A while ago I made an extremely similar recipe – steak, kidney and oyster pudding. A seminal English dish that I had saved for the landmark 200th recipe. This pie essentially follows the same history (and recipe) as the pudding – the combination of the three main ingredients seems to start with Mrs Beeton. I have found similar recipes going back further like oyster pie, beef-steak and oyster pie, veal and oyster pie and calves’ foot and kidney pie. I could go on, but I shan’t, I think you get the message. The pudding was delicious so there was no way this could be a fail…
As promised, a dish that is more English that roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, at least I think so anyway. It may be because I’m a Northerner, but I also think (and I could be wrong here) that although it is very English, it hasn’t travelled to other countries as well as, say, roast beef. In other words, it’s a sort of hidden gem. I have been saving this one for number 200 for a while, though I did change my mind a fair few times.
The seemingly unusual ingredient here is, of course, the oysters. The recipe is surprisingly recent: it appears as a steak pudding in a book by Eliza Acton in 1845 and the kidney turns up in Mrs Beeton’s Household Management nearly fifteen years later. In those days folks living near the coasts were falling over oysters – they diminished however due to a combination of an increased population eating them and the increased pollution created by all those extra people. No one wants a shitty oyster. However, before this, they were cheap and the preferred alternative to the very pricey mushrooms that the posh gentry would have enjoyed. It was only since around the Second World War that mushrooms have been cultivated on a large scale, before that they acquired by foraging: limited and very seasonal. Of course, these days it is the mushrooms that are ten-a-penny, and the oysters that break the bank. That said, native oysters are in season at the moment and the ones I bought from Out of the Blue in Chorlton were just sixty pence each.
This pudding is a pretty posh all-out one; giant, full of rump steak, red wine and extra beef stock plus both mushrooms and oysters:
To begin, make the filling: cut two pounds of trimmed rump steak into one inch cubes and then slice a pound of ox kidney (or veal, if you’re being really posh), removing any fat or gristly bits on the way. Toss these in two tablespoons of seasoned flour. Chop a large onion and fry it gently in two ounces of butter until nicely softened, remove with a slotted spoon, turn up the heat and then hard fry the beef and kidney. When brown transfer to a casserole dish (or, if you have a cast-iron one that goes on the hob you can keep it all in there. Deglaze the pan (or casserole dish) with either a pint of beef stock, or half-and-half stock and red wine. Now slice 8 ounces of mushrooms and fry them in an ounce of butter. Add these along with the cooked onions and a bouquet garni to the meat. Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours at 140-150⁰C. You can do all this the day before if need be.
Next, open the oysters: Griggers suggests 18-24 oysters, though makes them an optional ingredient for the pudding. I went for a dozen as I didn’t want to go bonkers with the spending. Add them, plus their liquor to the meat. I’ve written about opening oysters before.
To make the suet pastry, use a knife to mix together 10 ounces of self-raising flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, ¼ teaspoon of salt, ground white pepper, ¼ teaspoon of thyme and 5 ounces of chopped fresh suet (use the packet stuff if you can’t get hold of it). Now add cold water little by little to the mix, stirring with the knife. Use the minimum amount of water that will bring the pastry together, using your hands towards the end. If it seems too wet, add more flour. There’s enough pastry to line a three pint pudding basin, so roll it out in a circle large enough and remove a quarter of it (you’ll use this later). This’ll make it easy to line the basin – use water as glue to stick down the ‘hem’. Spoon in the mixture and then roll out the reserved quarter into a circle to make the lid. Place this on top and fold any surplus edging over it and glue it with more water. Secure the lid if using a plastic basin, or cover with buttered, pleated foil secured with string. Place in a steamer and cook for one and a half hours; don’t let it boil dry. Turn it out onto a plate and serve immediately.
#200 Steak, Kidney and Oyster Pudding. The poshest pudding in the world! It was very, very good though. The beef and kidneys were very tender and the gravy was good and rich. The real revelation was the oysters – at first I wasn’t very sure about them, but it was a taste that was acquired very quickly. They provided a mysterious iodine tang to the whole thing. The original surf ‘n’ turf! The only thing I would change is the amount of pastry – there was barely enough to line the basin, making it split open when it was turned out! 9/10.
Kidney Soup was apparently a kitchen standby in households of times past – particularly in Scotland. Indeed, this recipe is taken from Florence B. Jack’s book Cookery for Every Household. Ms Jack was the principal of the Edinburgh School of Domestic Arts, and very austere she was too.
Now I know it sounds weird, but this is a classic recipe that is also cheap – cheap because it’s main ingredient is kidney, of course. We are being told that offal and the cheaper cuts of meats are suddenly becoming popular due to the recession, but I have not seen any evidence of really from the people that I speak to (though I have in butcher’s shop windows). When saying I’ve been doing this recipe, there has been nothing but pulled faces and dry retching (the only exception being Anthea – frequent blog commenter – she ate it often as a child). I must admit, however, that as much as I love kidneys, I wasn’t quite sure about eating them in soup. However, this book is full of surprises.
To start with you need a whole ox kidney; cut away any fat and gristly bits and cut up the kidney into small pieces. Brown it in an ounce and a half of butter or dripping in a large saucepan along with a sliced onion. Pour over four pints of beef stock and stir, adding some salt. Bring the stock to a boil and skim any scum that rises to the top. Add a bouquet garni and some spices: 20 peppercorns, a blade of mace and a quarter teaspoon of celery seeds. Tie the bouquet and spices in a piece of muslin first. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours, covered on the hob or in the oven.
When ready, skim any fat from the surface and strain the soup. As with most soups and stews its best let it cool down completely – overnight is best – so that you be sure of getting rid of all the fat. Pick out the bits of kidney and give them a rinse. Heat up the soup again and add an ounce of flour that has first been slaked in a tablespoon of mushroom ketchup. (The recipe doesn’t actually say what kind of ketchup, but with this being beef, mushroom or tomato are the best to use.) let the soup thicken slightly and add the kidney pieces. Finally season with more salt and pepper if required, plus some lemon or orange juice and a dash of sherry to add complexity of the flavour.
FYI: the kidneys were thought to be the part of the body concerned with conscience and reflection. Apparently, God would inspect the kidneys to see how good someone had been. In fact, one kidney was responsible for good thoughts, the other evil. The Latin word renes, is used to describe anything of the kidney (e.g. renal), but also is the root word for reins too. So there you go; a choice nugget of factoid for you there.
#193 Kidney Soup. This was a really delicious soup! I loved it the slightly spiced beef consommé was light and tasty and complimented the strong metallic gamey taste of the kidneys. It requires a bit for forethought to make it, but it is worth it I reckon. Cheap, tasty and good for you. 6.5/10.
Last week I took the afternoon off work to go shopping with Butters to Cheshire Oaks to spend money I don’t have. One of the main reasons I wanted to go was Butters had been told that there was a Le Crueset shop there. I love Le Crueset stuff but it is tres expensive, so I had a total geek boner about going to the factory outlet shop.
After about an hour of decision-making, I went for a large round casserole and a big mixing jug. With the casserole I knew exactly how I was going to christen it – with a Lancashire Hotpot. I’ve had hotpots before, but in the form of ready meals, which, if I remember, had tomato in it. Real Lancashire hotpot is very simple – one of those dishes involving lots of sliced potatoes and onions that seem to come in an amazing variety. It’s also rather like an Irish stew.
It looked nicer in real…
FYI: Lancashire Hotpots were traditionally made in large, deep dark glazed brown pots that were given to the baker to put in his oven whilst people went to work so they collect on their way back.
FYI2: Although hotpot usually contains potato, onion, lamb and kidneys, people have put in black pudding, sweetbreads, mushrooms and oysters. So if you have any of those to hand pop them in.
This is enough for 6 people:
Start off by thinly slicing a pound of onions and 2 pounds of peeled potatoes. Next trim any large bits of fat from best end of neck lamb chops; you’ll need between 8 and 12 depending upon thickness. When at the butches try to get about 6 lamb’s kidneys. Depending on your butcher, they may or may not be prepared – make sure the tough outer membrane has been peeled away, and slice in half lengthways and cut out their central tough, white centres. Layer up the potatoes, then onions, then meat and offal, seasoning as you go. Make sure you leave enough spuds so you can arrange them nicely on the top. Pour enough water to reach halfway up the pot and then brush the potatoes with some melted butter. Place the lid on the casserole and bake at 200-240ºC for 30 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 140ºC for about 2-2 ½ hours. Take the lid of for the final 30-45 minutes so that the top can crisp up. Serve with boiled or pickled red cabbage.
#115 Lancashire Hotpot – 6.5/10. Very nice and hearty grub that is simple yet effective. Not used to cooking with lamb, but am loving how simple this is. Also I’d forgotten how nice kidneys are – I’ve not had them in years. It’s definitely something I’d make again, but it would have to contain something more than just lamb. Plus it’s very cheap – the meat came to £6 at the butchers in the Arndale Centre. Bargain!