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Friday, 30 October 2015

Carrying a quarter of a cow upstairs with a bad back.

Unfortunately I happen to be off work at the moment with an injured back. Thankfully I haven't had one of those for a while. In fact the last and worst time was probably in the late 1980s when I was last in the traditional butchery trade. I was off work for thirteen weeks. These were the days when men were men and pussy footing around the sensitivities of staff was unheard of. Hurt your back? Can hardly walk? Wimp! Carry this slippery hindquarter of beef weighing twice your weight up these narrow stairs to the cutting room! Ger on wi it!

So, as I sit painfully on my settee reading and catching up on emails I find myself looking through a few old pictures from 'back in the day'. The images remind me of a lot more than the actual objects reveal.

Sides of smoky bacon. I used to love boning these out mainly from the knife skill satisfaction of the job but also the proper rich smoky bacon smell and the feel of the nearly dry bacon. I liked the feeling of pulling the long rib bones from the flesh and the satisfaction of completing a job in  good time.

Butchers' tape dispenser. Used for sealing the plastic bags that the meat was given to the customer. The tape often broke and to find the end was often as frustrating as trying and failing to find the end of a split roll of sellotape. To top it all customers would be waiting impatiently during your struggle.

Interior of a tenderising machine. This took a lot of cleaning and could be very sharp or, equally, very blunt. They were hardly worth the effort of using them as they would often rip the meat going through to shreds.

The bacon slicing machine. Much used and very dangerous and a pig to clean. One of my old managers (now in butchers heaven gawd bless him) managed to slice his hand four inches across and down to the bone whilst cleaning the circular blade. He just spat on the wound and carried on. Well that's a lie really. He nearly fainted and I had to call an ambulance as he went whiter than a sheet of greaseproof paper in sunny spot and bled copiously into a greasy hand towel.

Stolen bikes. It's funny the things you think you remember that may not have been true or as accurately true as you think. Even today I have dreams about working in a trad butcher's environment and being late for work or miles away from work because my bike is in bits or has been stolen. I used to think that maybe I had a succession of racing bikes nicked from the back of the shop or from the yard behind the shop. In actual fact I probably only had one or two bikes taken by casual thieves so why I should have these alarming dreams all these years later I don't know.

Creating attractive window displays. Apart from a short spell at Bosworths the Family Butchers in Little Eaton my main proper butchering work was for Dewhurst The Master Butcher and Rydes The Pork Butchers in Derbyshire. For both establishments the focus of the day was to create attractive displays (and in Dewhurst's case - quite elaborate) to draw custom into the shops. These were jobs that had to be done at speed by half a dozen staff male and there was a pride in the work and also in maintaining a decent display throughout the day. The ladies who served usually had the job of keeping the cooked and cold meats sections clean and tidy and to cut the limited styles of cheese as well as serve. They were never involved in the actual butchery of cutting up carcasses or carrying hunking great pieces of dead animal about with a bad back.

Block brush. Meant for scrubbing down and removing fat from the wooden blocks that we used to cut and prepare meat on. The 'bristles' are shards of metal and the brush illustrated would be brand new. After a few usages the bristles would be bent out of shape and loved to dig into your fingers if it twisted in the scrubbing motion. Happy days.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Mashed Herring in masala paste with new potatoes and greens.

I purchased three herring from our Tesco counter because they are very cheap at the moment. Roughly about £1.80 for the three. At the time of purchase I had no idea what I planned to do with them. I was just inspired by the fact that I had never cooked herring before.

As it turned out I gutted them and scored the skin so that I could introduce a nice spicy masala sauce (half a jar sitting in the fridge) into the flesh. I popped the masala spread fish into the oven at about 150 degrees for about three quarters of an hour. One of the fish (in preparation) lost its spine so I decided to fillet the lot and in so doing had a lot less bone to fanny about with on eating.

I put on some new potatoes and let boil until tender. In a separate pan I steamed some greens and crisp and salty samphire. The cooked and curried herring was mashed with some crème fraiche for a creamy fishy mash.

The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling with a glass of chilled white wine.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Stuffed whole rainbow trout cooked in butter

Well I say 'stuffed' in the title above. I'd say more like a mixture of chopped green ends of a bunch of spring onions, chopped mushrooms and flaked almonds all pushed into cleaned gut cavity. I do like my fish whole whenever possible and especially the trout. I first came across trout way back in the 1980s and I had started to visit Germany for holidays. There it is known as die Forella and eating out on my own, often at lunchtime in half empty restaurants on the Rhine and Mosel (not both at the same time) I took a shine to this beautiful river fish and its earthy taste and succulent orangey-pink flesh.

So yesterday I fished one bought a week ago from Tesco out of the freezer and left it in a bath of cold water to defrost. Once restored to death I scored the flesh three or four times to slip in some butter and pushed the chopped ingredients into the fish's belly. When all was in place I gave it a good blast of black pepper and popped it in the oven for three quarters of an hour on gas mark six.

In the meantime I boiled a few new potatoes and when all was ready added a few tasty capers to the plate and Bob's your trout!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A delicious Mackerel Pate recipe

As spoken about in the last blog post I cooked several mackerel fillets on the bbq to achieve a smoky flavour in order to make some mackerel pate. Whilst the finished result isn't precisely Smoked Mackerel Pate it tastes very very similar.

For three cooked/smoked mackerel fillets a recipe I found on t'internet suggested adding 300g of Philadelphia Cream Cheese plus one teaspoon of horseradish sauce and the juice of one lemon then blitzing the whole lot in a food blender. That is it!

Well, at the moment I don't have a food blender so I resorted to old fashioned methods by pulverizing the mixture with a potato masher and finishing the job by pushing down on the semi- soft mixture with the back of a dessert spoon. The result was fishy heaven with a tasty level of extra sharpness achieved through the acidity of the lemon juice and hot horseradish sauce. In the end I found I had made far too much for myself and gave away two bowls full to my neighbours Jo and Betty.

With grated lemon peel and a blackberry as decoration.

Never too late to light the BBQ. Adventures in meat and fish.

A few weeks ago I managed to get hold of a beautiful (self assembly) red barbeque at a very decent price through my employer Tesco. The boxed and un-assembled item has sat in a corner of my bedroom until yesterday morning. Feeling suitably inspired, I took all the components out of said box and carefully set aside all the alphabetically signalled nuts and bolts and washers and tentatively started to assemble the beast. The very notion of 'Self-assembly' takes me down the deep dark and scary route of assembling mainly Ikea furniture when I was married. My ex still enjoys the slightly off kilter and upside down Ikea wardrobe I put together in 2001 - A Structural Odyssey. It took a few strong mugs of tea to get me in the mood for the pages and pages of bbq assembly instructions.

As I intimated in the previous sentence - it took a wee while but, due to some unforeseen great patience of mine coupled with the relatively easy instructions it was finally ready for action some approximately ten hours later (joke). Finally assembled in under an hour - it had a photo opportunity in the garden. My elderly neighbour Betty actually cooed at my new assemblage like an 80s Plus pigeon on heat. I often wonder what my neighbours must think as I continually bring my gadgets and meals outside to be photographed for this blog! The light is so much kinder than indoors.

In actuality I took the bbq around to the lesser inhabited side of my house (my front lavender filled garden) so that any wood smoke from initially firing up the bbq wouldn't annoy anyone. Once the embers were glowing I put on some mackerel fillets. The whole mackerel fish happen to be on offer on the Tesco counters at half price as I type. On Saturday I purchased half a dozen of them whole and cleaned and filleted them at home. The trimmed fillets then  sat in my fridge in a covered casserole dish for two days. There was no particular reason for this excepting that I had intended to make to make mackerel pate from the fillets once the bbq was up and running. Not quite smoked mackerel in flavour but something similar.

I cooked the mackerel fillets on silver foil so that they didn't burn or stick to the metal griddle.

'Once the embers were glowing...'

Rather than waste the hot embers on solely cooking the mackerel I also endeavoured to cook some German Bratwurst sausages, some small bits of sirloin and some chicken legs. The Bratwurst came out the wurst in terms of being too gebrannt (burnt skins). However, the little bits of sirloin steaks and the chickens legs turned out to be much more controllable and less prone to a charcoaled effect than the pale white sausages.

The Bratwurst were added to some sauerkraut, gherkins and Dijon mustard for a truly Germanic lunch.

Chilli flaked sprats - a perfect fishy starter.

Sprats make a lovely starter and I prepared and cooked some while I was cooking a large pot of steak and kidney stew bought last Saturday from my counter at Tesco Beeston. At home, I gutted a dozen little silvery sprats, washed them and covered them in plain flour and shook the excess off. They took ten minutes to fry in some sunflower oil. I added a few flakes of chilli towards the end of the cooking. Once they were nice and crunchy and brown I took them out of the frying pan and sat them in a clean sieve to drain off any oil. They were delicious.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Outdoor reared pork ribs marinated in a yummy Korean sauce.

Even though I sell a lot of outdoor reared pork ribs in my daily job at Tesco I don't recall ever cooking any. Well they are cheap and so I decided to buy myself a decent amount and looked out for a marinade sauce that wasn't majorly hot. Amongst the array of sauces and marinades I found this little beauty from Encona Taste Explorers. Given the generous amount of ribs I had provided for myself I went for two jars. See their great Twitter link @EnconaOfficial and Econa Facebook page

I chopped the ribs into smaller bite-size bits and poured the jars of marinade over the lot. I rubbed in the marinade and thoroughly coated the meat. Then the ribs in the bowl were covered in cling film and left in the fridge to marinade for almost two days.

ribs before marinade
In cooking the smoky/spicy flavoured ribs I pre-heated my oven to gas mark six for ten minutes, transferred the ribs to a casserole dish and covered it in silver foil. They cooked at this heat for half an hour and then I turned the heat down to four. I left the ribs cooking on this relatively low heat for a further three hours, occasionally taking them out and turning their delicious porkiness over in the marinade. For the last half hour I added a few slabs of dark chocolate to the cooking pork for a hit of extra sweet flavour.

I could hardly wait to eat them when they finally came out of the oven and the marinade had thickened like a reduction. I kept it simple and ate them with some quickly prepared Uncle Ben's rice.

I realised that perhaps I had cooked a few too many ribs for one person and thought that maybe I could chew on the remaining amount cold the next day. I was wrong. They are much better eaten piping hot!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Seeing fish in a different light.

Not only is it a joy for me to sell fish and meat from the Beeston Extra Tesco counter but some days ordinary things take on a different hue. Take the patterns on the fish for example; this morning as I cheerfully set the fish counter up - I started to be very aware of the beautiful patterns and shapes in some of the fresh whole fish and the fillets and cut items. The more I looked the more I saw. They bordered on the visually poetic. I took a few photos so that I could share my delights with you lovely readers.

Take these blushing little stiff fresh sardines all red cheeked as if from a bracing run/swim and glum faced as they consider the frying pan they may soon have temporary residence in.

Slightly blurry headless tiger prawns (£1 each and utterly divine). All the greens of the sea, glossy as a wet day in the wave slapping harbour and showing off their creamy white flesh at the ends.

Salmon fillets or filets (dependent on how posh or genuinely French you are). Skin on - don't ya just love that crispy feel when cooked - and boneless. It is interesting and gently amusing the amount of customers who like their fish boneless. If God had a day off being his universal holiness almighty then he would help a proportion of our supermarket customers by creating Pisces Floppidus - a real live fish totally without a skeleton. Pisces Floppidus would exist as just edible fish meat and be devoid of staring eyes and gaping guilt inducing mouth. In the meantime Findus do a selection of boil in the bag products.

Smoked mackerel fillets - boneless (hurrah!!!!!) flavoursome and delightfully colourful and patterned like a Māori on Gay Pride Day. The smoky smell of them is pretty awesome too.

Love the semi circular patterns in the cut swordfish steaks that remind me of astronomical maps. I am almost expecting to read the words 'outer nebular' amongst the rings of fishy flesh. The very strong dark edging flesh and skin adds to their defining form. Do try cooking swordfish steaks as they have a very succulent flavour almost (I say - almost) as good as fresh ruby red tuna steaks. Swordfish has a distinct masculinity about its look and flavour. Love it!

Haddock fillets are on offer as I type (half price) and our  customers cannot help themselves in realising the cheapness, to buy ever more and more. It will exist in the freezer up to three months we recommend. Haddock is also a huge favourite in fish and chip shops across the country and we even have a male customer who owns a Beeston fish and chip shop and his eyes widen bigger than the river Trent on flood alert when we have such sumptuous fish at such a crazy discount. The distinctive 'go faster stripe' along the back of the fillets is almost an open invitation to stock up and happily head towards the tills to purchase your haddock trophies.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Spicy cannellini stew with St Agur cheese.

Sometimes you just want to come home from work and make something nice and easy and as the autumn leaves start to turn colour perhaps something a bit warm and spicy. Such was the case today.

Before I left home for work this morning I got a tray of beef Bolognese out of the freezer to defrost. The day passed by with an enjoyable day on the meat and fish counters at Tesco working alongside my colleague Alan. When I got home I added a tin of Tesco chopped tomatoes to the de-frosted Bolognese and then, instead of more meat, I opened a stray tin of pearly white Napolina cannellini beans (ready to use) and gave them a quick rinse under a cold water tap.

St Agur soft cheese.
Then I added the beans to the tomato and meat stew plus a teaspoon of Pimenton for a spicy Spanish flavour. I simply warmed this all through on the stove top and finished off the dish with a blob or two of left over blue St Agur cheese. No rice, no pasta - just the stew. Utterly delicious!

All the mushrooms and slices of sirloin beef were already in the Bolognese mixture that I put together way back in May 2015.