#338 Beefsteak Stewed with Oysters
“And my lords and lieges, let us all to dinner, for the cockie-leekie is a-cooling.”
So it is not necessarily exclusively Scottish. It is also not a soup. It’s a good, hearty and simple dish: beef, chicken, leeks and prunes all stewed together. All you need is some slow cooking time. Have a go and make it for a lazy Sunday dinner as I did. It serves at least 6 people:
Start off by placing a two-pound slice of stewing steak in the bottom of a deep stockpot. Cover with water and bring it to a boil slowly, skimming off any scum as it rises to the top. Simmer for an hour and hten season well with salt and pepper. Meanwhile trim three pounds of leeks and tie half of them in a bundle. When the hour is up place them in the pot. Simmer for a further half an hour before adding a whole chicken or capon and sit it on top of the beef (you can use a boiling fowl; if so, add it when you add the leeks). The cockie-leekie now needs to simmer gently for an hour and a half. Twenty minutes before it is ready remove the bundle of leeks and add a pound of prunes. Now slice the remaining leeks up and add those in the final five minutes. Easy.
To serve it, place some beef and a piece of chicken in large bowl and cover with the thick, dark and rich stock. A meal in itself, though I did some boiled new potatoes too.
#225 Cockie-Leekie. Really good food, especially for this time of year when all is miserable and wet outside. This is home-cooking at its simplest and finest. The stock produce from the beef and prunes was lovely and rich, but did not detract from the subtly-flavoured chicken. Really good one this one. 7.5/10.
#219 Jugged Hare
I’d heard of jugged hare before and had always assumed that ‘jugging’ meant that some strange spices were added, but it simply means that it is cooked in the jug. The idea being that the hare can cook away in the jug that is, in turn, in a pan of simmering water. The way of cooking goes back to when people had to cook over their hearths. Jugged hare therefore has gone out of fashion because we make it into a casserole or stew (as in this recipe here) in the oven. I bought the hare from Shaw meats a few months ago and had had it stowed away in the freezer for quite a while, so it was perfect as the main course of my emptying-the-cupboards themed dinner party. Here’s how to jug a hare (or a large rabbit).
First joint your hare, and if you like lard it with some bacon fat or pork back fat. It is wise to do this if the hare is not a youngling. If any blood that drains off, keep it in a bowl (in fact, if you can get the butcher to keep the blood when hanging the hare, even better), rub the hare with salt, black pepper and Cayenne pepper and place the pieces in a large stoneware jug along with an onion that has been studded with three cloves, a bouquet garni (I used, parsley, bay, rosemary and pared lemon peel), and four ounces of butter. Cover with foil and tie securely and tightly with string. Place the jug in a roasting tin half-filled with boiling water, put it on the heat and bring to a simmer and then cook on the hob or in the oven for three hours.
When cooked, remove the pieces and allow them to rest while you make the gravy. Strain the juices (there will be a surprisingly large volume) in a sauce pan and add a quarter of a pint of red wine, a chopped anchovy and a pinch more of Cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer and thicken: either with a beurre manié made from half an ounce of butter and a tablespoon of flour mashed together and added in knobs, or by adding the blood of the beast (don’t let the sauce boil though, otherwise it’ll will go like pink scrambled eggs). The blood I had reserved was only a small amount so I popped it in at the end. Lastly, add a squeeze of lemon juice. Griggers suggests serving it with fried bread, but I went with game chips (see here), forcemeat balls (see here) kale and ‘Carrots from 1599’ (see the next entry, when I get round to writing it).
This pic makes the hare look rather unappetising, but it did look good in real life!
#219 Jugged Hare. A really good hearty winter stew this, the hare was very well-flavoured and gamey and the gravy was really delicious – very dark and very rich. Although it was good, it wasn’t as good as the hare stew I did last winter, which had a much more complex flavour. Still, it deserves an above average 6.5/10.
#197 Sedgemoor Eel Stew
The first of four eel-based recipes from the book (five if you include the elvers recipe) and hopefully the star turn for my dinner party. I chose this one first because I knew them some people would be squeamish about them and this one seemed the least scary. It’s called a stew, but really it’s poached fish in a parsley sauce; a dish that everyone’s had in some way or form before. It’s a classic Somerset recipe this, where there are eels in abundance (according to Griggers); this is not the case so much these days, certainly for Manchester. However, I did get them. Try your fishmonger and you never know; I got mine from Out of the Blue in Chorlton. Be warned – you do get them live, so be prepared to kill them and prepare them yourself. Read how I went about it here.
This serves six easily.
You need three to four pounds of clean and skinned freshwater eel for this recipe. Begin by cutting the eel(s) into even-sized portions of around two inches in length. Season them lightly. Make a stock from the eel heads and skin as well as the flat part of the tails: Place the trimmings in a pan and cover them with half-water, half-cider (use good dry cider). Bring to a boil and then cover and summer for twenty minutes.
Arrange the eel pieces in a shallow pan and pour over enough hot stock to barely cover the eels. Poach the eels for around fifteen minutes, until the eel meat starts to come away from the bones. Don’t let the stock come to a proper boil though – steady poaching is the key, and it may take longer with thicker eels. When cooked, remove the eel pieces and arrange them on a serving dish, cover them with cling film and keep them warm.
Now make the sauce by boiling down the cooking liquor until it tastes strongly and then add ¼ pint (i.e. a 150 ml pot) of clotted, Jersey or double cream and four tablespoons of chopped parsley. Season again if required. Pour the sauce over the eel and serve. She suggests serving this stew with toast or fried bread. As fried bread had already featured in the last two courses, I went for toast. I also served some broccoli too.
#197 Sedgemoor Eel Stew. This was really good; the sauce was both sharp and creamy due to the cider and fresh with grassy parsley. The flavours were robust, but not too strong to mask the eel itself. It was very delicate in flavour; you could tell that they had come from a very good river as it tasted of fresh springwater. It stayed beautifully moist due to the gelatinous nature of it too. Much superior to salmon or trout, I think. Now that people don’t eat eel, I feel I have found a real hidden gem. I just have to go through the rigmarole of killing and cleaning them! At least I can say that this was the freshest fish I’ve ever had! 8.5/10
FYI: delicious as eel maybe, beware if someone offers you raw eel, say as sashimi. Eel blood is toxic before it is cooked, so if you get given a bloody bit, it could be a bad man trying to do away with you.
#188 Ragout of Lamb
Another bargain from Orton Farmers’ market – a nice leg of lamb for a tenner. I love lamb, I do. Griggers actually half-inched this one from a chap called Michael Smith. I don’t know who he is. Anyway, I wanted to do this one because I got to use to use up a massive punnet of tomatoes that I also got from the market. This recipe is not worth making with those crappy old chlorosed supermarket thingies. Get some proper ones; if you grow them yourself, alls the better. It’s a nice recipe this one, a nice summery stew.
You need 2 pounds of leg of lamb that has been cubed for this recipe. If you get the butcher to bone it, don’t forget to ask for the bone – you’ve paid for it, make some stock out of it! Shake the cubed meat in a bag along with two tablespoons of well-seasoned flour. Brown them in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Place the browned lamb in a casserole and then brown 2 diced carrots and half a head of celery that has also been diced in the pan. When done add those to the casserole. If you have a casserole that can go straight onto the hob, then you can do it all in one. Now add ½ teaspoon of Cayenne pepper, 2 crushed garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary and the grated rind of a lemon to the meat and vegetables and pour over 1 ¼ pints of chicken stock. Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours at 190⁰C.
At the mid-way point, you need to add around 18 caramelised spring or pickling onions. To make them prepare the onions: leave about 2 or 3 inches of green stalk on the spring onions. If it’s pickling onions, you are using, just peel them. Melt ½ an ounce of butter in a pan and add the onions, plus 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar. Cook until caramelised, making sure they all get coated and browned evenly.
The final stage of this recipe is to cook the tomatoes lightly – they are used as a topping: peel the tomatoes, halve them, scoop out the seeds and dice them up. Melt ½ an ounce of butter in a saucepan and cook the tomatoes lightly. Take the ragout out of the oven, skim it of fat, check for seasoning, place it in a bowl and place the tomatoes on top. Scatter with chopped basil. Serve with a baked potato.
#188 Ragout of Lamb. A really nice stew this one; the meat was beautifully tender and the chicken stock, tomatoes and basil really lifted and made it light and summery – it’s a shame we have no actual summer to speak of. The onions collapse into sweet, sweet mush too. Great stuff – 7.5/10.
Everything you wanted to know about bouquet garnis but were afraid to ask…
Ok, you weren’t afraid to ask…
Not really had time to add extra entries other than the stuff I’m cooking from the Tome. However, I did come across this information in the very excellent book A Celebration of Soup by Lindsey Bareham on the subject of bouquet garnis – I usually guess as to what should go in mine, and try and match it to the ingredients of the soup/stew etc, but Lindsey gives an ultimate list here, which I’m reproducing – I’m using it as a benchmark from now on and thought you might like to know too… So whenever I mention that I’ve used a bouquet garni, unless Griggers is very specific as to what should go in it, it’ll be one of these and I’ll link back to this post. Hope it’s useful!
Poultry – stick of celery cut in half, parsley stalks, a couple of sprays of tarragon, a bayleaf, a sprig of thyme and leek trimmings.
Game – A sprig of rosemary, ½ an onion, 3 inches of pared orange peel and a sprig of thyme.
Fish – A couple of fennel stalks or leaves, a sprig each of chervil and tarragon and leek trimmings.
Meat – One clove of unpeeled garlic, parsley stalks, a bayleaf, ½ an onion studded with a few cloves and a sprig of time. (I’m also adding a spring of sage with pork and rosemary with lamb).
#95 Stewed Hare with Forcemeat Balls
FYI: please don’t all go out and order a hare from your butchers – they have had a decline in recent decades. I only bought mine because it just happened to be at the game stall. Check out the Hare Preservation Trust website for more details.
The trickiest part of this dish is the preparation of the hare itself; unless you have a good butcher who’ll joint it for you, you’ll have to do it yourself. I’m not going to go through how to do it here, but here’s a link to the River Cottage guide to jointing a rabbit, which is the same principle. I have to say: make sure you invest in sturdy knives, including a meat cleaver, otherwise it’ll be very tricky to do. Also keep any blood and the liver for thickening the stew with later. (Also, don’t tell anyone about that bit, as it may be one step too far for some folk.)
Once jointed, turn the pieces of hare in plenty of seasoned flour and brown them well along with one chopped onion and 8 ounces of chopped streaky bacon in 3 ounces of lard (yes, you COULD use oil, but what’s the point in that!?) in a large stockpot or casserole. Add a teaspoon of chopped thyme, a tablespoon of chopped parsley and half a bay leaf to the pot along with enough stock to just cover everything; use either game stock or beef stock, I used half-and-half of each. Charlotte and I added the heart too; seemed silly to waster it since we were using the liver and blood too. Let the whole thing simmer gently until the meat comes away from the bone easily – around 2 or 3 hours. Now add 6 tablespoons of port and a large tablespoon or two of redcurrant jelly along with some salt and pepper and the dish is done! Use a tablespoon of flour slaked with some hot stew liquor to thicken the stew, or use the blood and mashed liver. Don’t let it boil if using blood, as it will curdle not unlike egg yolks in over-cooked custard. Charlotte and I spent a while removing bones from the meat though, so people didn’t have to worry about bones.
Now that’s done, make the forcemeat balls (named forcemeat as you are making a small amount of meat go very far – peasant food, innit?). In a bowl mix together 4 ounces of fresh breadcrumbs, 2 ounces of chopped suet, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of thyme, the grated rind of half a lemon, 2 ounces of finely chopped bacon, a large egg and some salt and pepper. Form the mixture into balls of around an inch in diameter and fry them until golden in more (yes, more!) lard.
I served it all up with boiled potatoes and peas.
#95 Stewed Hare with Forcemeat Balls – 7/10. The more game I eat, the more I feel I’ve been missing out! I’m always slightly tentative about game, but this is another corker! The stew was rich and thick; hare is very gamy, but the port and redcurrant jelly helped cut through it. Given the chance, I’ll be cooking the remaining hare recipes. The surprise star though was the forcemeat balls – Grigson suggests making them for soups, so if you don’t fancy the hare, make the meatballs! The heart tasted surprisingly nice too…
My recipe for lentil and bacon pasta stew
As promised more of my own recipes. This one is adapted from an Elizabeth David book on Italian cookery. It’s brilliant if you are being frugal (as I am), you could even miss out the bacon altogether, though I would replace it with some smoked paprika. (Plus swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock, and it’s vegetarian) Also, when VERY frugal, instead of using parsley leaves, I use finely-chopped parsley stalks. I freeze all my herbs in freezer bags and have always got loads of stalks to use to flavours soups or stocks. Don’t let the huge amount of garlic scare you, it cooks down into a sweet mush.
The recipe makes enough for four as a main I reckon. It freezes well too.
You will need:
4 tbs good olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 or 3 good-quality smoked bacon rashers, cut into squares
1 stick of celery cut in 1cm lengths
the peeled cloves of half a bulb of garlic
6 oz. of brown or green lentils (or a mixture of both)
1 tin of tomatoes
3 tbs chopped mint leaves
4 tbs chopped parsley leaves
2 pints light chicken stock
2 oz. pasta (any kind)
salt and pepper
What to do:
- Pour boiling water over the lentils and allow to soak for 30-45 minutes
- Meanwhile, fry the onion in the oil until soft, then add the bacon and fry for about five minutes.
- Add the celery and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the drained lentils and stir around so that the lentils soak up the oil.
- Pour in the tin of tomatoes, along with the mint and parsley. Season. Simmer until most of the tomato juices have been absorbed by the lentils.
- Add the stock and bring to a good simmer. Allow to cook for about an hour, perhaps slightly longer.
- When the lentils are served add the pasta and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the pasta is ready. Check the seasoning.