Good Food Blog
Slowly does itPosted at 10:19AM, 23 November 2009 by Mary Cadogan - Food writer
Even if you are lucky enough not to be feeling the pinch at the moment (how did you manage that?), there seems to be a shift in the way we shop now, and food shopping is no exception. No longer is it chic to buy the best fillet steak and out of season veg to serve to friends.
Friends swap news of the latest wine bargain from Lidl or the amazing two-for-one offer at Tesco
It seems somehow inappropriate to appear to be too flash, quite the reverse, as I hear friends swap news of the latest wine bargain from Lidl or the amazing two-for-one offer at Tesco. One of the good things about checking the price of everything you buy is that we have at last started to buy more seasonally, and consider cooking some of the cuts of meat that my mother would buy on a regular basis.
I'm talking about things like oxtail, lamb's liver, brisket and even heart (I can still taste the braised stuffed heart my mum used to make for my dad as a treat). These are things that need plenty of simmering, braising or pot-roasting to render them tender, but the actual hands-on prep time is probably no longer than if you were making pasta sauce or risotto.
I bought an ox cheek the other day (some supermarkets such as Waitrose are now selling them on their fresh meat counters), which was a first for me so I asked the butcher how long it took to cook. He said three hours, in fact it took more like five in a low oven bubbling away in red wine, garlic, herbs, onion, carrot and celery. I finished the sauce off with a little of my homemade bramble jelly and it rewarded us with one of the most memorable dishes I've made for a long time. The meat was soft and yielding, with not a shred of fat, and the sauce had the deepest, richest flavour imaginable. This week I'm going to have a go at cooking oxtail, another first, but I reckon Barney's recipe looks the business. And the great thing about these slow-cooked dishes is that they taste even better made and left in the fridge for a day or so.
Of course the French have always been really good at using up every scrap of food; stuffed goose neck is a delicacy and andouillette sausage, which is made pretty much solely from intestine, is much loved. Larger butchers even sell what they call sot-l'y-laisse (roughly translated as 'what fools leave behind'), which is the two little oysters of flesh on the underside of a chicken either side of the parson's nose. It's delicious pan-fried with mushrooms in a creamy mustard and white wine sauce, and all for pennies.
So I reckon it's time to dust off the slow cooker and get down to the butcher's counter to bag a bargain and give your family a real winter treat. But don't forget the big bowl of mash!