Sunday, 19 January 2014

How to cook cheap cuts of meat.


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




35 comments:

  1. As I trimmed meat for tonight's dinner Miss 17 commented on how much I had to cut away. This was the end of a whole rump and had some silver skin that had to go. I told her simply that this was the way I have always done their stews, soups and curries but they often were not around as I started slow cooking while they were at school.

    Are the traditional cheaper cuts becoming more expensive in England? For instance my lamb shanks are now trendy and a ridiculous price as are beef cheeks, oxtails and so forth. Shoulder of lamb can be more expensive than leg of lamb too. You may not agree with some of Jamie Oliver's philosophies etc but I do love some of the recipes in his Save with Jamie book. They are guaranteed to be all eaten in this household.

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  2. Neck of lamb stew was a big part of my childhood. It's harder to find these days on the bone as is oxtail. I'm all for a real food promotion and love many traditional meals. I still cook sausage and egg pie that I learned to make over thirty years ago at school.

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  3. I grew up on a croft and we home killed our own animals (now illegal) so I grew up eating food like this, meat with bones and thought it was totally normal. Its a shame lots of people don't know how good food like this can be. Really that looks so delicious, I am sure your friends will really enjoy it!

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    1. Hi mary - its petfectly legal to slaughter your own meat but you are not allowed to sell it.

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    2. Thanks for clarifying that Froogs, I should have made myself clearer and said that you are not allowed to share it with neighbours etc which was common place when I was growing up. It is a shame as it was a community thing and lots of these skills have now died out. My family like lots of others now put the animals to the local slaughter house and they get it back all portioned up.

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  4. Drives me mad if i have to buy supermarket meat . The lousy 3 for £10 pound deals that arent big enough packs to be any use to a family, or mince that is cheaper on another shelf bought separately, they must think were dumb . The only supermarket that has a decent down to soup bones butchery is Morrisons . We cant even buy offal at the local butchers because nobody eats it these days

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  5. Aaaah, I swear this is the best dish you've ever shown us !

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  6. So true! Here in Sydney the best place to buy meat is Glenmores in Glebe - we are happy to drive over because the prices are quality is so good. Much better than our supermarkets too.

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  7. That looks absolutely delicious Froogs, we love neck of lamb stew, also beef stew made with shin which has the best flavour. We are still eating our way through the meats we bought from Tregagles in early December, on your recommendation. So, thanks!

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  8. You are up and about cooking so it's good to know you must be feeling better from your cold. I knew you wouldn't be down for long. Your food always looks amazing I'm a vegetarian and you always cook a variety of both meat and veg dishes. Have a good time with your guests. x

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  9. I always buy meat at the butcher..do not trust supermarket meat. The recipe you shared is delicious!
    I was giving the dogs a bit of canned dog food mixed in with their dry, but it is VERY expensive, andwho knowswhat is int it? My butcher sekls "dog meat" which contains what they trim off or tiny bits of leftover meat that they grind together and freeze. The dogs LOVE it, and it is so much cheaper to use. I just cook up a batch every few days and keep it in the fridge..The rest is in chunks in the freezer.

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  10. I used to have that, and Ox Tail casserole as a child, and still make it now. Best meals are made from the cheapest cuts because of the slow cooking.
    Julie

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  11. I love slow cooked food. It always tastes better than something cobbled together. Of course, sometimes - even a lot of times - we have to cobble, but slow cooked stew fills the house with the smell of yum!
    We never had lamb when I was a kid, it was always mutton which was an older beast and was much more flavoursome. You got more meat for your money as the cuts are generally cheaper. However, it is rare to find a butcher that does mutton any more, but when it is available, really tasty. ;)

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  12. HURRAH! I'm with you all the way. We didn't have quite so much offal when I was growing up, liver and kidney mostly I guess. A lamb joint now and again - it wasn't quite the luxury item it is these days. Stewing steak, stewing lamb, hot pots and plates of "Scouse", and breast of lamb - can you believe what they are charging for this nowadays?? But when we first married we were skint and 4 moths to feed, so it was coley for fish - I can't face it these days! and ox cheek, hearts, and of course MINCE! Chicken used to be a luxury but is now dirt cheap because of shocking rearing practices, but I am not one to judge those who buy cheaply out of necessity. One posh butcher near us sells "short ribs`" cheaper than almost anything, a cut I was not familiar with but seeing more of it now. Yes, you pay for bone but it is good for braising and there is marrow to glean. My mum made great hot pots, not quite this way but hey, that's what cooking is about, like traditional music - you develop your own version. I love Nigel Slater for great seasonal cheap REAL meals. And your own of course!

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    Replies
    1. Ooh, 'soucse' - I still cook it!

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  13. I am currently cooking a 2lb 3oz joint of chuck (from a butcher) in my slow-cooker as recommended by the butcher. I got 2 of these joints for £10 which I think is quite good. I like Morrison's who sell all kinds of 'unusual' meat but unfortunately, as the tv chefs cotton on, they rise in price.

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  14. Froogs
    That looks absolutely gorgeous! I've only had lamb a few times in my life, not really caring for it, I',m afraid. Feel the same way about veal (never mind how it's produced). Both are out of my budget as well. Would need to find a butcher . . . rare to find even fat back or salt pork around here. Dinner looks delicious, wonder if the same technique would work with beef shanks-a rare find on marked down, but I snap them up and freeze until I get enough to make beef barley soup.

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  15. I learned early on that the cheaper cuts taste best slow cooked. If you tried to use more expensive cuts, they dried out and were a disappointment. I get 90% of my meat from my local butcher, but have to preorder some of the cheaper cuts, as he says no one wants them anymore and he makes them into mince and sausage. What a shame.
    Your lunch looks delicious, Froogs.

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  16. I cook this and other cheaper cuts the day before, cool and chill. Then I lift the solidified fat off and render it down, it makes fantastic pastry for the "leftovers pie" My local grazier/butcher sells wonderful meat, dearer than the supermarket for some cuts, but I would not buy them anyway.

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  17. That looks absolutely fabulous Froogs! We've not long finished eating a full roast chicken dinner but I could eat that straight away! I'm eating down my freezers at the moment and have a full freezer of meat to be getting through. Once it's empty I'm getting my meat from a local butcher and will be cooking a wider variety of cuts. I do have some pigs trotters in the freezer. Any ideas on how to cook them?

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    1. I boil up pig's trotters when I made pork pies - you do this to extract the gelatine, I then picked the meat clean and added that to the pie - I minced half belly pork, half shoulder for the pie and added the trotter meat and added that to the pie with plenty of salt and white pepper with nutmeg, sage and thyme - cooked it and added the gelatine, which i reheated to liquify it and poured it into the cold pie with a funnel

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  18. Looks lovely - but how on earth are you going to get that dish clean!? :-)

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    1. Soaked and put through the dishwasher and it's clean and back in the cupboard

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  19. Hi Froogs, lunch looks good, enjoy! I too get cheaper cuts of meat as the flavour is better. My mum did the same, always buying from our local butcher. The dripping was kept in a cup in the larder. We used to have dripping on toast with a sprinkle of salt - pure heaven. My then to-be husband thought it was disgusting! Our butcher often has bones - free! I boil them on top of our wood stove. Makes fab stock or given as a treat to our dogs!

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  20. I used to always use neck of lamb and indeed breast of lamb. I'm horrified however at how expensive breast of lamb has become - they virtually used to give it away when I was younger. Unfortunately it is also very difficult to now source the neck of lamb around here too.

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  21. Slow cooked is also easy to do. I usually only use a pan and a casserole dish (or slow cooker). Even my roasts and silversides are slow cooked - the meat just falls apart. We have always had our own meat and like you was brought up on all sorts of meals using meats that a lot of people turn their noses up at today. I laugh when I go into supermarkets here and see 'Lamb Drumsticks' - good old lamb shanks - at unbelievably high prices. And it is always a good feeling to create a meal out of meat 'scraps' that is nourishing and lip smacking good!! Oh, one thing we don't do in this house is take the meat off the bone - we all love sucking the meat off the bone so all the bones are served up too!! - even to visitors!!

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  22. It looks delicious and mouthwatering. Would love to have had a bit. Lol.

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  23. Since we have home-killed entire beasts in the last few years, using up the cuts I had never heard of has been a challenge and pleasure!

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  24. I love food like this, I grew up on stews and casseroles when I was a kid. My gran made the best beef stew out of some cut of stewing beef with proper gravy, it was divine. One of my favourite of all meals is cottage pie I just love the way the creamy mash potato crisps up in places and the mince stew below is unctuous and filling. One of the best things I ever ate was when I first started work at F.W. Woolworths in the early 1980's. We had a canteen and staff could eat there and get reasonable priced meals. They made the most divine potato and cheese pie which of course was just creamy mashed potato with heaps of cheddar cheese in it and grilled till brown on top. This was served with tinned tomatoes! In hindsight not the most weight watcher meal to eat or possibly the most nutritious but I loved it! My mum used to simmer pork trotters for a couple of hours, then split them with a cleaver and then roast for half an hour. Delicious! As was liver and bacon, yum! Oh the memories. Thanks, I'm going to get the liver out for tea tomorrow night!

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  25. great to see someone agreeing that the flavour comes from the bones and fat. As farmers we rear our own beef and pork but haven't had lambs for a while. We allowed next door farmer to graze his sheep on us last winter and he gave us a lamb already for the freezer. imagine our horror when they minced the breast and no sign of neck or liver and kidneys! we were really looking forward to Lancashire Hot Pot which is what we call this dish. P.S. when the kids were at home they knew when we had some money 'cos we had chicken instead of steak again!

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  26. Can't beat real food! Looks good, smells good, tastes fantastic - and does you and your pocket good too. Thanks for the recipe!

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  27. Morrisons are currently selling neck lamb at 500g for £2.99 a pack, or two packs for £5.00 not as cheap as your butcher but it gives me a chance to try out your version of lamb hotpot.

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  28. I am always annoyed when I go to a supermarket and want beef for stewing. The only one the have available is stewing steak. I don't want steak for slow cooking..... steak is for quick frying (in my case just so it is hot enough to eat). But sadly my local butcher buys his meat at the wholeseller and doesn't slaughter himself, so he has basically got the same as the local supermarket, just more expensive.

    Oxtail soup is divine - it is still served in German restaurants and gorgeous in Winter. Although I have a feeling that it may actually be cow-tail soup, as one doesn't see many Oxens around anymore.

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  29. while we're on the subject, whatever happened to boiling fowl? WhenI was a child we often had chicken that had been boiled then finished in the oven for sunday lunch, and the stock made the vegetable broth we started with.....

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    1. Hi Suzie. I remember boiling the old chooks as well. We called them boilers and the reason it was done, is they were usually end of life birds. They'd stopped laying and their next best use was as food.
      Not like these days, with the genetically modified bird that is the size of a year old bird at 14 weeks when you buy it all chilled and gutted or cut up at the supermarket.
      Ye olde bird had quite a bit of flavour and was always stuffed with a bread, onion, sage and egg mixture.
      And lets not forget the soup made from the yummy broth.
      Thanks for the memories. :)

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