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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.

 

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Rabbit and Rosemary Ragu

3 Oct

As part of the year of the offal, rabbit (and all other game) is totally allowed. Wild animals are definitely free range, they can choose their own diet and usually death by shotgun is pretty surprising and fast. A win all round.*

Rabbit is a meat I really love, but whenever I’ve cooked with it before, I always feel like I haven’t helped it fulfill its culinary potential. A bit dry. A bit flavourless. This time, I was determined to do some good cooking and have a lovely end product. To this end I employed my slow cooker (I know I’m repetitive), to simmer the rabbit slowly, creating a delicious stock and keeping the meat moist.

Rabbity goodness. I put the rabbit (already jointed) in the slow cooker with a generous sprig of rosemary (sent by my foodie penpal) and covered it all with water. I then left it on high for 8 hours.

The next stage was to separate the stock from the meat (with the future idea of rabbit risotto), then the meat from the bones, thus creating a platter of rabbit for sandwiches and also said risotto. I did some excellent anatomy as well. Rabbits have chunky thigh bones – check out the scary spine too …

 

Primeval!

To make your rabbit ragu, it is of course simple. Cook an onion with some garlic til it is all softened. Add a teaspoon of rosemary and as much rabbit as you feel like. Add a tin of tomatoes and simmer for about twenty minutes. Cook your pasta ten minutes before, drain and serve with some tasty ragu atop!

 

 

Next time you’re buying a chicken to cook and separate, please think about doing it with a rabbit.

 

*I do recognise that sometimes the birds are injured and need their neck wringing. That is less pleasant, but still if you have a good gundog pretty fast. I would rather that than leukemia.

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 other  (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.

Hanger Steak and Broad Bean Risotto

21 Aug

So there’s a note to myself in this: Lucy please write your recipes down. Kthnxbi.

Like all my greatest moments of genius, this one wasn’t particularly well recorded. Partly because offalling is a part of my life now, so I don’t really think about it as much as I used to when I’m cooking. That’s a good thing, because it means the lifestyle change has become in ingrained.

So to this simple recipe. It utilises my slowwww cooooooker (again), but you could just use a pan.

One word about hanger steak before we begin. It’s not steak. It’s not an organ, but it is I think in the under-used cuts category. Why? It lives near the diaphragm and has something to do with all that pumps-and-bellows jazz and the heart of our body, so it is quite awkward to cut out and is usually thrown out with the rest. I think it’s a shame because it is well tasty. It’s also called ‘feather steak’ I think. In England I think we call it ‘skirt’. Wikipedia will tell you more! (Don’t believe it all though, hanger steak is delicious, though I would prefer to call it skirt.)

Ok, so take your bit of skirt. I used some veal skirt. Put it in the slow cooker, covered in water for about 6 hours. It should be all melty and tender. Alternatively, put it in a casserole covered in water in the oven at a low heat for 6 hours.

Remove, drain, reserve the stock and gently pull apart the meat fibres, discarding the bit that runs down the middle. It should come apart really easily into these long filaments. I think it’s really beautiful how it falls apart unlike any other cut of meat. I think there’s a very poetic moment when peel the strands away …

Then you have cooked meaty-deliciousness and some amazing stock. Both are vital for supreme risotto. (You could do this a few days before if you were feeling all Delia.)

Then make risotto.

I chopped an onion and some garlic and melted it all down, then added 300g risotto rice and stirred so it was all covered in the oil. I chopped a generous sprig of fresh marjoram and threw that in. Added the meat. Then began to add the stock a little at a time so it cooked through. With the amounts of stock you just have to use your judgement a bit and if you think you need more just make up a bit of bouillon or vegetable stock. (Don’t introduce chicken stock, that would be a fauz pas, because you won’t get the true veal-ly flavour.)

Five minutes before you think it’s done, add as many broad beans as you think appropriate (for me a metric fuckton).

Top with parmesan. Maybe a bit more marjoram. If you’re feeling flush.

Nom Nom Nom.

Foodie Penpals the Fifth

5 Aug

My lovely initial penpal had to excuse herself from this month’s participation, so the lovely Lisa stepped in at the last minute and passed the package on that she’d already prepared. Phew! I didn’t want Lisa to have to make a new one for me, so I received the ‘Learn to Bake’ parcel that she’d already put together with a note explaining why things were there, because they meant something to our penpal partner. I found it really interesting (because I’m nosy) receiving what was designed for another person. And it was a lovely package.

So, there are cake decorations, white chocolate, edible glitter, fancy cases, exotic fruit and a book on baking. Also (possibly a nod to the carnivory, was some tikka rub) which I put to good use making a very simple lamb neck tikka:

There’s the lamb neck and some mushrooms all tikka-ing away in the slow cooker (6 hours=curry-tastic). I literally just added the spice, some coconut cream and some water. YUM! And simple.

My package went to Fay, and you can read about how she found it on her blog here. I sent a real mix of things, but for my next one I really want to put a theme together as I’ve now had a couple of lovely Themed ones. Look out, next Foodie Penpal! Look out!

Mugwort Pheasant

22 Jul

Mugwort is my new favourite herb. Particularly when paired with orange. What an aromatic combination!

July clearly isn’t game season, but my Mum’s butcher in Norfolk had pack of pheasant legs for a pound, so really I couldn’t refuse. Just as a recap if you are thinking ‘leg isn’t liver – she’s breaking all the rules’ – game is allowed for several reasons:

  1. The animals do lots of running around before they’re shot – so it really is free range. Animal welfare, tick!
  2. They have a pretty organic diet.
  3. We don’t eat enough game – the argument goes along the lines of the animals are already there, so there’s no extra energy/expense in raising them, so they are a more environmentally friendly source of meat. Large holes can be picked in this – what about estates stocking pheasant chicks? I’m going to do more research and get in touch with the Game-to-Eat organisation.

All thoughts on the subject are gratefully received too. In November is it Game-Eating month according to Game-to-Eat, so I’m sure I’ll be talking more about it then.

But onward. Again, this is one of my mighty slow cooker recipes. I love my slow cooker so much, it’s hard to describe the feelings of warmth I get when I see the resultant stew after I through together a few ingredients. I’m sure there are ways I could have made this recipe better, but I was feeling lazy, so basically all the ingredients got flung in and cooked on low for about 16 hours.

What you need:

4 pheasant legs (skinned), 1 tin chickpeas, 1 chopped onion, 1 teaspoon of mugwort, zest of half an orange, 1 tin tomatoes, enough stock to cover the rest with fluid.

Fling everything in the slow-cooker. Add an appropriate amount of stock. Wait. Devour.

 NB: If you don’t have a slow-cooker, you can use an ordianry casserole dish, cooking in the bottom of the oven for about 6 hours at 140C would probably produce the same results.

NB2: If you don’t have any mugwort, you could use any other aromatic herb that fits with the orange – rosemary would be good I think, so too would juniper, sage another good one. If you really want to try the mugwort (you’d need to get it from a herb garden (like Dilston) or from a herbalist, it won’t be in the supermarket), but can’t find it I can send you some – see twitter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The finished product looked like most tomatoe-y, chickpea-y concoctions you make. I also think I took the picture on my boyfriend’s phone, which I can’t locate right now – so you’ll just have to wait for this one to be updates with another *amazing* phone picture.

Rendering your own lard (and my Lardy Oatcakes)

21 May

Really this should have been part of all my nosetotailings, but for reasons of space and time, I didn’t manage to use the lard until it was over. Yes, the suspense is lifted, I did manage to render some of my own lard. Nigella, eat your pancreas out!

The principle behind rendering your own animal fat into usuable storable fat is quite simply. The thing that makes natural fat go off is the cell tissue and membranes, if you melt it enough the fat will spearate from them and you can size them away. However it is a slow process, and I would do a couple of things differently. Also I’m not sure I’d have done it if I hadn’t had a slow cooker. (You must be converted to my slow cooker by now.)

There are two types of rendering of lard: wet and dry. Dry rendering you very gently over a long time heat the fat on its own until the cells and tissue break down which then forms a crusty surface. Wet rendering you again heat it long and slow, but with the addition of water, which stops the fat from burning. As we all know, fat and water don’t mix so well, so you can just pour the water off.

WARNING. I have no idea about weights and measurements as I used the fat I got off the head of Arthur after we’d feasted on him. There will be a lot of ‘some’s. If you google ‘Rendering your own lard’ there are a lot more precise recipes than mine (for example here and here).

So basically:

  1. Chop you fat very small.
  2. Add it to a slow cooker.
  3. Cover this with water (fat floats, make sure it’s all floating).
  4. Put the lid on.
  5. Switch the low and cook for 4 days. (I forgot to tell my boyfriend to turn it off whilst I was away for a night.) Keep it topped up with water.

When you top it up with water, it will bubble in an alarming fashion. Watch this if you don’t believe me:

When you think it’s melted enough, strain it all through a tea towel (or muslin) into a bowl. Let it cool, then tip the water that will have gathered underneath away. You will now have some lard in a bowl. It’s that simple.

What would I do differently next time? Two things. First I would freeze the fat and then use a grater to make the pieces really small, thus cutting the rendering time. Second, I’m not sure I needed to heat it for 4 days. I think that was excessive, so I would monitor that more carefully next time.

So what do you do with the lard that you have rendered? Well, there’s lots of things – you can use instead of butter or oil in anything. It’s meant to make amazing pastry. It’s a mono-saturated fat, apparently, which is the same as avocado oil, so it’s healthier than the term LARD now suggests. As you may have guessed, what I did do was make my own oatcakes with it. One, I bloody love oatcakes. Two, I thought they’d be a good vehicle for ‘tasting the lard’. (I was also quite proud and wanted the send my foodie penpal something lardy, but wasn’t sure if a jar of lard would be a welcome gift in the post.)

So. Lucy’s Oatcakes. Oatcakes a la Lucy. Das Lutzykuchen!

You need:

150ml water, 8oz medium oatmeal, quarter tsp baking powder, quarter tsp salt, 1 generous tbsp of lard (or butter, or oil), 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp black mustard seeds.

What you do:

Put the water in a small pan and add the lard to it, heat until lard is melted.

Put the oatmeal and seasonings in a bowl, mix them together.

Add the water/lard mixture and mix it all up til you have a firm ball.

Roll this out with a rolling pin on a floured surface, then cut it into bits, or for little mouth-sized morsels, use a cookie cutter.

Put on a greased baking sheet and bake at Gas Mark 4 for twenty minutes, turning them over half way through.

Cool and feast yourself on the Lutzykuchen!

Magen Sie Lutzykuchen? Moechten Sie Lutzykuchen essen? Lutzykuchen schmecht mir gut!*

This introduces something *almost* not offal to the blog – is that a good idea?

(I lost the photos I took, so stole this one off my lovely foodie penpal. It is much better than any I could have taken.)

*I apologise to anyone German, sincerely. Mein Deutsch ist gefahrlich!