‘A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age’.
It is without question, that the last week has seen an abundance of culinary discoveries within the ample servings’ kitchen. Aside from the usual trialing of new recipes and culinary techniques, receiving the stamp of approval from my cooking school in London, I have spent a day in the most wonderful organic butchers learning; knife skills, different cuts of meat and trade secrets. In an attempt to investigate as many areas of cuisine as possible before I begin my formal teachings later this year, I have certainly come into contact with some of the most talented and respected individuals in their field. And yet, nothing quite prepared me for my meeting with Mr Brian Randall, more commonly known as ‘the butcher’ last Tuesday at 5 o’clock in the morning.
Spitalfields Meat Market
Hanging meat, waiting to be collected.
Brian is one of the few people I have ever met who takes genuine pride in his work. Working his way up the butcher line from the age of fifteen or so, Brian now owns his own butchers on the Wandsworth Bridge Road, a stone’s throw from Parsons Green Tube Station. Collecting his meat orders daily from Spittlefields market at the crack of dawn, he arrives to his shop by 6.30am in order to set up and lay out his produce. Not only does Brian offer his meat pre-marinated and au natural, both himself and his colleagues spend around two and a half hours preparing and arranging the meat counter. Forgive me if I sound a little soppy, but I never knew meat could look beautiful. Food is most certainly an art and this couldn’t be more prevalent in Brian’s meat display. Everything from homemade fat, juicy sausages to venison steaks, to little quails are available to buy. Not to mention fresh and organic eggs, chutneys and delicious cheeses. I must admit, my watering mouth became a slight hindrance to my foodie discussions with Brian during these few hours in question. For meat fans in want of recommendations, I will say from personal experience get your hands on the; marinated ribs, lamb burgers and the mustard marinated pork loins. However, don’t let my personal choices get in your way of anything else on the counter as it all looks divine!
Behold the triangular lamb burgers!
A secret recipe sort after by Mrs Gordon Ramsey herself!
The marinated meats
Try the mustard pork, it’s delicious!
The plain meats
Some juicy steaks, pigs, chickens and that rabbit
Brian Randall, hard at work!
After a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea, Brian set me down stairs with the boys to practice some knife skills. Hesitantly at first, I filleted my first lamb neck and it was bloody brilliant. Using a smallish sharp knife, I was taught to move the blade along the bone and trim off the inedible bits around the edges of the meat. Butchery is without a doubt technical mastery but utterly fascinating. Unfortunately, the presence of such sharp knives can be slightly hazardous but it comes with the territory! Darcy Bussell had ugly feet, and through cooking I shall have ugly hands. It is a burden I am willing to undertake in order to learn more about making the most of the ‘good stuff’ aka organic meats. So far, none of the guys working for Brian have more than a few scars from years working in said industry. Apparently you can buy chain mail gloves to protect your knife-free hand however, I wanted to be one of the ‘big boys’ and join in the fun without protective armour. So far so good, I still have my left hand in tact!
Filleting a lamb neck
My first attempt at filleting a neck
Chain mail butcher glove!
Surrounded by cow carcasses!
As a thanks to Brian for having looked after me so well, I decided to make him a homemade apple pie of which I would like to share the recipe with you, my delightful ample followers. If you’re wondering why I made a simple apple pie instead of something a little more complex, apparently a good apple pie is Brian’s favourite. I highly recommend this Hairy Bikers recipe and advice you all to;
– dust your pie lid with brown sugar or even cinnamon sugar after an egg wash before placing in the oven to make it extra special
-have fun with the pastry decoration/cuttings such as leaves, letters or even little apples to give it your own, individual touch.
Right, the next few culinary treats are very dessert orientated. Apologies for this but they are worth making, both in equal measure. The first baked good of today is a flourless, chocolate and pear cake made with ground hazelnuts. For all you anti-gluten fans out there, this cake is ideal and it really delivers on texture. A word of caution however, take cake when removing from the cake tin as the sponge is fairly moist due to the excess pear juice and is likely to break if not handled with care! This recipe is from Good Food Magazine online.
Flourless, Chocolate and Pear cake
85g butter, plus 1 tbsp extra for tin
85g golden caster sugar, plus extra for tin
85g gluten-free dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 tbsp brandy
3 eggs, separated
85g hazelnuts, toasted and ground in a food processor
4 very ripe pears, peeled, halved and cored
icing sugar, for dusting
- Cut a circle of baking parchment to fit the base of a 25cm loose-bottomed tin. Melt 1 tbsp butter and brush the inside of the tin, then line the base with the parchment and brush again with more butter. Spoon in 2 tbsp caster sugar, swirl it around to coat the base and sides, then tip out any excess.
- Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water, remove from the heat, stir in the brandy and leave to cool. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick; fold into the chocolate with the hazelnuts.
- In a separate bowl, with a clean whisk, beat the whites until they reach a soft peak (try not to whisk them too stiffly or you’ll have trouble folding them in). Stir a spoonful of the whites into the chocolate mix, then carefully fold in the rest of them in 2 additions. Spoon into the prepared tin. Level, then arrange the pears over the mixture, cut-side down. Bake for 40 mins until the pears are soft and the cake is cooked all the way through. Leave to cool in the tin slightly before releasing it, then place on a rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and serve with crème fraîche.
The next sweet attraction is a lovely little recipe that I came across many years ago at Garsons Farm. Popular with both children and adults, these carrot and apple cupcakes are a healthier treat to serve at teatime instead of shop bought chocolate cake. The cream cheese frosting is delightful but not necessary if you’re trying to avoid sugar. Perfect for an afternoon tea, you MUST try these this weekend!
Carrot and Apple Cupcakes
(Makes 15 cupcakes)
125g carrots (2 large), grated
2 English apples grated
225g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
140g light muscavado sugar
2 Free range eggs beaten
140ml sunflower oil
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
30g walnuts, chopped
For the topping:
30g full fat soft cheese
30g soft margarine
125g icing sugar
a few drops almond essence
walnut halves to decorate
1. Pre-heat oven to 175˚C/ 350 ˚F/ Gas Mark 4.
2. Measure all the cake ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix together
3. Spoon mixture into cupcake cases, about two thirds full.
4. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. A skewer inserted into the cakes should pull out
clean when these are cooked.
5. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Combine the topping ingredients and mix well.
Decorate cakes and top with a walnut halve.
These must be stored in the fridge because of the buttercream icing.
That is all for this week! Enjoy the sunshine this fine weekend and carry on baking!
E. Wells Xx