River Cottage Meat
About Me: The River Cottage Meat book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall:- 'I'd like to encourage you to think about the meat you eat. Is it good enough? Good enough to bring pleasure every time you eat it? What about the animals it comes from? Have they lived well? And what about the way you cook meat? Are you adventurous with it? Are you thriftyy with it? Do you respect it, and do it justice?'
In his book Roast Chicken and Other Stories, Simon Hopkinson offers a recipe for grouse soup, and it has become one of my favourite soup recipes (from one of my favourite cookbooks). Unfortunately, I don’t have ‘4 grouse carcasses’ burning a hole in my fridge nearly as often as I’d like to. But I do find that other game – pheasants, partridges, pigeons, mallard, the occasional woodcock or hare – come my way quite often. And so I have taken to improvising bastard versions of the Hopkinson recipe. It’s never the same game, and therefore never the same soup, twice. But it rarely disappoints. Pigeon is always a good addition, as, like grouse, it has an underlying beefiness that keeps the soup robust. Mallard, on the other hand, can sometimes make it taste a bit fishy. A version in which I included the remains of a roast saddle of hare was quite sublime – up there with the four-grouse version. You can always stockpile game carcasses in the freezer until you have a promising combination.
This is a particularly fine dish to make when you’ve got some good stewing beef but no stock – the stout makes a good substitute (though arguably, half stout, half stock would be even better). It’s also a dish where mushrooms – too often thrown into a stew without much thought – really come into their own.
I’ve always loved toad in the hole and have always felt that, on the whole(!), the meat-baked-in-batter concept is under-explored. This recipe aims to glamorise the dish a touch, while in no way compromising its earthy, trencherman appeal. The posh gravy is optional but makes it into a definite dinner-party winner.
This is barbecue cooking at its sticky-fingered best – though the dish will also work in the oven if weather doesn’t permit. You can either barbecue a whole rack of ribs or sub-divide the rack into smaller portions, but don’t go smaller than three ribs joined together or they’ll get overfrazzled. Another thing you can use is an old-fashioned butcher’s cut called a ‘sticking’ of pork – a piece trimmed off from the hand of the pork to leave a tidier joint. The ‘sticking’ has some ribs attached to some deliciously fatty meat from the shoulder
A home-made beefburger, just a bit pink in the middle, barbecue-grilled and served in a bun with your own personalised choice of toppings, is very, very hard to beat. But the burger has to be right – good lean meat, well aged, and minced not too fine. Personally I think it is not too extravagant to use silverside, topside or even rump steak for making burgers, but chuck steak (from the shoulder, often sold as braising steak) is also very good if well trimmed of any sinewy bits. And skirt, again carefully trimmed, makes excellent burgers. I would always prefer to buy the meat and then mince or chop it myself at home. And I don’t season it at all, adding salt and pepper only to the burger as it grills and again as it goes on the bun.