Wednesday, 21 December 2011

One pot pollack steaks and rice: Meat free comfort food. Cheap, lazy and a little bit paella-ish

This time of year, with the nights drawing in some time around early afternoon, both the present and the future looking inescapably bleak, and the ghost of Christmas imminent haunting every waking (and sleeping) hour, it’s very easy to resort to meaty comfort foods for every meal - big hearty stews, shepherd’s pies, sausage casseroles and pot roasts.  And why not?  Comfort food’s called comfort food for a reason, and we all need a bit of that on these cold dark evenings.  But, as Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has been seeking to prove recently, comfort doesn’t necessarily have to be meaty.  He’s right, of course, as I’ve said before, and as his River Cottage sidekick, and my own former colleague, Tim Maddams, reminded me in a recent Facebook message, reflexively falling back on meat is a lazy option for anyone who considers themselves in any way an adventurous cook.  Still, as anyone who’s familiar with this blog (or even just glanced through its archive) will know, we do find big lumps of meat particular comforting in our house.

Still. To meet HFW and Tim half way, here’s a very quick, easy, cheap, convenient and thoroughly comforting dish for a cold, dark evening, made entirely without meat, even if it does feature big meaty fish steaks.  And even if was conceived almost entirely out of laziness on my part.

I’d originally been thinking of making a fish stew, but my girlfriend of the time (this was many years ago) cancelled our dinner date.  Which was probably just as well as I’d left it late getting to the fishmonger’s stall on Brixton market, and the two Pollack steaks I’d been able to pick up there weren’t, on their own, going to make for a very interesting stew.   Cooking just for myself, as it turned out, I couldn’t have been bothered with anything as elaborate as a bouillabaisse anyway (not that a fish stew need be elaborate to be good), and decided I’d just simply cook the fish, and serve it with rice – probably, although I don’t recall this as a specific detail, simply to save myself the effort of peeling spuds. 

As I had a fish stock I’d made earlier, in preparation for the stew, already in my fridge, it was hardly a leap of creative genius to think of cooking the rice in fish stock rather than water, for added flavour, and then it was purely a matter of saving myself washing up to think why not cook the fish steaks in the same pan?  Why not indeed.  So I simply placed them on top of the rice and stock as it simmered away.  Other than that, all I did was add a dash of turmeric to the rice and stock, for a bit of colour.  And it turned out memorably good.

I’ve since developed the idea (if idea’s not too grand a word) into something that a bit more closely resembles a kind of quick and easy paella by simply slicing some red onion, red pepper and/or fennel and frying that in the pan in a generous slug of olive oil with a grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt, till it’s just starting to soften before sprinkling over a teaspoon of turmeric and stirring thoroughly to get a good even coating of the bright yellow spice (by all means use saffron instead if you want to go for something more paella like, but I like to keep this non fancy, and cheap).  Then I add the rice, and throw in half a glass of vermouth (if you have it, white wine if not, or even a sherry, but only the palest, driest fino, or, ideally manzanilla) and stir the rice and veg until the liquid’s been absorbed or evaporated, before pouring in the stock (add the stock hot, this does mean an extra pan to wash, but do that immediately and it really will need little more than rinsing out).  Just add all – or at least most, see below - the stock in one go, as if boiling the rice in water, or making a paella, rather than adding a ladleful at a time and constantly stirring, as for risotto – this will work even if using risotto rice.  I give it one good stir, then cover and leave it simmering gently for at least ten minutes before lifting the lid again to add the fish.

Exact timings will vary depending on the quantities you’re using and the type of rice.  Basmati, which is what I first used will cook through quicker than paella or any of the various types of risotto rice, but will take a little longer than it would were you simply boiling it in water, as you’ll want to be cooking it at a rather lower simmer.  For basmati, add the fish at ten minutes and check the rice as you do so.  You may need to add more liquid at this point (you can hold back a little of the hot stock for this, or simply use water from the kettle) if it’s all been absorbed – you want to see a little residual liquid above the surface of the rice, and copious steam.  Put the lid back on.

Again, times for cooking the fish will vary depending on how thick the steaks are cut.  But it really shouldn’t take much over five or six minutes, seven if the steaks are particularly thick, or the controls on your stove are fine enough to achieve a particularly gentle simmer.  Perhaps as much as eight in the case of both.  I would turn the steaks after three to four minutes, taking the opportunity to check the rice again.  Again, if need be, you can add more liquid, or just re-cover the pan and leave cooking for another two to three minutes.  Or, if the rice is, or very nearly is, done to your satisfaction at this point, just turn off the heat and let the residual heat and steam finish off the cooking of both fish and rice.  This should take no more than another five minutes. 

If you’re using paella or risotto rice, which take longer to cook just leave it longer, say 15 to twenty minutes before adding the fish.  The only trick to cooking this dish is gauging the right moment, about 5 to 7 minutes before the rice will be cooked to perfection, to add your fish.  But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be exact – the fish will be cooked gently in a moist environment, so you don’t need to worry too much about overcooking or drying out, and you can always take out your fish when it’s done and keep the rice on the heat a few extra minutes at the end to finish it off.  

Monday, 12 December 2011

This is insane. Or just plain dishonest.

I was in Sainsburys the other day and saw this:

Yes that’s a bottle of wine, a red from Cahors.  Buy one of them, it’ll cost you £11.99.  Buy two and that’ll be a round tenner.  As in two quid cheaper for two than one on it’s own would be.  Who’s going to be fooled by that?  Who will really believe they are getting wine genuinely worth twenty four quid in return for just ten?  Surely even in a world in which people have become blandly accustomed to supermarket BOGOF promotions, the notion that Sainsburys are going to not just give you one item free when you buy one at full price, but will actually charge you less for the one you do pay for, presumably, for doing them the favour of taking another one off their hands, is absurd.  I mean, come on Mr Sainsbury, what’s wrong with this wine that you want rid of it so badly?

Clearly the stated full price is, at best, notional.  At worst it’s flat out dishonest.  And I’m afraid I have to go with worst in this case.  And it is indeed the worst kind of dishonesty – in the sense of ‘worst’ being the most rubbish.  Dishonesty so cack handedly blatant that the only people who could possibly be fooled are those not paying attention.  It’s the people doing their shopping distractedly – maybe people yakking on their mobile phones, but also perhaps young mothers with kids in tow - whose eyes take in the fact that this wine is on special offer without actually reading the details and pick up a single bottle, not noticing the extortionate price they’ve been charged for it until they get home that I feel sorry for.   The mothers at least, the mobile phone yakkers not so much…

Them and, indeed, the wine producers, who are almost certainly getting thoroughly screwed over by Sainsburys on cost to allow them the margin to dick about so comprehensively with the retail price.  Obviously I don’t know the details of the specific bit of business behind this particular deal, but have no doubt that it will be based on them producing twice the wine at half the price, which is bad for the wine makers, and ultimately bad for us – assuming we actually like and appreciate wine - because the wine simply will not, can not, be the best that they could make it in those circumstances.   I may not know much about making wine, but I do know that doubling volume, while cutting production costs is not the way to improve your product.  And, if we like and appreciate wine, why should we want the people who make it to gain neither profit nor satisfaction from doing so?  It seems to me we should want to encourage wine makers to make the best wine they can, not discourage them from making wine at all.

The one bunch of people you can be sure that this apparent largesse on Sainsburys part will turn out not to be bad for, will be Sainsburys themselves.  They, after all, choose the price.  Nobody is forcing them to give away a second bottle of wine at a negative price.  Which of course they’re not anyway.  The ‘real’ price of this wine will undoubtedly be closer to the £5 a bottle that two bottles works out at than that plainly spurious £11.99.  My guess would be that at £5 a pop it will probably turn out to be excellent value, indeed I’d think it most likely that this would turn out to be something you’d think was pretty good for six quid, OK but unremarkable at seven.  That is, as I say, just a guess, but I’d be amazed if it proved far wrong.  So you might well argue that two for a tenner is a bargain, and that’s good for us, the wine buying public. 

Well, yes, but also no.  Why not just price the wine honestly, Mr Sainsbury?  Don’t try and fool us into believing we’re getting a better deal than we are, and let us decide how many bottles we wish to buy.   And do you always have to push the wine makers into producing the volume to allow you to sell twice as many bottles at a lower price, rather than allowing them to produce a lower volume of a better, more interesting wine that we’d be happy to buy less of but at a higher price?*

I should of course, at this point, declare an interest.  My day job is in the wine trade, working for, if not strictly speaking a small, local independent wine shop, then an independent chain of shops that is much smaller and altogether more localized than it was at this time last year – circumstances for which I do not, incidentally, hold the supermarkets solely and entirely to blame.  I normally refrain from writing about wine on this blog, partly because of the obvious potential conflict of interests, and for the sake of my own independence, but also, and mainly, because it’s hard enough finding time and space to get down all that I have to say about the food, without getting started on the wine.  But this post really isn’t about wine, it’s about supermarket pricing policies – and the example here is Sainsburys, but this is not just about them, either - and what this example of a bottle (or two) of wine reveals about them.  Because if we recognize the inherent dishonesty in the pricing of this one item, why should we presume that everything else in the store is honestly and fairly priced?  Maybe (and that’s a heavily ironic ‘maybe’) we shouldn’t.

* Actually, to be fair to Mr Sainsbury, the answer to that second question is basically ‘yes’.  That’s just the way supermarket scale economics works, and why you’ll always be able to find more interesting wines in small independent wine merchants.  The more interesting and unusual wines, almost by definition  come from small producers with limited production, and they simply cannot supply in the kinds of volume that the supermarkets require to stock their many thousands of miles of collective shelf space.

Hello Denmark!

I've been translated into Danish!

I know in these days of Babel Fish and Google translate this is no big deal (and probably makes very little sense), but still.  It's nice.

Tak Danmark!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Remember membrillo?

 No sooner, it seems, do I write about the long awaited arrival of Autumn, than Christmas lumbers into view.  Now I know this is as much to do with my recent slackness in updating this blog as it is to do with the late onset of Autumn, and nothing whatsoever to do with the early arrival of Christmas, which only appears to come round quicker every year, but still…  Anyway, if you’re here looking for Christmas ideas, then I’ll refer you to my post last Christmas posts from January , right now I still have autumn to get out of the way.  As, incidentally, does the weather – for all that as I write, Scotland is to all intents and purposes being blown away (a scenario that will doubtless please many, on both sides of Hadrian’s Wall) by the fiercest winds this century – so fierce they have their own Wikipedia entry.  Already!  Making ‘Bawbag’ official.  Kind of -  down here in the South, although it is admittedly a bit blowy right now, we are still in the throes of what is technically a drought.  It really has hardly rained at all this autumn.  And we’ve had three, maybe four days you could properly call chilly.  And we’re almost a third of the way through December!  At the risk of banging on, that’s not right is it?  SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

Anyway, back to food.  Quinces.  Remember?  I’d made jelly, and was about to make membrillo.  It went like this.  Again, I simply followed that recipe and it came out fine, so I have little to add in terms of advice, other than do it: both the jelly and the membrillo (or quince cheese, if you must).  It really is so easy, and so very tasty.  The one comment I would make is that living as I do (and wouldn’t change for the world) with someone who can’t eat cheese, the opportunities for the consumption of membrillo might appear limited, but that just means it lasts longer.  I made my slab over three weeks ago now and took half of it, along with a big wedge of manchego to a dinner party hosted by our good friends Edgar and Lindsay.  A large part of the rest remains in our fridge, wrapped in greaseproof paper and sealed in a Tupperware container and will keep there perfectly happily for months, or even up to a year, I’m told, not that it stands even the slightest chance of remaining undevoured that long.  I would observe that as it matures, the flavour develops an increasingly strong hint of banana, but that’s the only difference I’ve noticed so far.  And I have no problem with banana.

Although membrillo is naturally and traditionally paired with manchego, what with being Spanish and all, it is worth bearing in mind that manchego is not the only cheese.  Not even in Spain.  I have found that it pairs particularly well with a nice crumbly Lancashire cheese (which pretty much by definition means it will go equally well with Caerphilly, Wensleydale and any other mildish, crumbly white cheese).  And the jelly too.  And of course you don’t need cheese at all, both the membrillo and the jelly will sit very happily on a plate with cold meats, pates or a good old pork pie. 

Ah.  Pork pie.  One of those combinations of words I cannot write, say, or even think without my mouth starting to water just a little bit.  I have long intended to get round to making one of my own, so much so that it’s an annual event, an essential part, indeed, of my own personal advent calender to wake up one day and realize that I’m not going to have time to make one for this Christmas either, again.  We are now rapidly approaching that day for this year.  Damn it.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Autumn at last: Quince jelly and old medlars

Autumn took a long time to get here this year, with much of October thinking it was August, but with the clocks going back a couple of weekends ago, the weather finally remembered what it was meant to be doing.  At least approximately.  It’s still been remarkably warm for the most part, round our way at least, and dry, but there’s been plenty of the mists and mellow fruitfulness that Autumn is poetically associated with.

Mists, mellow fruitfulness and game birds, which I get the impression seem to be particularly abundant and cheap this year – I came across partridges being sold in the Bloomsbury (of all places) farmers market for just £2.50 a bird last week.  Unfortunately just after I’d done my weekly meat shop (and with the freezer still chocker with Bert & Ernie).  I’ll make a point of going back this week and hope they’re still there at the same bargain price.  I’m guessing (and that’s all I’m doing) but it seems probable that a mild, damp summer followed by a warm, dry autumn is probably the ideal set of conditions for both the raising, and subsequent shooting of game birds.  Circumstances so far this year, however, have rather conspired against our cashing in on this seasonal bounty, but I fully intend to rectify that, and sooner rather than later.

In preparation for that, and cashing in, at least, on the mellow fruitfulness side of the autumnal equation, I’ve been making fruit jellies, which of course are the ideal accompaniment to all things gamey.  We returned home from a weekend trip to Becca’s familial home with a big bag of quinces, courtesy of her father, the eminent paleontologist, micologist, forager and, it must be said – on this occasion at least – scrumper.  In our defence, had we not liberated these particular quinces from the ground under their tree in a churchyard somewhere in the South of England, then they would, clearly, have done nothing more than rot on the ground, providing food only for slugs and centipedes (which had already made a fair start on them) and the raw material for drunk and disorderly behaviour in the local wasp population.

A fully ripe quince is a fine looking thing, in a jolie laide kind of way, somewhere in appearance between a large yellow apple and a squat, lumpy and very under-ripe pear.  Our quinces though, picked from the ground and out of the very mouths of the slugs, were borderline attractive at best, and by the time I had a chance to actually do anything with them, a full week later, that border itself had long been crossed.  Which is why I took a few pictures of quinces in my local Turkish supermarket to illustrate this post.  Nevertheless, assured by both Becca’s parents that a bit of browning of the flesh and a few hearty slug bites did nothing to diminish the quince’s cookability, I washed them, cut out and discarded their most well chomped bits then followed the recipe here to turn them into jelly (our quinces, incidentally, were nowhere near as unattractive as the one pictured at the top of that page…).

I see no point in writing up the recipe and attempting to pass it off as my own, as cottage smallholder seems to have done a pretty thorough job, complete with footnotes, and I didn’t deviate from it in any significant way.  One thing I would say is that it wasn’t immediately clear to me from that set of instructions  whether you should strain off any of the cooking water or not before pouring the cooked quinces into (and their cooking water and juices through) the jelly bag.  I figured not as that would clearly be a waste of lots of quinciness, but still felt there was probably too much fluid so turned the heat up at the end of cooking for ten minutes or so to reduce the volume of liquid.  Next time I wouldn’t do that, and just pour the lot through.  As it was, I ended up having to really squeeze the fruit through the bag to extract a decent quantity, and I feel that may - possibly – have had a knock on effect on the texture of the membrillo I would then go on to make with the pulp (I will write that up in my next post).

The other thing I can contribute that might be of use is my method of suspending the jelly bag from a couple of long kebab skewers laid diagonally across the right angle corner of my kitchen worktop, with a bowl (or pan) on the floor below to catch the dripping juice.  This seems a lot simpler than the upturned stool method referred to, though no more straightforward than the muslin lined sieve and bucket arrangement practiced by cottage smallholder themselves, as long as you have conveniently sized sieve and bucket. 

I developed my method of bag hanging when I made jelly from a harvest of medlars, kindly supplied by Becca’s mother on that occasion, last year.  I didn’t write it up at the time, because I felt that by the time I had the chance, medlar season would have been passed, and it would just have been annoying.  I rather fear I’ve left it a bit late this season, too, but anyway, here goes.  It wouldn’t have been much of a write up, anyway, to be fair.  As with the quinces it’s just a question of pointing you in the direction of someone else’s recipe, which in this case would have been this blog’s old mate Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall’s, that being the one I followed, but which now seems to have vanished from the interweb.  So here’s one from Nigel Slater instead.  But do check out Hugh’s recipe for making chutney out of the pulp left over from making your jelly.  I’ve had Becca’s mum’s and it was perhaps the finest chutney I’ve ever consumed.  I still have the pulp from my own medlar jelly in the freezer, awaiting conversion, and I’ll write that up at a later date, too.

Like the quince, only more so, the medlar is a fruit on the laide side of jolie.  Indeed one of its French names translates basically as 'dog's arse', and a look at the picture of the top of the page does rather suggest why.  Also like the quince it seems somehow archaic as a fruit, with inescapably medieval connotations, and yet, like the quince again, it does seem to be coming back in to fashion, at least with food writers, and also at garden centres.  Becca and I planted a medlar tree in the garden of her parent's house for her mother's birthday present this year.  Not that I'm claiming that this confers instant fashionability on the medlar, or on us.  

I note, incidentally, that Nigel Slater’s medlar jelly recipe was published in the Guardian on the 5th of December last year, which I see from the date stamps on my photos was the very same week I was making my own and deciding it was too late to be worth writing up.  So either I’m wrong about medlar season (and, while I’m wondering, is there a big enough medlar crop in this country these days for it to lend its name to a season at all?  Even though they do seem to be coming back into fashion, along with quinces, I have to admit that – unlike quinces, round here in Turkish Dalston at least – I don’t recall ever seeing a medlar in the shops), or Nigel Slater has fewer scruples about annoying his readers than I do.  I’ll leave that for you to decide…

Monday, 31 October 2011

A tender heart, tenderloin and a big fat chop

As I said in my last post, our friend Claire loved her pigs, Bert and Ernie, but not too sentimentally.  It was perhaps in part, subconsciously at least, an attempt to test out the limits of her sentimentality that led me to suggest that the first part of either of them that should be consumed was the heart.  If so, then it’s possible that was unkind of me. If, though, it was indeed a test, then it was one she passed with flying colours. 

I could, of course equally claim that there might be some ritual or symbolic significance to the eating of the heart, as representing affection, or more importantly respect, for the slain beast.  That would of course be at best disingenuous, at worst spurious.  Or, to put it more bluntly: a load of old bollocks.  Not that the affection and respect weren’t there, because they certainly were; it was, I’m sure, purely the element of symbolism that was absent.  Nevertheless, I have to admit that there was a feeling, even in my own cynical, rationalist heart, that it was in some way appropriate, even if only on the level of the essentially meaningless gesture, to begin the consumption of Bert and Ernie, with one of their own hearts.  Or part of one, at least: half of it being as much as we needed for a starter salad for the three of us.

On a purely rational, pragmatic level, then of course it was appropriate: offal of any kind is best consumed as fresh as possible, and I can’t imagine there will be many opportunities in my life to consume offal as fresh as this was.  The livers were enormous, and, speaking personally of course, the best way to cook kidneys is long and slow in a stew, and preferably then baked into a pie.  So for a quick meal for three, that pretty much left the heart.

Heart, I think, is a much overlooked item of offal, seldom seen anywhere other than the menu at St John’s or the now many St John’s influenced nose-to-taileries, but it has great depth of flavour without being too pungently offally for even the most delicate palette, and I think a perfect balance of chewiness and tenderness.  And because it’s generally overlooked, even if you don’t have a friend who just happens to have slaughtered a couple of pigs, if you have a half way decent butchers anywhere locally, they’ll happily supply hearts (pig, lamb, chicken, duck – I have yet to try cow’s which might just be getting a bit big and tough, but I’d happily give it a go) for next to nothing.

A pigs heart, obviously, is a big, powerful well exercised, muscle – particularly the heart of a pig that is both active and - without wishing to be unkind - frankly at least marginally overweight.  So it’s a good idea to slice it thin.  In this instance I cut half of one heart into thin strips, no more than 3 or 4 mm thick, which I then marinated in salt, pepper cider vinegar and olive oil for about half an hour (had I remembered that Claire has great deep beds of sage growing right outside her front door I’d have probably added a few leaves of that too), before searing briefly in a hot pan and tossing into a basic leaf salad of baby gem, pea shoots and herbs (parsley, basil, mint & chives) with a simple dressing that was essentially the same as the marinade.  It was utterly delicious.  And, damn it, whatever the risk of appearing sentimental or superstitious, it seemed highly appropriate.

For our main course I took a tenderloin and roasted it with a paprika crust, served up with sautéed potatoes and a quick butterbean and pepper stew.  I’ve described the method for the tenderloin here; for the butterbean and pepper stew just cut a couple of bell peppers (I did one red, one green) into thin strips and fry these gently in olive oil with a finely sliced clove of garlic until just softening, then add a tin or a jar of butterbeans and a glass of sherry (white wine will do, or even marsala or Madeira if you have those to hand and not sherry).  Cover with a lid and allow to simmer away gently for about twenty minutes until the sherry and the pepper juices have combined with the oil into a sweet, glistening sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste at the end, and a sprinkling of fresh leaf herbs.  This was an entirely improvised but pretty convincingly Spanish style dish, which, like most Spanish style dishes, made an excellent accompaniment to the pork.

It was a delicious meal, and a profoundly satisfying one on several levels.  Most of all, I hope, for Claire.  Certainly, given the current trend for locally sourced produce, it could scarcely have been a more fashionable meal.  Our pork could have been more locally sourced - if we had taken our plates down to the end of the garden to eat it.  As it was, eating in the conservatory as we did, I guess it was sourced from all of about twenty yards away.  I don’t know that it’s necessarily true that local is always, inherently, better; but if you were setting out to make the case that it was, you could do worse than call this meal as a witness…

Becca and I returned home the following morning with a huge shoulder joint, a great slab of belly and three big fat chops.  One of which, at the best part of a couple of inches thick, was big and fat enough to cook up on its own as a mini roast for the two of us a couple of days later.

First I marinated it for an hour or so in cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of small sage leaves.  Then I browned it briefly on both sides, in a pan large enough to take both the chop and an apple, peeled, cored and cut into wedges, half a bulb of fennel thickly sliced and a stick of celery, chunked.  Then I transferred the pan to an oven preheated to about 200, and roasted it for half an hour.  This actually turned out to be marginally too long to my taste – although I’m sure it would have been spot on for many people – so perhaps 25 minutes would be perfect, although there’s no point giving exact timings in cases like this as there are simply too many variables in the size, weight and thickness of the chop, oven temperatures and personal tastes in what constitutes perfectly cooked anyway.  Still, even if – for me- very slightly overcooked, the thick layer of fat protecting and lubricating it kept this chop deliciously moist and tender.  

I served it up, as well as with the roasted apple, fennel and celery from its own pan, with roast potatoes, parsnips and shallots, and pickled red cabbage.  This was a perfect weekday roast for two, all - apart from the marinating, and, honestly, if need be, you could reduce that to fit within the time the rest of the prep took - done in just about an hour.   

All that remains to say is thank you Claire.  And thank you Bert and Ernie.

Friday, 28 October 2011

A night at the butchers

Becca and I drove up to Suffolk just for the evening last week, to attend the butchering of our friend Claire’s two pigs.  They were her first pigs, reared and raised at the bottom of her garden, a space they shared with one cat, a dozen hens and a cockerel called Kevin.  The pigs, Bert and Ernie, were well, but not over sentimentally loved, very well fed, and lived what appeared to be very happy lives, in pig terms.  I couldn’t claim they died happy, but I can pretty confidently state that they lived happily up until the point they were, as humanely as possible, dispatched.

Whether or not they died happy, they undoubtedly died fat, which in this case, I suspect, amounts to much the same thing, fattened as they were in the last few weeks of their lives, at least, by this autumn’s bumper crop of acorns.  Acorns and just a little bit of procrastination on Claire’s part, as she put off committing, or at least commissioning the fell deed.  Acorns, procrastination and then finally a snuffle, which one of them – Bert, or Ernie, I’m not sure which – succumbed to shortly before the originally scheduled date, buying them both a stay of execution of about a month, while the administered antibiotics cleared their systems.

Eventually, though, their time had to come, which it did on the Monday of last week.  On Thursday, Becca and I joined Claire after hours at her village butcher’s to witness the final part of Bert and Ernie’s journey from pigs to meat.  From porkers to pork. 

I had hoped, I must admit, that there might have been the chance to do more than witness it, that the chance might arise to participate more actively, and I had optimistically sharpened my knives and brought them along.  As it turned out, when Claire had said that the butcher was going to show us how to butcher a pig, it meant he was going to let us watch what he did, rather than give a hands on lesson in butchery.  Which is fair enough.  He was doing this as a favour, and there was quite enough for the butcher and his lad to be getting on with as it was, without standing over a couple of cack handed amateurs, trying to impart the basics of his trade, and then, no doubt having to salvage the results of their hackery and convert it into serviceable joints of meat.

So we stood to the side and tried to keep out of the way as we watched and admired the skill and speed with which he applied the tools of his trade – of which there were just four: hacksaw; big knife with a ten or twelve inch, curved, slightly spatula shaped blade; small knife with a narrow, tapering six inch blade; big heavy cleaver – to the four vast sides of beheaded and halved pig that hung in his cold store.  A cold store, incidentally, that smelt headily mouth watering from the herbs in the great cascading bunches of sausage strings hung from ceiling hooks.

 When Becca and I arrived the first of these sides had been jointed and most of it set aside in a second cold store (alongside a whole wall lined floor to ceiling with hanging game birds – pheasant, partridge and mallard), destined for curing and smoking, before coming back to Claire in the form of bacon and gammon.  A large plastic palette tray was already more than half full of meaty off cuts intended for sausages and a giant steel pan under the table was similarly filled with trimmed bones, fat and skin.  Both of these would be filled to overflowing well before the end of the process.  It’s possible that Claire in her understandable keenness not to waste a scrap of her cherished first pigs will end up with more pork stock than she will ever need.  She will also end up with a lot of sausages, but I don’t think it’ll add up to more sausages than she’ll ever need.  I’m not sure such a thing exists.  And that is in no way intended as a personal slight on Claire…

These pigs were big.  A measure of how big is that one of the shoulders was cut into a joint that I’d heard of, but don’t recall ever having seen in the flesh, called a hand of pork.  Now Matthew Fort, if you click on that link, says nothing about how many his recipe will feed – which normally means a standard 4, as is the stated case for this one – but he does mention that he picked up his hand for 3.99 from his local farmer’s market, and even though he was pointing out what a bargain it was, I think he’d have made rather more of that point had it been capable of feeding 8.  Which Claire’s – or rather Bert or Ernie’s – will do, conservatively.  Probably 10.  Hungry people.  He also talks about slow roasting it, at a low temperature in two and a half to three hours.  That’s simply not going to do it for Claire’s hand - that baby’s an all-dayer, if ever I saw one, and that was certainly the butcher’s recommendation.  I sincerely want to be there when Claire takes the hand out of the freezer, but I have a feeling that it might just be saved for her family Christmas.

There was scarcely a joint cut from Bert or Ernie that would feed less than six, and the meat came wrapped in a thick blanket of fat, inches thick in places.  The butcher indeed clearly felt that Claire had allowed them to get too big, and much too fat, which from his point of view you could see might be a problem – both as the man who had to manhandle the carcasses, and who would, in other circumstances have to try and sell the meat to a fat-phobic public.  You can see his point.  Claire, and Becca and I, on the other hand, just looked at that deep layer of snow white fat, and the marbling that ran through some of the joints like a sirloin in a way you simply never see with pork, and thought flavour.  And luscious, succulent flesh that would be more or less impossible to dry out, even if you committed the cardinal sin of overcooking.  What the butcher saw as a flaw, we saw as a rare prize.  And the very thing that marked this meat out as special.  You really wouldn’t be able to buy pork like this in the shops, it seems, not even from the very best butchers.  The one thing that concerned Claire was that she’d let Bert and Ernie get too old - 10 months by the time they went to slaughter, rather than the standard 6 - because, as their names suggest, they were male pigs, and as male pigs reach maturity their hormones can make them quite unpleasant.  Which is the case with the males of many species, you might observe, but specifically in the case of pigs it can lead to something called ‘boar taint’ spoiling the flavour of their meat.  There was, however, not the merest whiff of male pig pheromone in either Bert or Ernie’s meat.  They may have been big, fat boars, but they were nice boars - and, like the real Bert and Ernie, there was not the slightest hint of inappropriate sexuality about them...

In little more than an hour, three plastic palettes were stuffed to overflowing with every cut and joint of pork imaginable.  And there are many.  One of the things that most struck me was how many choices there were to be made at every stage of the process.  We’re all familiar with the broad distinctions between the cuts – shoulder, loin, belly, ribs, chops – but not necessarily in the proliferation of different ways those cuts can be shaped and subdivided.  I think Claire got at least one example of pretty much every option, but it’s impossible to be sure.

What I can be sure of, because I’ve tasted some of it, is how good each of those many cuts is going to taste, and I’ll cover that, at least some of it, in my next post.  Of course the thing that you, or your friend, has raised for food by your/their own hand, be it fruit, vegetable or animal, tastes better than anything bought in a shop.  And of course at least part of that may be psychological, not that that would make it any less real, even if that were all it was, particularly if part of the psychology in play was the knowledge that the animals that had died to provide your meat had lived happy lives.  But psychology aside, the flavour, succulence and tenderness of the meat we got from Bert and Ernie is real, and stands as an example of something significant.  It goes to show, as if we needed showing, that the best meat is obtained from animals that have led good lives, and suffered, in relative terms, a good death.

Now obviously not everyone can raise their own pigs down the end of their gardens.  And not every pig can lead as comfy, and cosseted a life as Bert and Ernie did.  But if more of the pigs that more people ate led lives that were closer to Bert and Ernie’s than they were to a Danish factory porker, then the world would be, in a small but significant way, a better place.  For pigs and the people who eat them.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

More grouse and chanterelles

1 little bird that's already given us one meal (although not at the time this picture was taken, obviously),  and is now about to give us two more...

At the end of my last post (or rather about three paragraphs back from the end) I’d left a couple of grouse breasts marinading in the fridge.  No doubt you’re on tenterhooks to find out what happened to them next… No?  Oh.  Well here goes anyway.

Just to remind you, the grouse breasts had been filleted from the bird’s carcass and put in a Tupperware container with the zest and juice of one orange, salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil.  I’d also pared off a couple of strips of the outer peel of the orange, that I’d then further sliced into fine matchsticks, but these were as much for the presentation of the finished dish as part of the marinade. 

You may think grouse breasts are a bit esoteric, or too fiddly to remove from the carcass to be worthwhile, or simply a waste of a whole roasted bird; but if you are lucky enough to have a good local butcher it really should be something they’d have readily available from late August to Mid December, and, in a good year at least, one grouse really shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive for a special seasonal treat.  And this one grouse, that cost me a solitary fiver, provided not one, but several meals for two (a single grouse breast is undoubtedly small for a main course, but the flavour is so full a little goes a long way).  And it isn’t actually that fiddly at all, although if your butcher really is a good one, and you maintain a good relationship with him (as it would be well worth making every effort to), then I’m sure he’d remove the breasts from the carcass for you anyway if you asked nicely (but do be sure to keep the carcass for the rest of the meat on it, and for stock, of course).  

If, however, you are not fortunate enough to have a proper local butcher, or if you really can’t be convinced that stripping the breasts from a grouse isn’t just a waste of a whole roast bird (and I wouldn’t necessarily put up much of an argument there), then this is also a good way with a duck breast, readily available, neatly packaged into pairs from any decent supermarket.

Anyway, the grouse breasts, in their marinade, were put in the fridge on the Tuesday, while I made a stock from the carcass and a couple of pigeon carcasses from the freezer, and then a delicious pasta sauce with that stock and the rest of the shredded grouse meat pulled from the carcass before going in the stock pot.  I’d intended the breasts for dinner the following night but circumstance resulted in us not having them until the evening after, meaning they’d marinated for a good 54 hours or so by the time I came to cook them.  This is excessive, although it did them no harm.  Overnight is good, but 3-4 hours would do fine (although in that case I would recommend keeping them out of the fridge).

Whenever you are ready to cook your breasts, it really couldn’t be simpler.  Heat a frying pan, till good and hot, then just remove your grouse breasts from their marinade (if they’ve been in the fridge do try and remember to take them out a good hour or so ahead, so they’re up to room temperature in time for cooking) and sear them for no more than a couple of minutes on each side (basically treat it like frying steak).
Take the breasts from the pan and set aside to rest for 5 minutes.  While that’s happening, pour the left over marinade into the pan, perhaps with an extra splash of wine – or sherry or marsala if you have either of them to handy, brandy even – and acouple of tablespoons of stock, and reduce a little to make a richly flavoured, glistening sauce.

If doing this dish with duck breasts, that are significantly bigger and, crucially, thicker than those of grouse, I’d sear the breasts then put the pan in an oven, heated to around 200, to roast for just 10 minutes – maybe as much as 15 if they are particularly big and thick and/or you like your duck better done than pink.

If you’re going to have the oven on anyway, you may as well roast up some potatoes, and maybe parsnips and carrots (always good with anything gamey, particularly if you allow them to start to caramelize) to serve alongside. As I cooked my grouse entirely in the pan, I just served them up with sautéed potatoes and the rest of our fabulous, foraged winter chanterelles, just quickly fried up in olive oil with a bit of garlic and parsley.

It was a light meal, but so full of flavour it left neither of us unsatisfied for a week night dinner.  If you wanted to make it more substantial, then of course you can always do a grouse per person, or use duck breasts.  Or stick with one grouse, and make a starter – a soup from the stock would be the obvious solution, and one that would maintain the theme of eating economically, if not parsimoniously, from what would generally be regarded as ‘luxury’ ingredients.

We skipped the starter on this occasion, so had plenty of stock left over for making a risotto the following evening, with a handful of dried ceps (or more likely some other bolete, to be honest) from one of the jars we still have left from last autumn’s bumper mushroom harvest.

I do like the autumn.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Hello again - to you, and grouse, and winter chanterelles...

Writing this feels more like a confession than a blog post: Forgive me father, it has been four weeks since my last post.  I really don’t know how that happened, apart from the universal fleetingness of time, and the more specific laziness of me.  There are other excuses I could make, like the possibly sand induced jamming of my camera, which occurred after a trip to the beach at Cabo de Gato in Almeria and explains why there was only the one post on what we did and ate on our Andalucian holiday.  Decent pictures really are key to this whole blogging thing, and I apologise in advance for the reduction in image quality that will be inevitable until I can either fix or replace the jammed Lumix.  Mind you, I blogged for several months before I got the Lumix in the first place, so it’s not really a valid excuse.  Which tangentially reminds me: since I last blogged the first anniversary of my first blog post has passed.  A whole year.  How?  I refer you again to the universal fleetingness of time…

There’s also been the weather, which has been lovely, but unsettlingly unseasonal.  In the Stoke Newington wine shop where I work part time (more like full time recently – another excuse) a couple of weekends ago we had girls coming in to buy chilled rosés to drink in the park.  In bikini tops.  In October.  Not that I have anything fundamentally against girls in bikini tops, but in Stoke Newington, in October?  That’s surely wrong.  Anyway, wrong or not, and nothing whatsoever to do with the girls and their tops, it does throw all your plans for featuring seasonal produce out the window, all the roasted squashes and game casseroles you had in mind no longer seem appropriate.  The weekend of the bikinis, incidentally we had a wine tasting in the shop, that had been scheduled weeks in advance, and the chosen wines advertised, for which, it being the first weekend in October we’d cunningly chosen big, hearty, autumnal reds.  Not so many takers for those, as it turned out… 

It’s also not been much of a mushroom season, unlike last year.  Although that said, we did return from a family wedding weekend in the Peak District  - which did at least manage to be partly autumnal, with horizontally driven rain on one day, albeit followed by baking sunshine the next - with a bag full of winter chanterelles, and a couple of small boletes.

That made it seem like an appropriate time to dig the spare grouse we had left over from Christmas out of the freezer.

Once thawed, I removed the breasts from the grouse and then pulled as much of the rest of the meat off the carcass as I could.  Then I put what was left in a roasting dish, along with a couple of pigeon carcasses (the ones I’d stripped the breasts from for Valentines) I also had in the freezer and briefly roasted them (for just about 10 minutes), before transferring them into a stockpot along with the regular stock veg, seasonings and water, and simmering them away for several hours to make an intensely gamey stock.

Scary space alien? Or grouse carcass stripped of its breasts?

The grouse breasts I put in a Tupperware dish, covered them with the juice and zest of one orange, a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then put them in the fridge to marinade for what turned out to be a couple of days.  In the meantime I took the remaining shreds of meat pulled from the carcass and fried them up with some similarly shredded bacon, a finely chopped shallot, clove of garlic and knub of red chilli, then tossed in a couple of handfuls of mushrooms (the chanterelles simply cleaned, the boletes thickly sliced).  Then it was just a case of adding a splash of white wine and a ladle of the game stock and bringing them to the simmer while cooking up some trofie pasta (trofie are little, knobbly, apparently hand rolled scraps of pasta, that have a basic rusticity that seems well suited to game and foraged wild mushrooms).  I added the pasta to the sauce (along with just a little of it’s cooking water, which Italian cooks always seem to insist on, and really does seem to help bring the pasta and sauce together), stirred it through thoroughly, along with a handful of freshly chopped parsley and served it up in bowls.  Apart from the two to three hours of simmering the stock, the whole meal was done in the time it took to bring the water to the boil and cook the pasta, and yet it was a rare, and intensely delicious treat.  That really is my favourite kind of meal.

To make up for the sorry shortage of posts over the past couple of months, I’ll hold back writing up what I did with the rest of the grouse and mushrooms till next time, but rest assured there are two whole meals to come yet.  Not bad from one tiny bird that cost me a fiver, and a bag of mushrooms foraged for free.

Until next time, which I promise will be sooner than four weeks…

Friday, 16 September 2011

What we did on our holidays (woodfire grilled pork ribs)

Becca and I just returned from a week away, up a mountain in Andalucia.  The same mountain, or its immediate neighbour, that appears in the background of the photo of me up a mountain in Andalucia, taken last year and featured in my post on wrapping fish in ham back in March of this year.  We had returned to – or near to, we were actually staying in a converted shepherd’s hut about 4km out of town - Trevelez, the village in the Sierra Nevada where jamon is sent to become Serrano, to enjoy more of their ham, and other delights.

A typical shop window in Trevelez
One day it is my firm intention to travel to a place like Trevelez with its wealth of pork products, or, say to Catania, with its fabulous fish market that Becca and I visited a couple of years ago, in sufficient style, for long enough and/or with enough people along for the trip, to do some serious cooking – and, in the case of Trevelez, to purchase a whole leg of jamon, which you can do for as little as around €40 (!).  As it was, this time, we were in a hovel – very lovely, but a hovel, nonetheless, with a three ring stove fired by gas from a bottle, and no oven.  Plus the usual selection of blunt, battered edged knives that you find in holiday rentals (I know they start off as cheap knives, which is a big chunk of the problem, but what do people do with them to put the kinks and unintended serrations into their blades that you always find?  I’m at a loss).

and another...
Travelling in sufficient style here means not only spending more on the accommodation, but also NOT flying Ryanair, and checking your bags into the hold so you can actually take your own knives.  Although surely there’s a market out their for foodie holiday lets – properties that are advertised, and can charge premium rents, on the basis of having well equipped kitchens and a set of decent knives (I wouldn’t mind paying an extra deposit on the knives).  Even a properly stocked spice rack, and basics like oils and vinegars laid on, because it’s a pain in the arse, not to mention an unnecessary cost, and one fears a horrible waste, to have to go and stock yourself up with these items for a week, knowing full well that you’ll use only a fraction of what you buy and will then have to leave them behind for the same kind of people who’d left you a six pack of energy drinks and a tin of frankfurters and beans…

I daresay such places already exist, just not in the price bracket Becca and I do our holiday shopping.  So 3 rings, no oven and blunt knives it was, then.  Not even a pepper grinder, for crying out loud (although fortunately the mountain sides round Trevelez are covered in loose scree from which we were able to forage a remarkably effective pestle/mortar combo).  So a certain amount of improvisation became all part of the culinary fun.  On the considerable upside we had free access to fruiting plum and almond trees, strawberry beds and a fecund veg patch that was effectively a ratatouille jungle, with tomatoes and peppers growing in tremendous variety and profusion, more courgettes than two people could possibly hope to deal with, and just a bare sufficiency of aubergine.  And although we had no oven, we did have a fine brick and stone built barbecue, and as much dry wood as we could carry back off the mountain to fuel it, which I guess makes it a South African style Braai, as much as a barbecue.

Beautiful but innefective.  My first attempt at building a cooking fire (perhaps not a braai)...

With cooking over a wood fire in mind I got a rack of pork ribs from the Supermercado & Carniceria in the village down the hill (which was no kind of a fancy shop but did have a selection of fresh and cured meats - mainly pork and pork products, but also chicken and a little beef - that would be pretty much unimaginable in the general store of any British village of comparable size, let alone remoteness), and had the nice lady split it with her big, sharp cleaver. 

On getting the ribs home I improvised a marinade from the somewhat random cupboard stores that were to hand.  Fortunately, and this was clearly dependent on luck, with nobody’s judgement entering into it, what was to hand consisted of dried garlic, cumin powder, hot paprika (pimenton picante), dried chillies and cinnamon, plus the sherry vinegar that I added to the general store, and several jars of the fantastic, richly herbal, local honey – the miel de Alpujarras – that we remembered well from our last trip to this neck of the woods.  This, along with salt, pepper (once I’d found the appropriate grinding stones) and good local olive oil, made the basis of a fine, sweet/hot dryish rub for the meat.  The only thing I probably would have done differently if at home would have been to use fresh garlic and chilli (pasted together in the garlic crusher) rather than dried, maybe added crushed fennel seed, aniseed and star anise, and probably left out the cinnamon – but I’m not so sure that last omission would necessarily have been an improvement.  And I know a lot of serious BBQ aficionados would argue that the best marinade for your meat is a dry one - but then some of them might also advocate the inclusion of ingredients like Dr Pepper, so we can pick and choose which elements of BBQ lore to follow.  If a BBQ aficionado told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?  With or without a Dr Pepper…?

My first attempt at building a wood fire to cook over was an abject failure.  A perfectly good fire of the kind you’d happily snuggle into an armchair in front of with a good glass of red wine, or maybe port of a winter’s evening, or even sing songs round of a midsummer night, but just nowhere near enough heat to cook over.  That night I retreated to the kitchen and cooked up some patatas pobres with fried chorizo and morcilla on the three ring gas hob, which was quick and delicious, and put the ribs back in the fridge to marinate for another twenty four hours – so no loss at all, if anything a net gain…

Emergency patatas pobres with chorizo & morcilla.  Disaster  pleasantly averted...
The second fire was much more effective.  First time round I think my mistake had been to build it up with small branches and then get a good big log going as the smaller branches burnt out, just as you would for a fire in a hearth at home.  The problem with that is that it’s actually hot embers you want to cook over not flaming wood, and the big log just burns too long and slow.  The second time, I started earlier, which was a big, basic step forward, used several small to medium sized logs as the core of my fire and kept adding smaller branches to burn faster and more fiercely, building up the heat and creating a greater mass of hotter ember.  This meant going through a lot of these smaller branches, but fortunately the hillsides around our cortijo provided a limitless supply of bone dry deadwood.

Once the wood was burning down to charcoal and ash, we lowered the grill over the fire to get good and hot before any meat came into contact with it.  And when we had a good heat going over glowing embers – hot enough that I could just about hold my hand 10 centimetres over grill level for 5 seconds without it actually starting to cook – then we were ready to go.  The well marinated ribs had been out of the fridge an hour now, so as not to hit the grill cold, the marinade itself contained plenty of olive oil so there was no need to add any to either meat or grill, it was just a case of whacking the ribs on, hearing that sizzle, smelling the flesh sear and the honey caramelise.

I gave them about ten minutes a side.  I wasn’t timing it, and there’s no point giving definitive cooking times for barbeque cooking anyway, because there are simply too many variables - how hot your coals are, how high above them is your grill, and how confident are you about eating your pork pink.  With regards to the last, in this case I think a lot of people would have gone a good couple of minutes a side over my ten, but I think my ribs would have been tastier, juicier, more tender and just generally more satisfyingly carnal than theirs.  I’ve talked about this before:  If your pig meats good, you can serve it pink – maybe not raw and bleeding like you might the flesh of cow, but distinctly pink.  If you think your pig meat might not be good, you really shouldn’t be eating it anyway.

Lunch on the terrace.  Not a bad view for a hovel...

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is absolutely right, but please don’t all follow his advice at once…

A new potato and caulifower curry, just to prove I do vegetables too (even if I never did get round to writing up the recipe...)

In last Saturday’s Guardian Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall wrote about how he has drastically reduced his consumption of meat, and fish, and made vegetables the mainstay of his diet.  And urged us all to follow his lead, for the sake of our own well being, that of the animals we would otherwise be eating, and, most of all, the well being of the planet itself.

I have to say, even speaking as one who, as regular readers will know, does like their meat, that I cannot fault his argument: scientifically, ethically and logically, it’s pretty unimpeachable; his conclusion, therefore, becomes pretty unavoidable.  Frankly he’s absolutely right: we will all be better off if we all consume less meat.  The only effective way each of us as individuals can contribute to that is by eating less meat ourselves.  I cannot disagree.  No, more than that, I positively agree.  I do however, have one considerable concern with his position.

Not a concern, oddly enough that anyone seemed to raise in the comments attached to his piece in the Guardian online.  A tedious number of those – presumably, I’m afraid, from vegetarians (I say ‘afraid’ because this really isn’t a veggie vs. carnivore issue, and although HFW is not advocating vegetarianism, he doesn’t dismiss it either, indeed acknowledges it as the logical endpoint of his argument) – start off by praising him for his new found passion for veg, then sarcastically point out that, oh, he just happens to have a book on the subject to plug.  As if that undermines his argument.  Which rather overlooks the fact that the man’s a professional food writer.  And if he felt sufficiently passionate about any food related issue we would surely, therefore, expect him to write a book about it.  Wouldn’t we?  Or am I being naïve?

Personally I’m not worried in the slightest about the advocacy or otherwise of vegetarianism, nor the naked cynicism of a food writer having the brass neck to write a book about food, what concerns me is the potential consequences of too many people following Hugh’s lead.  Because, let’s face it, it’s not McDonalds, or Bernard Matthews turkey farms that’ll feel the impact, is it? 

For many years HFW has campaigned tirelessly (some would no doubt say cynically, what with him having a book to sell and all…) for a more ethical meat industry and sustainable fisheries, with better standards of welfare for the animals and less harm done to the environment.  He is far from alone in this, but his is one of the best known and most influential voices in the movement.  That influence though, surely, does not extend far beyond that intersection of the demographic Venn diagram where foodie and Guardian reader cross.  And while this demographic makes up no more than a tiny fraction of the global meat market, they undoubtedly make up a sizeable chunk if not, frankly, all, of the market for just the kind of ethical, sustainable, high welfare, low environmental impact British meat and fish producers he has previously championed.  It seems to me that if ALL of Hugh’s readers heed his advice, and drastically reduce their meat consumption, while it will make no statistically significant difference to global meat consumption (and therefore neither on the welfare of any of the beasts processed by the industry that feeds that consumption, nor on its environmental impact) it would have direct and dire consequences for the meat and fish industries good guys.  So much so that when we came to seek out organic, high welfare meat for our occasional meat treats, we might just find that all the suppliers of it have gone out of business, and all that is left available to us is factory farmed, antibiotic and steroid pumped, low welfare, water injected, shrink wrapped supermarket pap.  Or organic, high welfare meat at prices only the super wealthy could afford.

HFW’s current advocacy of reduced meat/increased veg consumption is not, in truth, as dramatic a U-turn is it may seem for a self described ‘notorious carnivore’.  His position has always been that the ethical meat eater should be responsible for the killing of fewer animals, well cared for while alive, and made the most extensive use possible of once dead (the ‘nose to tail’ philosophy).  His current position is simply a shift further along the same line of thought.  I would urge caution in everyone who cares about the ethics of meat rushing to follow Hugh to the logical endpoint of that line.  Otherwise we might just be the unwitting instruments of the destruction of all that Hugh, and many others, some of whom have sunk their life’s work into it, have been striving for these past ten years or so.  Please, let’s not allow that to happen.  Reduce your meat consumption by all means, most of us could probably do with doing that, I know I could, and have long intended to, without ever really getting round to it.  But let’s not leave the good meat producers entirely without a market.

That said, we did do a version of Hugh’s aubergine and green bean curry, substituting runner beans from the garden for the green beans, and very nice it was too.  We added the juice of a lime to the curry paste recipe as given, and reduced the quantity of water accordingly.  Not having had a control sample of the lime free paste to directly compare, I can’t categorically say it was an improvement, but I think it probably was.