Tag Archives: veal

Mock Turtle Soup

“Neil, it’s your butcher, Mark.”

“Hi Mark, what can I do for you?”

“Did you by any chance order a calf’s head a couple of weeks ago? It’s the kind of thing you would order.”

“You’re right it is the sort of thing I’d order, but I didn’t, sorry.”

“Well someone did, but I can remember for the life of me who it was!”

“Oh dear. Well if you don’t find the culprit, let me know, I’m sure I can take it off your hands.”

And that’s how I became the owner of a calf’s head; and I knew exactly what I was going to make with it once it got my hands on it: the mysterious Victorian classic, Mock Turtle Soup.

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Mock turtle soup was invented from necessity – turtle soup had become immensely popular in the 1750s after sailors coming from the West Indies landed a couple of them upon British soil. Sailors would catch them and keep them alive on their ships as a source of fresh meat. They were very delicious, and it’s a surprise that any even made it back. Those that did, were readily snapped up by royalty. Now everyone wanted to get their hands one and suddenly no banquet or dinner party was complete without its turtle soup. At its peak in trade, 15 000 live turtles were being shipped live from the West Indies per year. Of course, these huge beasts were very expensive, and because such numbers were being caught, trade was not sustainable and the green turtles were almost hunted to extinction, driving up price even further.

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But why were they so popular? Obviously the royal family enjoying themgot the ball rolling, but their huge bodies were made up of different cuts of meat tasting of veal, beef, fish, ham and pork!

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So real turtle soup quickly became out of the question for all but the super-rich, and so mock turtle soup was invented. Recipes vary in their ingredients containing beef, ham, oysters, vegetables, skin, tongue and brain in an attempt to replicate the diverse tastes and textures of turtle meat. One ingredient common to all of the recipes I’ve seen is calf’s head – an economical addition with plenty of tastes and textures in itself. Recipe-writers are quite particular about the fact that the head should have the skin on – the fat and skin adding to the texture and flavour of the dish. My head arrived skinned and it still tasted good. If your butcher sells veal, see if you can get hold of one. Mine cost a fiver!

Some recipes are very complex, but are essentially a consommé of meat served with the meat cut into chunks with various accompaniments such as forcemeat balls (or fish balls or egg balls), fried brains, oysters and fresh herbs.

Mock turtle soup became a British classic; Heinz even made and canned it! Alice in her trip to Wonderland met a real Mock-Turtle, depressed that he was no longer a real turtle. He was quite tiresome if I remember rightly.

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Alice meets the Mock-Turtle

I adapted a recipe for an ‘old fashioned’ mock turtle soup from the 1845 book Modern Cookery for Private Families by Eliza Acton, then my chefs Harry and Matthew and I got to work on producing it as a special for the restaurant.

 

To make mock turtle soup

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As the butcher to split the head. As soon as you get home, remove the brain carefully and place in a bowl of well-salted water, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge until needed. You don’t need to include the brain if you don’t want to; it is tricky to prepare, but it is delicious. We didn’t use the brain as we took our time over a couple of days to make this in-between regular food service, and brain doesn’t really keep more than 24-hours. Because the head had already been frozen, we couldn’t re-freeze it either. If you don’t have the same issues as we did, get it cooked! There are brief instructions below on how to prepare  brain, but for more detail, check out the sister blog here.

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1 calf’s head with tongue, brain removed, split and soaked in salted water for several hours

4kg beef neck or shin

75g butter

1 smoked ham hock

4 large onions, quartered

3 large carrots, peeled and halved lengthways

2 heads of celery, quartered lengthways

Bouquet garni: rosemary, bay, thyme, pared rind of a lemon

1 dsp black peppercorns

 

Rinse the calf’s head and place in a large stockpot, cover well with tepid water and bring slowly to a bare simmer. Skim any scum that rises to the surface of the water, then cover with a lid and let the head cook for 90 minutes.

In the meantime, heat up the butter in a large frying pan and fry beef until well browned. Add this, along with the butter, to the pot with the ham hock, vegetables, bouquet garni and peppercorns. Turn the heat up a little and bring back to light simmer, letting the whole lot tick over for seven hours.

Carefully remove the larger pieces of meat and bone and strain the soup well. If need be, reduce the resulting broth to produce a more concentrated flavour. Discard the vegetables and herbs and carefully remove the meat from the bone. Skin the tongue and cut away any gristle and bone from the root end. The meat can then be either shred or cut into even-sized pieces.

 

To finish the soup:

Beurre manie of equal amounts of butter and flour mashed together to form a paste

200ml sherry

½ tsp ground mace

¼ tsp Cayenne pepper

Salt

Double cream (optional)

Forcemeat balls (see below)

Prepared brain (see further below)

Chopped parsley

 

As you prepare the meat, get the strained stock back onto a simmer. Whisk in knobs of beurre manie until the soup is as thick as you like, add the sherry and spices and season with salt. Return the meat to the pan. If you like, add cream to the soup.

Serve the soup in bowls topped with forcemeat balls fried in butter or lard, breadcrumbed brain slices and chopped parsley.

 

For the forcemeat balls:

300g streaky bacon, chopped

100g grated beef suet, fresh is best, but the packet stuff is fine too

75g fresh breadcrumbs

1 tbs chopped parsley

1 tsp chopped marjoram

2 eggs, beaten

Freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

 

Mix together the first six ingredients together in a bowl and season with the spices and salt. Roll into walnut sized pieces. Fry in butter or lard over a medium heat.

 

For the brain:

The brain, soaked in salted water for several hours in the fridge

Seasoned flour

1 egg beaten

Dried breadcrumbs

Sunflower oil or lard for frying

 

A brain is covered by a membrane of blood vessels which need removing. To do this, gingerly place the brain on a chopping board, with its underside facing upwards. Here the membrane is thickest, and is the easiest place to begin. Carefully pull the membrane away. This is quite tricky and takes a little practise. Ease your fingers between the folds and get as many of blood vessels pulled away.

Now poach the brain in salted water for about 6 minutes. Remove, drain and cool.

Cut the brain into thick slices, pulling away any bits of membrane you might have missed.

Set out three plates: one with flour, the other with beaten egg and the last with the breadcrumbs.

Coat the brain slices in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.

Heat up the oil or lard in a frying pan and fry the brain quickly until golden brown – don’t overcook! Fry for three minutes maximum.

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How to Make a Basic Veal Stock

To me, life without veal stock…is a life not worth living

Anthony Bourdain

A while ago, I started up a series of posts on stock-making, and thought I should continue it.

When it comes to stock-making the home cook needs to keep out an eagle-eye for off cuts of meat and bones to sequester in the freezer ready to whip out for a stock. This I always do at Levenshulme Market (of which I am a Director), where the excellent Wintertarn has a stall selling organic cheese and –being good, sustainable dairy farmers – their organic rose veal too. I always have a nosey for any odd bits and I’ve managed to stockpile a few calves’ tails and a calf’s heart, amongst other things.

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These sorts of bits are great for making meat stocks – muscle for meaty flavour and bones for gelatinous body.

I thought I would give you my recipe to make a basic veal stock ready for classic soups, stews and sauces. It is the stock favoured in posh restaurants with kitchen run by French chefs, but it is easy to make, and cheap too, if you know where to look. It’s always a good idea to make friends with your local butcher, for this very reason. The reason it is liked so much is that it as there is no dominating flavour as there can be with beef stocks, yet there is plenty of body.

I have written a post already on general stock making, so it might be a good idea to have a look at that if you haven’t made stock very often.

This recipe is guidance really, most quote veal knuckle (the veal equivalent to a pig’s trotter) and veal shin, but you can use any cheap/free bone and muscle combination. You only need to the basic aromatics too – this is a simple, yet elegant stock, of course you can add other vegetables too. Notice there are no peppercorns; if you want a clear stock they need to be avoided as they can make the stock cloudy. If you don’t care, add half a dozen.

 

1 kg of veal knuckle, split, or tail, or other bones, chopped up

750g shank, or other well-used muscle cut into pieces (heart, tongue, skirt, osso bucco etc.)

2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways

2 onions, peeled, halved and studded with 2 cloves each

2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped

2 whole garlic cloves

a bouquet garni made up of thyme, parsley stalks, 2 bay leaves

 

First, get a large pot of water on the boil, and blanche the meat for 5 minutes. This gets rid of the scum, that otherwise would rise to the surface and require skimming. Drain the meat and give it a quick rinse. Place in your stock pot with the vegetables, packing everything in tightly. Pour cold water to just cover, around 2 litres.

Bring to a simmer very slowly, it should take at least 20 minutes. If you do this correctly, you won’t get any more scum rising to the surface.

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Once the water is barely gurgling, move the pot onto the smallest hob on your cooker, set at its lowest heat. Keep the pot covered and let it tick over for 5 hours. It may seem like a long time, but it really needs this long slow bathe. It’s not like you have to stand over it. Tip your nets, grout the bathroom or take the dog out or something in the meantime.

Strain the stock through a sieve into a clean pan, bring to boil and reduce by a third. Cool overnight and take away any fat that has solidified on the stock’s surface. You should have a pale coloured jellied stock that can be seasoned and used as required.

If you want a richer brown stock, the bones and vegetables can be browned in the oven first.

In the next post I’ll give you a recipe that needs a good, home-made stock like this.

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Favourite Cook Books no. 2: Good Things by Jane Grigson

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This is not a manual of cookery, but a book about enjoying food. Few of the recipes in it will contribute much to the repertoire of those who like to produce dinner for 6 in 30 minutes flat. I think food, its quality, its origins, its preparation, is something to be studied and thought about in the same way as any other aspect of human existence.

Jane Grigson, introduction to Good Things, 1970

Good Things was Jane Grigson second book and was published in 1971. Although she is known for her later extensive and very comprehensive writings, this is relatively brief.

All of Jane Grigson books are wonderful, and this book is no different: logical, creative, witty and sometimes austere, she weaves a tapestry of each ingredient’s culinary potential; and this is why the book is so great, for each chapter focusses upon a single main ingredient. She shows you just how inventive humans can be with a single ingredient and how it should be savoured in its seasonality to be fully appreciated; something we no longer do. This book has spurred me on in my own efforts to be seasonal. Take, for example, the chapter on celery – a vegetable that we generally either add to the stockpot or crunch on in a boring salad – she says:

The fine pleasure of buying celery in earthy heads, after the first improving frosts of winter, is slowly being eroded by the wash of enterprise and aviation. Almost the year round, cleaned and slightly flabby greenish celery…is on sale at inviting prices. It’s the wise cook who averts her eyes from this profuse and plastic display and waits for November. Then crispness and flavour are at their peak …In any case one of the greatest luxuries you can have in Britain today is simple food of the best quality.’

She then goes onto her first recipe which consists of celery stalks, good Normandy butter and sea salt. This is the genius of Good Things, you are being shown how good something can be if prepared properly, grown skilfully and eaten seasonality and sensibly; essentially Jane is teaching us how to eat.

(NB, click here for a post of my own on the humble celery stick).

Every chapter also perfectly reflects Jane’s own lifestyle; spending half her time between England and France, with a smattering of recipes from other European countries. It really showed how she lived her life, though I can imagine her family got a little sick of some of the focal ingredients when she was recipe testing.

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Sweetbreads: a Jane Grigson – and Neil Buttery – favourite

So what did she pick? Some are probably quite obvious such as venison, asparagus, woodland mushrooms, strawberries and ice creams; others are common and, perhaps, overlooked, like celery, kippers, tomatoes and carrots; whilst some were becoming forgotten or seemed obscure, ones that leap to mind are snails, quince, sweetbreads and fruit liqueurs. Jane’s gift to me is a love of such foods that I never would have sought out, that has demonstrated to me just how good, exciting and varied British food can be, as well as how its history is interlinked inextricably with other countries’ food histories.

Sweetbread Pie

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I think this recipe best sums up the essence and ethos of Good Things; it uses a delicious but forgotten meat cut, is French but you would think it quintessentially English. She discovered it in the charcuterie of a small town in Burgandy and it was the most expensive pâté in the shop. She made it into a pie, a pie so good it made it on my last Pop-Up Restaurant menu. The recipe requires you prepare some sweetbreads – if you’ve never eaten or prepared sweetbreads, have a look at this previous post all about them. In a nutshell, you poach them briefly in a light chicken or vegetable stock, or court-bouillon. For a post on stock-making click here. I am so self-referential these days! If you can’t get as much as the 500g given in the recipe, then use whatever you can get your hands on. I expect it would be excellent even with the sweetbreads omitted altogether!

I have changed only her Imperial weights and measures so that they are metricated…

For the pastry:

300g plain flour

150g of butter and lard

1 tbs icing sugar

water to bind

For the filling:

500g prepared lambs’ or calves’ sweetbreads

125g mushrooms, roughly chopped

2 tbs onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

75g butter

350g lean pork, or veal and pork mixed

225g hard back pork fat

2 rashers green (i.e. unsmoked) back bacon

2 eggs

heaped tbs flour

125g cream

salt, pepper and thyme.

‘Make the pastry in the usual way’, says Jane. I mean to write a post on pastry-making, I shall endeavour to do so soon. Whilst it rests in the fridge, cut up the sweetbreads into even-sized pieces, then cook the mushrooms onions and garlic in the butter, until softened but not brown. Next, make the forcemeat by mincing the pork and veal, if using, the back fat and the bacon through the course and then fine blades. Mix in the eggs, flour, cream and the mushroom mixture. Season with salt and pepper and add a good sprinkle of chopped thyme.

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Line a 450g loaf tin (an old 1 lb tin) with 2 thirds of the pastry. Spread over one third of the mixture over the base of the tin, then a layer of half of the sweetbreads, then a second third of the forcemeat, then the remaining sweetbreads, and lastly the final third of the pork mixture.

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Seal the pie with a lid, brush with egg wash and bake for 90 minutes in a moderate oven – around 180⁰C.

‘Serve warm’, she says, but it is also very good at room temperature. It keeps very well in the fridge if wrapped up tightly in foil or clingfilm.

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Have a Heart?

I am aiming to write at least one recipe on every cut of meat, cheap or expensive, regular or odd (see here for the main post). At Levenshulme Market a few months ago, I came across a calf’s heart at the dairy farm Wintertarn’s stall, so I bought it and stole it away in my freezer until I found a recipe I wanted to try.

Heart crops up in many recipes such as pork faggots or haggis, but these days is rarely eaten as a cut of meat in its own right. In the war-time home stuffed pig’s or lamb’s hearts were pretty popular because offal cuts were not rationed. This naturally has damaged the reputation of the heart as something that is good eating. Prior to the 20th century, heart was a very popular cut of meat, even with the middle and upper classes. I like this recipe that appears in Elizabeth Raffald’s book The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769) ‘To make a Mock Hare of a Beast’s Heart’:

Wash a large beast’s heart clean and cut off the deaf ears [see below], and stuff it with forcemeat…Lay a caul of veal…over the top to keep in the stuffing. Roast it either in a cradle spit or hanging one, it will take an hour and a half before a good fire; baste it with red wine. When roasted take the wine out of the dripping pan and skim off the fat and add a glass more of wine. When it is hot put in some lumps of redcurrant jelly and pour it in the dish. Serve it up and send in redcurrant jelly cut in slices on a saucer.

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Elizabeth Raffald

I think this sounds like a delicious recipe to try, and perhaps I will when I come across a large beast’s heart in the butcher’s shop window. However, it might be a little bit of a challenge for someone not used to eating such things. Instead, I give a recipe for a delicious and simple marinated calf’s heart, as a good introduction to the texture of heart which is not as tough as old boots as you may first expect, but firm and has the familiar taste of meat.  However, before you cook a heart, you need to know how to get it ready.

Preparing Heart

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The hearts of small animals such as ducks and chickens can simply have any large blood vessels removed and you are done.

Preparing a larger heart such as calf, ox, lamb or pig might appear to be a little daunting at first, but it is really quite simple. First of all the large blood vessels as well as the two large flaps that used to be known as ‘deaf ears’ are trimmed away from the top of the heart as well as any obviously sinewy parts. This should leave the heart looking neat with two cavities within. If you want, trim away the fat, but if it is to be roasted, the fat provides a natural basting. In fact, there is so little fat within the heart itself that often it needs to be larded with strips of fatty bacon. Large ox hearts are often quartered and frozen away to be used over several meals.

Pop the heart in some salted water until you are going to cook it.

Grilled & Marinated Calf’s Heart

This recipe is a modern one and it comes from the Nose-to-Tail chef Fergus Henderson. It is very simple and very healthy – pieces of calf’s heart that have been marinated in Balsamic vinegar, quickly griddled then served up with a nice salad.

For four

Ingredients

1 calf’s heart

around 6 tbs Balsamic vinegar

salt

pepper

1 tbs chopped fresh thyme

First of all prepare the heart: trim it as explained above and remove any thicker pieces of fat. In this case, the heart is cooked quickly, so it doesn’t require the fatty basting. Cut it open and lay it out flat and cut into 2 or 3 centimetre (1 inch) squares.

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You need each piece of meat to be about half a centimetre (¼ of an inch) thick, so some very thick parts, such as the ventricles, will need to be sliced horizontally. Tumble the pieces of heart into a bowl along with the vinegar, salt, pepper and thyme, making sure everything gets coated well. Cover and marinate for 24 hours.

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To cook the meat, you need a red-hot griddle – either on a barbeque or over a hob – that has been lightly greased with some rapeseed oil. Place pieces of heart on the griddle and turn after 2 or 3 minutes and cook the same time on the other side.

Serve straight-away with ‘a spirited salad of your choice’, says Mr Henderson, ‘e.g. waterctress, shallot and bean, or raw leek.’

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Sweetbreads

One of my irregular offal-themed posts (see main post Tail to Nose Eating):
For those that are not aware, sweetbreads are a type of offal and come from the thyroid gland, situated around the throat, of either calves or lambs. For this reason they are often called throat sweetbreads. The thyroid gland, or thymus, produces the hormone thyroxin which is involved in the proper regulation of metabolism. Hyperthyroidism is a common disease where the sufferer produces too much of it, causing very high metabolism and, as a consequence, is rather skinny. I had a cat with it once. The pancreas is commonly sold as heart or stomach sweetbreads, there are other rarely used sweetbreads too such as tongue and cheek sweetbreads. Most people think that sweetbreads are the testicles of calves and lambs; in fact, very rarely are testicles sold under the name of sweetbreads, they are more commonly sold as fries or stones.

Don’t be put off by the thought of eating a gland – they taste light, with a suspicion of iodine and do not have a strong offal flavour. If you are new to offal, or fear it a little, sweetbreads are a good place to start I reckon. But why are they called sweetbreads? Well, they are sweet because they taste richer and sweeter compared to typical meat, and they are bread because the old English word for flesh is bræd.

Sweetbreads were once very, very popular, but have now died a comparative death. Though, like many of the old forgotten cuts of meat, there is a slight resurgence, but nowhere near the dizzy heights of the 18th and 19th centuries. Almost every meat dish seems to have been decked out with breaded sweetbread garnishes. In those days; they were cheap and they were plentiful and they were delicious. Sweetbreads are not the easiest of cuts to get hold of these days, with most of them being snapped up by restaurants, and the few that get to your butcher are snaffled very quickly by those in the know. This, in some ways, in a good thing – they become, not a mere garnish, but the star of the show, something to be savoured. In Jane Grigson’s book Good Things, they have a whole chapter to themselves!

Sweetbreads are best served simply: grilled or fried alongside some dry-cured streaky bacon. Sweetbreads love bacon. They also love black pudding and sweet vegetables such as beans and peas.

I got lambs’ sweetbreads from my butcher WH Frost in Chorlton. For some bonkers reason we can’t sell British calves’ sweetbreads in this country, but we can sell those that have come from mainland Europe.

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Lamb’s sweetbreads in their raw state

Preparation of sweetbreads

Whether you get calves’ or lambs’ sweetbreads they first need to be soaked in salted water for a few hours. This gets rid of any impurities. If you can, change the water a couple of times, but it is no big deal if you do not.

 

Next, the sweetbreads are poached. This can be in simple salted water, but more normal is a light stock such as chicken or vegetable or in a court bouillon of herbs and vegetables.

Simply pop your sweetbreads into the water or stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for five minutes. Remove, drain and cool before removing any gristly bits. The tricky part is doing this whilst keeping them whole.

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Fried Sweetbreads with Peas and Broad Beans

This recipe is great if you’ve never cooked with sweetbreads before – they are sliced up, so if they do fall apart when preparing them, it doesn’t matter. This recipe is also a very quick dinner – taking only 10 minutes or so to cook. I don’t think it needs to be served with anything, except perhaps a slice of wholemeal bread and butter. By the way, there is nothing wrong with using frozen peas and beans here. This recipe is adapted from The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and it serves four people.

Ingredients

around 150g (6 oz) garden peas, fresh or frozen

around 150g (6 oz) broad beans, fresh or frozen

3 tbs olive oil

100g (4 oz) dry-cured smoked streaky bacon, cubed

500g (1 lb) prepared lamb’s or calf’s sweetbreads, sliced

plain flour seasoned extremely well-seasoned with salt, pepper and a little Cayenne pepper

1 garlic clove, very finely chopped

salt and pepper

Plunge the beans and peas into boiling water for one minute, then drain and tip into cold water. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon begins to crisp.

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Meanwhile, toss the sweetbreads in the seasoned flour and tip them into the pan along with the bacon. A minute later, add the garlic and fry everything a nice golden brown. Tip away any excess oil and stir in the beans and peas. Cook for another minute, season with salt and pepper and serve piping hot.

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