get tired of cheese sandwiches. Or tongue sandwiches (also packets of cold pressed tongue are phenomenally expensive – 75p per slice – I’m not Midas). Anyway you don’t get pre-made tongue sandwiches in Leeds.

So, to cold lunches. Salad. And ox tail. Ox tail salad. Lordy lordy! I was well addicted to ox tail salad for a while.

Here is one salad I made. I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by telling you how to make a salad. This one was based around spinach, broad beans, oxtail and a stale packet of mixed nuts.

Here is a tupperware salad, made of spinach, coleslaw mix and ox tail.

The secret behind these salad is of course the dressing. This I will tell you about, at length and naturally in excruciating detail, for my laws on salad dressing are Gospel.

The joke is, my dressings are pretty easy. Oil (I use Neals Yard Beauty Oil) which is a blend of hemp, avocado, flax seed, pumpkin seed and evening primrose oils. I think it tastes really nice. Then I use usually either lemon or lime juice. And I’ll add maybe some garlic, or some harissa, maybe mustard!

This summer I got well into flavouring my own vinegars! The idea first came to me on the old herb course as vinegars are another traditional way to preserve the qualities of medicinal herbs. I didn’t make any medicine-grade vinegars, but I did make strawberry vinegar, thyme vinegar and honeysuckle vinegar. Now I’m adept at the vinegar-making, I’m going to make some Autumn vinegars too – bramble and elderberry are on the list.

Again, it’s another fancy thing that’s really simple to do. For the strawberry vinegar, you add some strawberries to some cider vinegar, leave it on the windowsill for a week then strain. For the honeysuckle a couple of weeks. For the thyme one month. Strain and bottle.

Ox tail salads, in their infinite variety, are IMMENSE. Next time you buy one, reserve some meat and eat it cold. Yumyumyum!

The versatility of Cold Oxtail – part 1

11 Sep

Apart from cooked sliced tongue, it’s quite hard to find offal that will go in sandwiches. You can’t even find a ready-made sandwich with offal in (unless you’re counting sausage, but then they invariably have ketchup in which I just can’t stomach). Kidney sammich, anyone? To remedy this I slow-cooked a lovely oxtail with the express purpose of using it cold. Oh yes. You can’t keep me in that box. I’m not Schroedinger’s Cat.

Here is my lovely ox tail from Walsingham Farm Shop – a present from my Mum – and you should definitely visit if you’re in Norfolk. I meant to take a picture of the label (which specifies some details about the beast that provided the tail), but forgot – however there is a great page about their suppliers on the website. This sort of transparency in origin is what was emphasised in my abattoir visit. Yet I do remember, growing up in Lincolnshire, it being perfectly normal to know who farmed the animals you were eating (and you probably wouldn’t trust a butcher who couldn’t tell you).* I decided to add some flavours and chose black cardoman, tamarind and mugwort. I shouldn’t have put the mugwort in as the stronger flavours swallowed it up …

Then you cover it all with water and I slow cooked it on high for about six hours. The next step was to separate the meat from the stock, and then the bones from the meat. You will have a jug of beefy, taily deliciousness and a bowl of juicy, beefy meat.
I put both of them in the fridge and waited to use them.

The first thing I wanted to use was the delicious stock, so I had a stab at making a beef noodle soup. Of course, all the fat had risen to the top of the stock, so I scraped a lot of it off, used some to fry my peppers and put the rest away for later use.

It had set into a jelly (because of the lovely bones) – with a nice spicy layer at the bottom of thicker gravy. It all goes in! I really wanted to taste the stock, so kept the rest quite simple. I fried some onion and peppers, then added some rehydrated seaweed, the stock and the noodles, then boiled it all together so the noodles were done. Added some spinach at the end, bob’s your uncle. I put a blob of harissa in the middle too.

A lovely meal, from a jug of stock and some cupboard bits and bats.

If you don’t think about making stock already – please do try it out. You can ask your butcher for some bones, or use leftover ones (a perfect example is an eaten around chicken carcass). All I then do is boil it for a number of hours until all the bones come away from each otherĀ  (I don’t know if that’s a professional way to judge it, but it appears to work for me). You can add veg and things, but I tend to be a stock purist. Sieve it to get the bones n ting out, then you can either use it within a week, or freeze it to use at your leisure. Risotto totally is best with homemade stock. And it’s really good for you – lots of trace elements are kept in bones, so real stock can help boost your immune system! If it sounds like a faff, kept your eye out for reduced fresh stock in the supermarket, as you can freeze it ready for risotto o clock!

I can hear you asking, what else did she make with the ox tail? Stay tuned for part 2!

*I am aware of the quotation marks around “normal for Lincolnshire” – this can be seen to include tracing six generations back with strangers (you never know who you are related to) and every tenth house having a surplus veg stall outside.

Moroccan Stuffed Spleen

9 Sep

Have you ever eaten spleen? I hadn’t until my recent visit to John Penny where I got given a fresh beef spleen to cook with. Prior research from the Offal Club’s page suggested from their experience that spleen was gross. Anissa Helou has a few recipes in The Fifth Quarter for it, which all sound very amazing, so I was excited again. Then I read in Jennifer McLagan’s Odd Bits that she expected that “if you like liver you’ll probably like spleen”. Damned by faint praise indeed. Never one to be deterred I got my spleen out and looked at it. The spleen looked back.

More disturbingly – how filthy was my cooker that day? What a slut! And look how long a spleen is. Long. So what does a spleen do? I always find that thinking about how the organ works can help you get to know how it might be nicely cooked. A spleen:

“… is an organ found virtually all vertebrate mammals. Similar in structure to a large lymph node, the spleen acts primarily as a blood filter. It is a non-vital organ, with a healthy life possible after removal (splenectomy). The spleen plays important roles in regard to red blood cells and the immune system. It also acts as a store of blood in case large amounts are lost. The word comes from the Greek ‘splen’ which is the rough equivalnet of heart – so to be good-spleened in Greek means to be good-hearted. In French, ‘splenetique’ refers to a state of pensive sadness or melancholy.”

Of course that infomation is from wikipedia. Importantly it tells us two things: the first is that as a filter, the texture will be spongy; secondly that if you eat it Greece you’ll be happy, while if you eat it in France you’ll be sad.

Taking the Mediterranean as a theme I used Anissa Helou’s recipe for Moroccan Stuffed Spleen as a guideline to work from, but incorporated EXTRA OFFAL into the recipe. That’s right. Offal stuffed with other offal. Just like a cheap sausage. Or not.

Beef spleens are huge, so I only used half of this one. Due to the nature of stuffing as a premise, I chose to use the fat end. So if you’re cooking along with this, cut your spleen in half, freeze the thin end and then we’ll peel the membrane off the fat end.

Removing membrane from spleen is not very easy. In fact, it’s quite hard for a novice like me to do. There was some fruity language and I cut my fingers a few times. There is an outer one and an inner one (or so it seemed to me). The outer one peels away using your fingers OK.

I tried a few different ways of getting rid of the inner membrane, but the one that worked best for me, was to pinch a bit of it up and to use a knife between the membrane and the flesh to almost chip away at it in small, frequent movements. (There was meant to be a video, but I deleted the wrong file from my phone, so you actually have five second shot of the inner spleen and it’s stupid clinging membrane.)

Once you’ve removed it – or if you’re clever – ask your butcher to do it for you (if you have one), but once it is removed you make a horizontal cut most of the way through (but not the whole way) parallel to the top and bottom of it. Your stuffing will go in this pouch.

Yup, TRIPLE OFFAL STUFFING WITH PORCINI. You can of course see some chopped lamb heart, some chopped lamb sweetbreads and some rehydrated chopped porcini. The porcini had arrived that very day in my foodie penpals package. I mixed these all together with 5 crushed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 2 teaspoons of paprika. Then I shoved it in the spleen pocket, rubbed the pocket with oil and baked it in the oven at gas mark 4 for 40 minutes.

This is pre-cooking – looks pretty nice doesn’t it?

Well, by this point, after all this effort, I was very hungry indeed. And how was the spleen. To me, inedible. That was the saddest part, despite loving liver I just couldn’t cope with the texture of the spleen – think liver but with lots of fibres running the wrong way through it. I couldn’t eat mine – I was clearly in France. Daz said it was OK – so he’s in Switzerland (is that half way between France and Greece? I’m thinking diagonally). The stuffing was amazeballs though. If you take one things away from this – heart, thyroid and porcini is a GRRRRRRRRREAT combination.

If I’d got the spleen from a butcher I might have thought that it had been hanging around a while. But since I SAW THE SPLEEN COME OUT THE BEAST THAT MORNING, it can’t be that. I’m plumping for spleen being better slow cooked (so the fibres can melt down some) – I’m thinking maybe some spleen and kidney pudding? Would that be nice? Spleen, kidney and porcini pudding? I have a feeling a slow-cooked spleen has fabulous gravy potential.

But despite the loveoly ingredients, I had to perform a splenectomy on my meal (LOLZ). Have you cooked spleen? I’ll have a little poll of the suet pudding …

And I promise to attempt to cook what you decide!

Real Jelly – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 13

15 May

This post is actually a bit of a swizz. Sorry. I made this a week ago, but I knew I would be away at the weekend (Dilston Physic Garden, since you ask), so scheduled this post to go on today. My real day 13 will involve going to a Herbology Room (yeah that’s right) and learning about herbal medicines, rather than stewing the foot of a cow. Sozbad.

Anyhow, I’d read a recipe for making your own jelly in ‘Odd Bits’ from the great Jennifer McLagan. I had also seen cow feet for sale at the African butcher. 2 + 2 = four jellies, or something. The first thing you need to do is ask your butcher if you can have/they can get you one or two feet of a cow. They come hairless. And are also naturally meatless. The butcher should use their band saw/cleaver to cut them into pieces for you. I just got one foot. Here is my big bag of bones:

It was pretty heavy in all honesty. Need to invest in a granny trolley for Bone Shopping Trips.

So to make jelly from scratch, it’s pretty easy and basically involves stages of boiling and straining. I’d never done this before and was slightly haunted by something I read in a Jacqueline Wilson book where the vegan mother of a step-daughter made her seaweed jelly from scratch when she was ill and proper jelly was what the child wanted, but the step-mother wouldn’t compromise on her values and well the seaweed jelly from scratch wasn’t a hit. I don’t remember the book. Anyway, I didn’t want to be the person making bad jelly from good morals.

IF YOU HAPPEN TO TRY THESE INSTRUCTIONS, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO THE INSTRUCTIONS OF KEEPING/DISCARDING THE JUICE. IT CHANGES. I FEEL CAPITALS ARE NECCESSARY.

  1. Put feet in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Strain. Keeping the bones. Discard the juice.
  2. Return to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for four hours. Strain and RESERVE LIQUID. Leave in bowl to cool.
  3. When cool, skim fat from surface.
  4. Measure your liquid. Put into clean pan.
  5. For every 1 pint of liquid you have – add 3 ounces sugar and 90ml extra liquid (i.e. orange juice for flavour). The extra liquid is not compulsory. Other ways to add flavour include zesting oranges and lemons, adding essences, essential oils, grating fruit in (but not pineapple or kiwi as they don’t set i believe), and so on. I added 90ml orange juice and grated 4 big strawberries in.
  6. Once you’ve added juice and fruit and whatevers, then add the white of one egg and it’s crushed shell. NO YOLK. (Do you see what I did there?)
  7. Bring to the boil, whisking. When boils set aside for ten minutes to settle.
  8. Now strain through a clean tea towel or muslin cloth.
  9. (Optional second* boiling and finer straining will make jelly clearer – just repeat 7 and 8).
  10. Refrigerate until needed.

What I should have done, was DEFINITELY DONE the second fine straining. I didn’t so the jellies were quite cloudy. What none of us anticipated was that the bones give it a slightly milky taste. So the strawberry jelly tasted like strawberry milkshake jelly. It was nice. The other thing I learnt, was that fresh jelly doesn’t keep as long as normal. I took one to work a few days later and it was totally BLEURGH.

Would I make it again? Yes. But for a special occasion and try a more grown up flavour – maybe like hazelnut or almond? Any ideas for jelly flavours? I might try an elderflower or a hawthorn flower … I think a second straining might remove most of that milkiness, so a delicate flavour would work I’m sure. The consistency of the jelly was super velvety.

 

*but not really since you should definitely do it