Saturday, 1 October 2016

October 2012: cheap meat


We can eat nicer, better and cheaper - but what's the catch?
The trick is to think ahead. This is not always possible of course, but when we have an opportunity, it pays to look into the various ways in which we can save money and still have lovely good-quality food.

'Netmums' gives us a guide to the cheaper cuts of meat [1]. They often take longer, but you can make a large batch and freeze a few meals. Or cook for a few days at the time. And while it's cooking - tidy up? Go shopping? Watch a cookery programme?
"It may take three hours to cook, but the point so often missed is that only about 15 minutes of that involves the cook doing stuff." says Hugh F-W, and gives some tasty examples [2].
If you own a slow cooker or an always-on Aga, Delicious Magazine gives a list of "The Best Lamb/Beef/Pork Cuts for Slow Cooking", which are not just delicious, but cheap to boot. [3]

There is another side to this approach: if you are having an animal killed for food, it is not just more economic, but also more respectful to use all of it. Not just steaks and chops and dispose of the rest. This is called nose-to-tail cooking: "If you're going to eat meat, it's only polite to eat the whole animal" says Fergus Henderson, who started the movement. "If the animal’s died for us to eat it, we have a responsibility to not let any part of it go to waste." [4]
For more nose-to-tail recipes, see

EAT: celeriac, turnip, beet, cabbage, calabrese, carrots, cauliflower, chard, fennel, kohlrabi, runner beans, salsify/scorzonera, spinach, tomatoes, Jerusalem/globe artichokes, brussels', chicory, endive, swede, celery, corn salad, leek, peas/mange tout, courgettes, marrow, pumpkin/squash, (white) radish,  rocket, spring onions, watercress, sweetcorn.
Meat: rabbit, goose, grouse, guinea fowl, partridge, pheasant, wood pigeon, duck, venison, squirrel.
Fish: crab, clam, cuttlefish, lobster, mackerel, mussels, scallop, (sea)bass, sprats, cockles, black bream, gurnard, winkle, pollack, grey mullet, American signal crayfish.

SOW: broad beans, land cress, round seeded peas.
Plant rhubarb sets; spring cabbage; garlic; and autumn onion sets if the weather is good. The garlic should be suited for autumn planting. Don't introduce diseases by using old cloves! Plant out spring cabbage and, in the South, cabbages and winter/spring lettuce.

500g sliced green tomatoes, 250g sliced potatoes, 1 chopped onion,1 tin beans like barlotti/pinto/cannellini, 30g butter, 1l stock, 1/4 tsp dried sage/thyme/mixed herbs, salt, pepper, (125ml single cream or some chilli sauce).
Fry tomatoes, potatoes and onion in butter for a few mins. Add beans, stock, herbs, salt and pepper, bring to the boil. Simmer until veg is tender. Blend, stir in cream/chilli sauce, reheat.

VELO LEVES (marrow soup) - or use courgettes or squash.
500g marrow, large sliced onion, 45ml oil, 1 tsp marjoram, paprika powder, salt, 60g chopped walnuts, parsley, 1.5l liquid, 15ml cider vinegar, 300ml single cream (garlic, caraway).
Clean and grate marrow, squeeze out some of the liquid and fry with the onion, garlic, paprika, marjoram and caraway. After a few mins, add liquid and simmer till the marrow has 'melted', Add nuts, vinegar and cream, reheat without boiling. Serve sprinkled with paprika and parsley. 

Heart, like all organs, is full of nutrients and exceedingly healthy. It's also cheap, and easy to cook. 
Here are some ways to use it: I've tried and liked them all.
Trim off tubes and arteries, rinse cold and keep in lightly salted water till needed:
slice in half to the thickness of a steak, cook like steak;
stir-fry since it cooks very fast;
pan-fry with spices and veg;
slice into strips, marinate in olive oil, cumin, crushed garlic, salt, pepper: stir fry it for 2 mins a side;
slice about 1/2" thick or so, sear on medium-high in butter with bay leaves and rosemary. 

DRAADJESVLEES (traditional Dutch slow-braised beef)
with mashed or boiled potatoes (and butter and parsley), green beans or red cabbage, and apple sauce.
1k stewing beef, 50g butter, salt, pepper, 3 large onions, 750ml water, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 tsp juniper berries, 3 bay leaves, 4 cloves, 2 tbsp vinegar.
Pat meat dry, cut into chunks. Heat butter and brown meat. Season. Add chopped onions, let caramelize. Add water, spices and vinegar: bring to boil. Reduce temperature, cover, simmer for at least 3-4 hours. Check every so often, add water if required. It's ready when the meat starts to disintegrate into threads and the liquid is reduced to a thick gravy. If the stew's too thin when you're ready to serve, remove meat and reduce the liquid, replacing the meat later. Remove bay, cinnamon, and any cloves and juniper berries you find.

6 lamb's kidneys, 15g butter, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, 1/2 tbsp mustard, 100ml single cream, 2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon, salt, pepper.
Rinse organs in cold water and, for a milder taste, soak in water with 1 tsp of salt to 2l water for 1-2 hrs. Remove transparent membrane covering the kidneys. Cut in half crossways, remove core in the middle. Melt butter, add kidneys cut side down. Cook on fairly high heat for 2 mins, turn and cook for 2 more mins, pressing with a spatula. Don't overcook or they'll be dry. Put kidneys on a plate. Pour vinegar into pan and scrape up meaty bits. Cook on high heat until most of the vinegar has evaporated. Add mustard and cream, bring almost to boiling point, stirring all the time. Stir in tarragon, season. Return kidneys to pan, reheat for a few secs, serve immediately.
PS: This dish is cooked very quickly, so have all the ingredients to hand before you start.

200g cream cheese, apple, celery, sm. grated onion, watercress, parsley, seasoning.
Take cream cheese out of the fridge well before, so it's easier to handle. Chop/grate everything finely, add seasoning and herbs/spices of your choice (like curry or paprika powder), let stand for a bit to mingle. Nice on toast or crackers.

Classic and delicious:
4 lambs' kidneys trimmed and cut into chunks, 1 tsp Worcestershire/soy sauce, 2 tsp tomato purée, 2 tsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp butter, 1 tsp mustard powder, pinch cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, 2 slices toast, 1 tbsp chopped parsley.
Heat butter, add kidneys and fry for 2-3 mins, until golden-brown. Whisk together Worcestershire (soy) sauce, tomato purée, lemon juice, mustard powder and cayenne. Pour onto the kidneys and stir well. Cook for a further 2 mins, until cooked through. Season. Place toast onto plates and top each slice with kidneys and pan juices. Garnish with parsley.

CHARD (or SPINACH) and POTATO CURRY, sidedish for 5, meal for 2-3.
400g spinach or Swiss chard, 400g pref. waxy potatoes, 1 tin tomatoes, olive oil, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds, chillipowder, seasoning.

Cook cumin and coriander for 2 mins in dry hot pan, grind in pestle and mortar. Chop potatoes into 1 1/2 cm cubes. Heat oil, add spices, cook for a min. Add potatoes, chilli, tomatoes, mix. Cover and simmer for 15 mins, until the potatoes are almost cooked. Chop spinach roughly, add to pan, stir, cover. Simmer for 5 mins until it's wilted and the potatoes fully cooked. I added some pheasant bits from the freezer.

A useful site is 'Guide to purchasing, preparing and eating offal' at
For interesting 'nasty bits' recipes, see also
Those of you who live in Somerset might be interested in the new online forum abouy community food growing in Somerset: see


Next issue: vegetarianism.