Hello Dear Reader,
I trundled off to Trago yesterday to stock up on dog food as no where sells it for less. The butchers I use, Tregagles, is on the same site and I took a look, on the hunt for bargains as I have friends coming over for lunch today. Unlike the supermarkets which sell just the meat they think you want to buy, a local butchers will sell the entire animal. Why not, they bought the entire beast and need to return a profit. Consequently, as the supermarkets lead the way, there are so many cuts of meat that you just will not see. I'm all for hunting out good meat without the help of the big store!
I often reflect at just how good a cook my mother was and still is. I grew up on braised cheek, melting deliciously cooked offal, oxtail and kidney pudding (we couldn't afford the good cuts), haslet, brawn, boiled and pressed tongue, oxtail stew and soup. Lamb must have been cheaper then as we would have stuffed and rolled and slow roasted breast of lamb and just as I have cooked today. Slow cooked, or twice cooked as is trendy now, neck of lamb.
Any meat that worked hard, that was muscular, that is close to the bone, tastes the best! Ask the regional cooks of France, Spain, Italy and of course here in the UK. Good food is borne out of necessity and invention. You can use neck of lamb in any lamb recipe but just cook it slowly. When cooked slowly, you can remove the meat from the bone with a spoon! As children, we would pick it up with our fingers and with a rich garlic and onion gravy dripping off our chins would greedily suck the meat from bones. To this day, I prefer any meat off the bone and if no one's looking, I eat it with my hands!
Here's my version, or I suppose my mum's version of Lamb Hotpot. Feeds 6.
You will need
1 kilo of neck of lamb - in my butchers - that's well under a fiver and that's a bargain for Sunday lunch!
Six large potatoes - peeled and finely sliced
6 large carrots - peeled and finely chopped
1/2 head of celery - finely chopped
1 entire garlic - finely chopped
2 large onions - finely chopped
1 tablespoon of cornflour
1 litre of stock - I used chicken from cubes.
Oil, or even better, dripping for searing the meat
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
Here is what you do.
- Set the oven to 180.
- Get the pan hot, but not smoking, add a spoon of dripping and seal the meat on all sides
- Add to a large casserole dish that has a lid.
- Sweat off the onions, garlic, celery and garlic - add to the pan
- Add seasoning and sprinkle with flour then stir thoroughly coating the meat.
- Add the stock and stir - add more water to make sure it's completely covered.
- Cover with a lid and cook for four hours.
Remove the neck of lamb from the casserole dish and with a spoon, remove the meat - I leave the fat intact, let's face it , if you are squeamish about real food then you're not likely to be eating this.
The meat just comes away with the spoon, the cook's perks is that I got to suck the bones dry!
Break up the meat into mouthfuls and return the the casserole mix and stir through.
Arrange the potatoes on top. Any way will do! Dot with butter or dripping and return to the oven - Increase the heat to 200 and bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.
Check and if it needs to brown, return to the oven without the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes.
This is fine to cook the day before and return to the oven, 160 for an hour before your guests arrive.
Serve with a glass of local cider, lot of steamed veggies such as mashed swede, shredded savoy cabbage and peas. Under £1.50 per serving........now that's a frugal lunch.
Over to you Dear Reader, who else wants to shout hurrah for real food! Who else is sick of the supermarkets dictating what people should or can eat! If you want some ideas for recipes for cheap cuts of meat then check out the current batch of TV programmes gracing our screens, such at Anthony Bourdain's 'No reservations' made in the 1990s as he travelled around Europe eating real food, albeit rustic for some people and currently Giorgio Locatelli's 'Italy unpacked' and Rick Stein's 'French Odyssey , where they both cook and eat real food.
Until tomorrow, sorry to rush but guests here soon,
Love Froogs xxxxxxxxxxxx