Tuesday, January 19, 2010

befriending your butcher

I quickly learned that the key to getting a good meal is to find a good butcher. Luckily, I didn't have to go far as we've got a really good butcher just down the road who not only has a wide range of meats, they're happy to order in special requests and will always cut a meat up 'just so'.

Because I quickly became a fan of slow-cooking I needed to find just the right cuts for this, and the answer was cheap meat cut up in gigantic chunks. At first I'd just buy the steak and cut it up, until I realised that nothing makes a good butcher happier than cutting up the perfect piece of meat so it'll cook to perfection.

Last night we had friends to dinner and I made Julia Child's Beef Bourginon. It was time-consuming, but every single act lead to some degree of deliciousness. For a start I had to dry each piece of meat on a paper towel before sauteeing it, and this meant it browned up beautifully rather than simmering to a dull grey in its juices. The only part of the recipe I didn't follow was to simmer the bacon in boiling water for 10 minutes to take out the saltiness {I mean, c'mon, THAT'S the appeal of bacon...}.

My butcher's also happy to take a Lillydale free-range chicken from its wrapping and cut it into pieces for me - something I'd need poultry shears and far more patience to do well. The the pieces are placed in a large ziplock bag with rosé, garlic, herbs, honey and lavender to become Nigella's ever-so-tasty St Tropez Chicken.

For convenience-sake I'll still grab a pre-packed piece of meat from the shelves at the supermarket, but I'm determined this year to keep patronising my butcher. Blokes such as he really do need to be rewarded...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

first bites

The first thing that struck me when we thought about eating meat again was the variety. Seriously, it's almost endless. Now I know there's a lot of vegetarian options out there - I know, I tried 20 years of them, but adding meat into the equation just changed my way of thinking. Rather than dinner being "vegetarian lasagne and salad" it could be chicken {roasted, grilled, thighs, breasts, kebabs, poached...} with salad...

But the thing was, at nearly 40 I had no idea how to cook the meat. As I was 17 when I gave the stuff up that meant there were a lot of learning years that'd flown by. Unused. So I had to start afresh. Thank goodness for the internet and Lifestyle Food. Cooking programs were my saviour. So was a meat thermometer that saved many a roast.

I think I've finally mastered the perfect steak {after tips from Gordon Ramsay and my friend Pete!} and now I can serve up a perfectly seared on the outside, pink on the inside piece of caramelised tender goodness.

I went from chicken being my favourite food in my teen years, to dropping low on my list of loves now {probably because of the ubiquitous nature of skinless chicken breasts - why?}. Pork is my friend. Oh, my very best friend and I'm so glad I'm a carnivore during the rein of the pork belly {best bit EVER}. Duck, oh, I do love duck. Confit? Yes please. Lamb's also up there in my fave mouthfuls - and nicely cooked beef also does it for me.

What amazed me, and my husband, was how fussy so many people are about meat. In my years as a vegetarian I thought you either ate meat, or you didn't. But after having people around I learned some things.

1. Lots of people don't like salmon. I know - crispy skin salmon with a squeeze of lime and a dusting of pepper is delish!
2. Lots of women don't like a lot of meat - and will only eat chicken breast. Missing out ladies!
3. Some people won't eat meat with bones as it's too fiddly. But it's the most tasty!!!
4. Former vegetarians such as my husband and myself are quite possibly the most adventurous eaters.

Next up on my journey - foods I have known. I plan on filling this blog with recipes - so stay tuned...

Monday, January 11, 2010

starting over...

After 20 years as a vegetarian, I was understandably nervous about re-introducing meat into my system. That's a helluva long time between bites. So, we started slowly with a piece of sauteed chicken breast, then, the next day a fish fillet and then decided that we could handle it and it was time to tell our daughter about our new carnivoristic life.

She was five at the time, and pretty excited about it really. So we went and bought some chicken, cooked it up, passed it over and she popped it in her mouth and chewed.

And chewed.

And chewed...

"When can I stop chewing?" was her response. Understandably. After years of vegetarian food the fibrous nature of animal protein, was hard for her to handle. So we thought we'd leave it up to her to take her time, and slowly introduce meat for her to try when she was in the mood.

Next came the biggest challenge for me - re-learning how to cook meat. I was 17 when I gave it up and my cooking repetoire was solely veggie. Mucho one-pot dishes and ethnic food galore. I needed to learn to master the basics so I started to drag out the cookbooks and experiment - with mixed success...

this year...

I totally promise to write on this blog.


Let's say Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Will that do for a start?

Cos, c'mon, I'm nothing if not a vociferous blogger {there must be an actual term for that - let me know when you find it}.

So, I'll see you tomorrow then. With a post. A real one. Pinky swear!