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Green wet garlic, red meat and blue cheese…

Sirloin with shallot and wet garlic, finished with Blacksticks Blue

As part of Miss South’s trip north at the end of March I wanted to ensure we could enjoy what is rapidly becoming a prerequisite for our family gatherings: excellent beef steak. As usual the wonderful Stansfield’s of Tod market was able to supply the required cuts, in this case two glorious Yorkshire sirloins. Once I’d bought these I picked up a brace of oh-so-fresh wet garlic bulbs from Alex Med – the first of the year – and decided that this, alongside a few rogue shallots which were crying out to be used, could provide the basis of a very pleasant main course. With a starter of Woodcock and a dessert of Buckfast sorbet this was shaping up to a helluva meal… Read more

Veally good…

I love veal. I know some people are apprehensive about it due to the dark days of veal crates and the inhumanely reared tasteless wan meat they created. Sadly this meat is still available for purchase, but mainly in Continental Europe. Britain has embraced the much more humane and tastier rose veal in recent years and when I see this at the butcher it’s hard to resist, which is how I came to have to some stunning English veal fillet to cook on St George’s Day.

This sensational piece of meat came from Paul Stansfield at Todmorden Market and like all his meat, is top quality, beautifully prepared and is locally sourced, possibly from the same farm that produces the wonderful Pexommier cheese. I only wish I had a butcher like him handy to me in Brixton. In fact, I wish everyone still had a butcher like this available to them…we’d all be eating better quality, more ethically raised meat and probably enjoying it much more too!

I decided that a top class piece of meat like this needed to cooked simply and without much fuss, so roasting it seemed like the perfect way to go. I expected this piece of fillet to be more like pork fillet than beef due to the size of a calf compared to a cow, and therefore thought it would be good stuffed for flavour and moisture. But as you can see, when unwrapped, stuffing would simply have been unnecessary. Instead, I simply seasoned it, sealed it on all sides in a hot pan and roasted it in the oven at 190˚C for 20 minutes.

The lure of stuffing was too great to abandon completely, especially as I had some beautiful organic rye bread from the farm shop at Tebay just itching to become breadcrumbs. I mixed these up with some kale, sauteed with anchovy, garlic and lemon zest, then finely chopped with a russet apple and bound with lemon juice and an egg. This mix was rolled into stuffing balls and baked in the oven to be served on the side of the veal, along with some roasted beetroot.

The veal came out after 20 minutes and rested for another 10 while I deglazed the pan with a splash of red wine to make a light gravy. The meat was beautifully tender, still very slightly pink and extremely moist and juicy and carved as easily as butter. Served with a salad, the stuffing and beetroot, it made a very handsome plate of food.

Unfortunately despite the 45 minutes in a hot oven it had had, the beetroot was still raw when we tried eating it, but the veal was so good, nothing could have detracted from it. It was incredibly tender, genuinely melt-in-the-mouth and packed with rich, but light beefy flavour. It was massively enhanced by the sharp lemon tang of the stuffing and ably accompanied by a Chilean Carmenere/Syrah blend. It was without doubt some of the finest meat I have ever eaten. (And my stuffing was pretty damn good too!)

So if you happen to see some British rose veal on your next trip to the butcher or have just always wondered what actually happens to all those ickle baby boy calves that the British dairy industry creates each year, I suggest making a purchase and supporting farmers in rearing top quality, ethically sound meat. You won’t regret it!

Hare today, gone tomorrow…

Plated and sated: slow-cooked haunch of hare

It’s game season. Living in the countryside is giving me access to loads of rather exotic or decadent-sounding fowl and beasts at reasonable prices, and whereas I’d have once thought this was the preserve of the landed gentry and those with a penchant for head-to-toe tweed, I’m becoming a convert to wild, natural meats. It’s often surprisingly good value, very seasonal, normally local, and a lot of it’s new to me.

So when I was in the market doing my weekly shop I espied hare on the butcher’s blackboard I decided I needed to take home a new furry friend for the pot. My interest had been piqued by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s weighty ‘River Cottage Meat book‘ which I got for Christmas, so I’d been reading about hare and it was fresh in my mind. This was a big beast… 8 quid for a 5lb (2kg) animal and I got the butcher to take off the legs and cut the saddle into four roughly equal pieces.

I don’t think I’ve ever had hare before (possibly in a pie, but don’t quote me on that). However I’ve cooked rabbit enough to have some kind of reference, and have found that as it’s so lean it needs to be cooked with respect and lots of moisture. My oven’s been playing up for a while, so I elected to use the slow cooker to make a slow, unctuous game-y casserole.

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