#416 Cumbrian Tatie Pot

I recently made to visit to my friends in their 18th century house in Mallerstang, Cumbria and have been meaning to bring the ingredients up with me to make this dish. It’s one of those lamb, onion and potato based meals you find in the North of England such as Lancashire Hot Pot and Lobscouse, or indeed Irish stew and Scotch broth. It mysteriously appears in the Meat Pies & Puddings section of the Meat, Poultry & Game Chapter.

Mallerstang is a beautiful, slightly bleak, hamlet close to Kirkby Stephen. It sits at the foot of Wild Boar Fell, and there are the remains of a mediaeval castle which is flanked by the sparkling River Eden. It’s an amazing place that is seemingly trapped in time; I recommend a visit.

Cumbrian Tatie Pot is one of those rare dishes in England that mixes its meats, something more common on Continental Europe. “The recipe in slightly different form appears in various books of Lakeland cookery”, says Jane, “and often the beef is described as ‘optional’ – which it most definitely is not. It makes the character of the dish. So resist the national tendency to leave it out.” You have been told.  I found several recipes on the Internet, and none of themhad beef on their ingredient lists.

“Tatie Pot”, she goes on to say, “is very much a dish of communal eating, at village get-togethers, or at society beanos…There is always a certain rivalry to see whose version is the best.” Well I was driving up for a get-together and it was Cumbrian and it looked like the perfect dish to cook in a kitchen equipped with an Aga. What could possibly go wrong?

The first thing you need to do is get hold of the meat; you’ll need 2 pounds of either scrag end (often called round of lamb/mutton these days) or best end of neck off the bone and 2 pounds of shin of beef. Make sure you ask for the bones as well as some extra ones, if the butcher has some. Whilst you’re in the butcher’s shop get yourself a nice black pudding.

When you get home, use the bones and some stock vegetables and herbs, plus a little wine if you have it, to make a good stock. As I was cooking on an Aga, I could get it simmering on the hot plate before popping it in the cool oven overnight. Here’s a post from the other blog on stock-making, if you’re not used to making them.

Cut the meats into good-sized pieces and coat them in some well-seasoned flourand arrange the pieces in a wide roasting pan. Scatter over the meat six level tablespoons of mixed, dried pulses(e.g. split peas, pearl barley, red lentils). In the original recipe, Jane says to soak them overnight, but with today’s dried pulses there is no need for this step. Chop two large onions and slice the black pudding into half-inch slices and disperse these evenly, tucking the black pudding between pieces of meat. Season.

Next, peel around three pounds of potatoes and quarter them lengthways. Arrange them on top with their rounded sides pointing upwards. Season well.

Skim the stock of fat and warm it up then pour it over so that it comes halfway up the spuds. Bake at 200⁰C for four hours, topping up the stock with more stock or water, so that the potatoes get a good, dark, crunchy top. As I was cooking on an Aga, I put the tatie pot in the hot oven for two hours and then in the cool oven until everything was nicely cooked and unctuous. The hot oven was rather hotter than expected and the potatoes were perhaps a little darker and crunchier than expected, but never mind, this is country cooking.

#416 Cumbrian Tatie Pot. Even though those potatoes were a little on the burnt side, they did not detract from the fact this was an absolutely delicious dish. The long and slow cooked meat was as soft as butter, the pulses gave body and nuttiness and it was a delight to discover a piece of melting black pudding every now and again. This is definitely going to appear on a future menu; simple and excellent food that sticks to your ribs: 9.5/10

#404 Lamb (or Mutton) to Eat as Venison

All the way back in November, I was asked to cater for a dinner party; a very special one because it had the most interesting brief. A seven-course dinner was required where each course represented a different time in history.

For the Georgian course, I went straight to my favourite book from that time period The Experienced Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald (1769). Flicking through the pages, I happened upon a recipe To dress a Leg of Mutton to eat like Venison. It required you to ‘[g]et the largest and fattest leg of mutton you can get cut out like a haunch of venison as soon as it is killed, whilst it is still warm.’ It then goes on to tell you to ‘remove the bloody vein’ and then marinade the thing in wine, dry it, and to roast it in pastry. I was intrigued, but it was obviously unachievable. Looking in other books, I found many versions of it, sometimes roasted, sometimes braised, but always marinated in red wine (and often in the blood of the beast too!). I knew the recipe looked familiar, and it finally dawned on me that a recipe for it appeared in good old English Food by good old Jane Grigson.

There’s a 4 day marinating time for this recipe, so plan ahead if you fancy making it – and I really suggest you do; see my review of the recipe below.

Start off by making the marinade: dice up 5 ounces each of onion, carrot and celery, chop 3 cloves of garlicand brown them in a couple of tablespoons of oil, such as sunflower or rapeseed. Take your time over this and get them good and brown; the veg won’t be in the final dish, but its flavour will be. Let it cool.

Now mix the cooled, browned vegetables with the following:

1 bay leaf
2 good sprigs of thyme
4 sprigs of parsley
2 sprigs of rosemary
8 crushed juniper berries
8 crushed coriander seeds
10 crushed black peppercorns
3 tsp salt
1 (UK) pint red or dry white wine, or dry cider

¼ (UK) pint of red or white wine vinegar(and, though not on the ingredients list, cider vinegar, if going down the cider route)

Now tackle the meat. Use a full leg of lamb or mutton, I went for the latter. It was huge, so I increased all the above values by a half. All you need to do it score the fat into a diamond pattern, like you would do for a ham. Find a large, deep dish or pot and place the lamb inside and pour over the marinade. Make sure the whole leg gets the marinade on it, so turn it over a few times. Keep the leg somewhere cool – a fridge, or a nice cool cellar or pantry – and cover it with foil. Turn it twice a day for four days.

When the four days is up, get a new set of vegetables ready. Slice 2 onions, 2 carrots, 2 leeks and chop 2 sticks of celery. Also chop up 8 ounces of unsmoked (‘green’) streaky bacon. Brown all of these in a couple of ounces of butter

Spread the vegetables over the base of a deep roasting tin, place the leg on top and strain the marinade over it. Top up the marinade liquid with veal stock so that it comes up two-thirds of the way up the tin. You don’t actually need to use veal stock; chicken stock or water would do, I am sure. However, if you want to make your own, look here for my recipe for it from the other blog). Cover with more foil.

You have two choices now: either bring the whole thing slowly to boil and simmer gently for 2 hours on the hob, or bring to simmer and pop it in a cool oven instead, 150⁰C will do it. If you are using mutton, you need to cook the leg for another hour or even 90 minutes. Turn the joint over after one hour and in the final thirty minutes, ladle out 2 pints of the cooking liquid and boil it down hard to make a concentrated, richly flavoured stock.

When the cooking time is up, remove the leg and put it into another roasting tin and turn the oven up to 220⁰C. Roast for a good 20 minutes and baste well with the concentrated stock to achieve a nice glaze.

Jane suggests serving with gravy made with the pan juices and reduce stock and the usual lamb/mutton accoutrements. See here for a post all about that. I actually served it with a ‘Lenten Pie’, from Raffald’s book. At some point I will blog each course on the other blog.

Jane points out that you do this recipe with a leg or pork and magically transform it into wild boar.

#404 Lamb (or Mutton) to Eat as Venison. Oh my goodness, this may simply be the single most delicious thing I have ever cooked! First of all, it tasted exactly like venison; beautifully gamey, but with the moist succulence you would expect from lamb or mutton. It was transformed! There must be some kind of witchcraft afoot. I was amazed, and luckily so were my diners! I cannot recommend this more highly, absolutely bloody brilliant. 10/10.

#403 Raised Mutton Pies

Just a quickie from theMeat Pies &Puddings part of the Meat, Poultry & Game Chapter:

This is the last of the raised pie recipes in English Food. It’s a little different in that you don’t need to make a jellied stock like the others, but a gravy made from mutton bones.

If you can’t get hold of mutton, then lamb will do just as well.

To make the pie, you will need to make a batch of hot water pastry – have a look at the post #282 Raised Pies. It also goes through the process of making the pies themselves. In this case, the pies are to be made small. To do this you can use wooden pie dollies or jam jars and raise the pastry around them. Alternatively, and much easier, is to use muffin tins and roll pastry to fit.

For the filling, you need a whole best end of neck of mutton, or a pound of fillet meat. Make sure the butcher give you the bones of the sheep. Chop the meat finely, including some fat. Finely chop 3 shallots or 4 ounces of onion along with 4 ounces of mushrooms and a tablespoon of parsley. Mix all of these together with the meat and a teaspoon of dried thymeand salt and pepper. Place in a pan with ¼  pint of water, bring to a simmer and let it tick over for 5 minutes. Cool.

Fill your pastry cases, however you have constructed them, with the mixture and bake for 25-45 minutes at 200⁰C, depending on size.

Once whipped out of the oven, pour in gravy made from the bones. There is no instruction from Jane as to how to make this, but it’s pretty easy. Make a stock from bones, trimmings and some stock veg. Reduce it and mix into a roux of butter and flour to thicken it up.

#403 Raised Mutton Pies. These were great – I must admit I was a little dubious of the watery filling, but it really was delicious, the vegetables and herbs made the water into a delicious stock, which reduced during baking. They were so good, I added them to one of pop-up restaurant menus. 8/10.

#150 How to Cure Meat in Brine

Well here we are – 150 recipes in. I didn’t realise I was at this milestone until yesterday – unfortunately it’s not some magnificent feast, in fact it’s really a recipe as such, and I can’t really give it a rating (at least not yet).

Jane Grigson has quite a few recipes that require salting and brining, so I thought I’d better start to get to grips with this completely ignored section of the book, by making roast ham from start to finish as the best way for me to get started, though I’ll discuss that in a separate post – this one is just concerned with brining generally.

I’ve been doing a bit of reading on the subject of brining and it seems a bit of a lost art – there’s not much information about the history of it or how to do your own curing by the method. Obviously it’s gone out of favour to some degree because it is a method of preservation first and foremost, and now with frozen and refrigerated meats on tap these days we don’t have to do such things. However, brining also lends good flavour – we all like good ham, gammon or salt beef – so you would think it popular (seeing as it’s easy too). The thing is that it is time-consuming, and we can all just pick some up ready brined or ready roasted meat, but one thing I read was that for many wet-cured meats, the wet-cure part of the process is missed out! These days they are cured with nitrating bacteria – nitrates help preserve things – resulting a lack of flavour. I’m certainly not insinuating that this method is ubiquitous, but I reckon most supermarkets (and many butchers) use it.

Brine contains three magic ingredients that help preserve meat: salt, sugar and saltpetre. The first two do so because they are in huge quantities in the brine, and can affect the normal osmotic pressures of cells – both animal and microbe. Salts and sugar enter the cells, and water rushes out in an attempt to equal the concentrations inside and outside of the cells. This results in the death of the microbes and the preservation of the meat. Saltpetre (or potassium nitrate) is antibacterial and also gives the meat a pleasing pink colour (it is what makes corned beef so pink, for example). Aside from these three ingredients there are several herbs and spices that improve the flavour of the meat.

FYI: In days of yore, saltpetre was produced by pouring stale urine to huge haystacks where it would drain and crystallise. Yum!!

To make the brine, start off by cleaning a tub or bucket with a close-fitting lid and a plate that will comfortably fit inside with soda crystals. I used a six litre Tupperware tub with a handle. Do not use a metal tub as it may react with the salt or saltpetre. Allow them to drip dry. Whilst you’re waiting for that, make the brine: To a large stockpot or similar add 5 pints of water, 12 ounces each of sea salt and brown sugar and an ounce of saltpetre. This is the basic mixture, but now you need some aromatics (all of which are optional): 1 level teaspoon of juniper berries, a small piece of grated nutmeg, a bay leaf, 3 sprigs of thyme, a level teaspoon of black peppercorns and 4 cloves, Grigson says, but anything you like in that goes with the meat you are brining. Bring to a rapid boil and skim off any scum should there be any. Allow to cool in the pot. Once cool, strain it into your cleaned tub. Place in the joint of meat and keep it submerged in the brine with the plate you washed earlier. Place in a cool cupboard or pantry – though don’t allow it to go below 4°C. The length of time it sits there now depends upon the type of meat and the reason you are brining it (see your recipe, or below, for guidelines). When it is done remove with some clean tongs.

The brine won’t last indefinitely – it may grow mould on it’s surface, which some people say just to skim off. The reason is; the amount of salt depletes every time you use it. For a corrective dose, boil 1 ¾ pints of water with 7 ounces each of salt and sugar and a heaped dessertspoon of juniper berries. Let it cool and add it to the skimmed brine. You could of course just make more from scratch.

Pork leg joint magically being tranfomed into ham

Brining times:
To convert shoulder or leg of pork into ham, or for pork loin: 3 to 10 days
Pig trotters and halved heads: 24 hours
Small tongues (e.g. pig): 36-48 hours
Large tongues (e.g. ox): 5 days
Duck (minus giblets): 36-48 hours
Beef silverside or brisket: 7-10 days
Lamb or mutton shoulder, leg and loin: 7-10 days.

The meat needs to be cooked by boiling – check the cooking water is not too salty after about 5 minutes cooking. If it is change the water and start again. If it’s okay, then add your stock vegetables or whatever the recipe requires.

However, if you are making a roast joint for Sunday lunch, try popping the joint in brine overnight to season it.

So there you have it – hopefully all works out and it doesn’t taste completely foul. My fingers are crossed that it ends up being worth the effort.

#143 Boiled Leg of Mutton (or Lamb) with (#144) Caper Sauce

When Jane Grigson wrote English Food in the 1970s, she complained – quite rightly – that the general quality of lamb in England had declined rather. This was mainly due to the importation of cheap New Zealand lamb, which rendered mutton almost obsolete. These days things have changed and British lamb in a staple even in supermarkets and mutton is having a well-deserved comeback.

I popped into Manchester City Centre at the weekend and, by chance, the monthly farmers’ market was on so I had a little browse around the stalls and bought myself a leg of lamb from Bowland in Lancashire – a farm that outdoor-rears lamb, beef and pork. Here’s their website. The man at the fruit and veg stall spotted my purchase and commented that the best meat he’d ever had was from there. Great stuff. Now all I had to do was decide what to do with it and went for the boiled leg of lamb with caper sauce – mainly because it requires very little effort, but also because it is a very Victorian way of cooking meat and wanted to try it.

It’s well worth mentioning that caper sauce is also traditionally served with fish too, so if you’re a piscitarian, or whatever you fair-weather vegetarians like to call yourselves, you can try it with salmon or skate.

The original recipe asked for either a leg of mutton or of lamb – if you are to use lamb as I did, get hold of a real free-range one, otherwise it won’t stand up to the boiling.

Trim the leg of any large amounts of fat if it hasn’t been already and place the leg in a large pot with enough water to cover it. Add stock vegetables – 3 quartered carrots, 2 quartered parsnips, one quartered turnip and three whole onions (all peeled) – plus a very good seasoning with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and turn down to a very low simmer and leave for 2 to 2 ½ hours depending upon size. Don’t dare to throw the stock away – use it make the caper sauce and with the leftovers, a soup (I did lamb and mint soup).

Whilst it is cooking you need to make a turnip puree as an accompaniment – also traditionally Victorian. Peel and slice 3 pounds of turnips and boil them in salted water until tender. Puree them in a blender, return to the pan and then whisk an ounce of butter into them. Next mix ¼ pint of double cream with a level tablespoon of flour and whisk this into the sauce. Cook the sauce until it thickens up slightly.

When the meat is cooked, remove it from the water, place it on a serving dish flat-side down and make a paper ruff (yes, a paper ruff!) to fasten around the shank for decoration. Spoon the turnip puree around the outside and scatter the quartered carrots over the puree.

Loving the ruff!
Serve it with caper sauce that has been made using the stock from the lamb.

For the sauce melt ½ an ounce of butter in a small saucepan and stir in a tablespoon of flour. Cook and stir for a few seconds before adding ¾ pint of the lamb or mutton stock (or indeed fish) bit by bit to avoid getting lumps. Simmer until it is the thickness of single cream. Season with salt and pepper and add an egg yolk that has been beaten with 2 tablespoons of cream and stir for a minute or two. Lastly add a generous tablespoon of drained and rinsed capers and ½ a tablespoon of chopped parsley. Serve immediately, says Griggers.

Sorry about the shite picture!

FYI: If you are looking for an alternative to capers – the flower bud of an Asian shrub, you can try using the buds of nasturtium, buttercup or marigold. I’ll stick to the original, though I think.

#143 Boiled Leg of Mutton (or Lamb) with (#144) Caper Sauce – 7.5/10. I really enjoyed this meal. It was so easy to cook, you could not go wrong with it, even if you’ve never cooked anything before in your life. The lamb was tasty and moist and not fatty as most of it had dissolved into the stock – I’m definitely going back to Bowland for my meat. The turnip puree was rather odd – unsurprisingly, it was quite bland and I suppose they were the bland carb element. I would’ve preferred mashed potato though. It’s very hard to mark the caper sauce separately as it is part of the dish. I really liked it – it was piquant and married with the lamb perfectly. The only way it could have been improved would be to chop the capers up first so that the sauce was very capery indeed!

#129 Dartmouth Pie

It was British Pie Week the other week – and I admit I was a bit tardy making a pie in time but better late than never, innit. The trouble was choosing a pie to make, after a quick flick through I went for this Dartmouth Pie (FYI: Dartmouth is in Devon, SW England). There’s two reasons for this; the meat in it is mutton and after the mutton broth and Lancashire hotpot I made I’ve really got into cooking with it. Secondly, the pie itself is interesting. It’s one of the very few survivors of medieval cuisine; they loved their meat mixed with fruit, sugar and spices. Traditionally, minced mutton is used, but you can use venison or chuck steak. The recipe in English Food is an updated version of this dish containing cubed mutton rather than minced – apart from that is not too far from the proper original one as far as I can see.

This pie serves four, but is quite rich so you could get away with five or six:

Trim some cubed shoulder of mutton well so that you end up with a pound of it in weight. Next, make a spice mix using a teaspoon each of black peppercorns and coriander seed, ½ a teaspoon each of ground mace and ground allspice and an inch length of cinnamon stick. Grind all the spices down – I use a coffee grinder for such things, if you don’t have one use a pestle and mortar. Salt the meat and brown it using 2 ounces of beef dripping in a pan that is ovenproof. Add the spices and fry them gently for a couple of minutes. Add 8 ounces of sliced onions and 1 ½ teaspoons of flour and give it good mix around. Add ½ pint of beef stock (Griggers says you can also use veal or venison stock; oh la-dee-dah!). Now the sweet element – stir in 2 ounces each of dried prunes, apricots and raisins; and to counteract the sweetness the juice and rind of a Seville orange (or, alternatively, a sweet orange plus lemon juice). She doesn’t say whether you chop up the rind or just add it to take out later. I chopped it up like you would for marmalade, but it did make the resulting sauce slightly too bitter; this was resolved by the addition of some sugar to taste later. Bring the mixture a simmer, cover and bake in a low oven – 140°C – for 2 hours (or more if you like). Taste and check for seasoning, transfer to a small pie dish and allow to cool; skimming any fat away that may appear.

Make a shortcrust pastry using 8 ounces of flour, 4 ounces of fat (I used half-lard, half-butter), salt and milk to bind. Cover the dish as normal and decorate the pie with the trimmings. Butters and I had fun making apricots, leaves and a wee sheep to go on it. Brush with beaten egg as a glaze and bake for 25-40 minutes at 220°C until the pastry is cooked and golden brown.

Check out the artwork

#129 Dartmouth Pie – 7.5/10. A very good pie indeed. Very sweet and rich but went brilliantly with some relatively bland mash and minty peas. The medieval flavours were not alien – I can see why this one survived (and others where fish is used instead of mutton didn’t). As I’ve mentioned before, the secret is the slow-cooking; the resulting meat was so tender, you hardly had to chew and the fruit had become a dark bitter-sweet mush. Lovely. If I owned a restaurant, I’d have it on the menu!

#103 Mutton and Leek Broth

After the success of the Welsh Cawl last month and since it’s been fookin’ freezing of late I thought I’d try something similar – Mutton and Leek Broth. All very much in the same vein. I’ve never cooked mutton before and only eaten once or twice. Plus Grigson says it is “magnificent”. The recipe calls for scrag end of neck, which I managed to get hold of from Frost’s in Chorlton (what would I do without them?); as it’s a cheap cut this soup is really good for those on a budget: 1 ½ pounds for four quid. If you can’t get mutton, you can use lamb. Ask your butcher to chop it up for you as it’s a bit of a hack-saw job.

FYI 1: the neck of a lamb/sheep/veal calf is split into three sections: scrag end nearest the head, which is mainly bone. This is a good thing for broths as it imparts flavour to make a delicious stock. Apparently scrag end is an old fashioned term, and we say ‘round end of neck, presumably because scrag end doesn’t sound too appetising. There’s mid-neck or middle neck and best end of neck too – I’m sure I will get to them in some other recipe.

FYI 2: mutton applies to sheep that have more than two permanent incisors in wear, usually over ayear old.

For 6-8:

Like many soups and stews that involve cooking joints and bones up, it’s best to cook it the day before, also the pearl barley requires soaking time so keep this all in mind.

Start by rinsing and soaking 4 ounces of pearl barley in water for four hours. Do some light housework in the meantime, or maybe just watch a film in between. Drain the barley and put it in a large saucepan or stockpot. Trim off any excess fat from the meat (keep any big chunks and freeze them and use for Singin’ Hinnies, which I’ll be cooking very soon) and add the chunks to the pot along with 4 pints of water. Bring it to the boil and simmer it gently for an hour before adding the vegetables: 5 ounces of diced carrot, 4 of diced turnip, a stalk of chopped celery, a chopped leek and 5 ounces of chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper at this point too. Let the broth simmer for at least another hour until the meat is falling off the bones. Cut the meat up and return it to the pot and discard the bones. Skim any fat from the soup – this is the point to leave it over night; solidified fat is much easier to remove. Bring back to the boil and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper, sugar and cayenne pepper. Be quite liberal with the sugar and salt. Slice a second leek thinly and add to the broth along with some chopped parsley and turn off the heat; the residual heat will cook the leek. Serve with granary bread and butter.

#103 Mutton and Leek Broth – 6.5/10. A nice soup that needed a lot of seasoning to make it delicious. I really liked the mild mutton flavour and the pearl barley, but expected it to be much more flavourful. That said, because the batch I made was so big I was still eating it three days later and it did get better as time went by.

The Merchant of Hoghton

We had planned a big group outing to Hoghton Tower Farmers’ Market; me, Charlotte, Kate , Pete, Ange, Chris and their wee baby Evan. It’s to be found in Preston, Lancashire, and Ange has been raving about it for ages. I had my shopping budget of £35 and was hoping to fill the freezer with exciting stuff; in particular game.

We arrived slightly hungover from the night before and were immediately impressed – lots of stall selling absolutely everything! The range of meat and game was excellent, as was the cheeses, veg, pies, cakes and everything you could ever wish for.

For my 35 notes I came away with:
1. Smoked trout fillets
2. A hare
3. A brace of partridge
4. Smoked, cured streaky bacon
5. Pigeon and pea pie
6. Mutton pie
7. Corned beef pie
8. Chocolate-covered crystallised ginger
9. Banana Tea Loaf
10. Chocolate cake

Not bad I reckon. I’m particularly interested in the hare – there are a few recipes in English Food, and I’m thinking about cooking it as the 100th dish as it is fast approaching and I need something unusual and impressive. I was going to do an elaborate Victorian pheasant dish, but you need pheasant giblets and you need to order those apparently. The hand-raised mutton pie was the pie-highlight for me, I have to say, and it has gotten me enthused to cook some mutton dishes too.

Choosing my game.

We also had an ace laugh which is just what I needed, the best bit being me and Charlotte tasting some extra-mature Lancashire blue cheese…

Charlotte: This is really good.

Me: Really creamy, nice after taste. It tastes a bit like sick; but in a good way.

Charlotte: Yeah, not your own sick.


Charlotte: Err..like somebody else’s….?

(Hilarity ensues)

Ange’s Celtic aggression comes out at the mere weilding of sprouts.