Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nothing Daunted, Nothing Gained...

Sally's Beetroot and Beef Casserole: serves 6 - 8
1 lb (450g) cooked beetroot, cubed
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 cloves garlic, crushed
half pint water
2 lbs (900g) braising steak, cubed
butter and oil
1 dessp ground ginger
1 tblsp plain flour
Put the beetroot, zest and juice of the orange, the garlic and water into a blender or food processor, and blitz until a puree. Then put into a pan and heat to a simmer.
Melt a little butter in a pan with a little oil, and when hot add the steak (best to do in batches) and stir until browned. Stir in the ginger and the flour, then add the beetroot puree. Put into a casserole, cover and cook at 140C, 275F, gas 1 for 2 - 3 hours or until the meat is tender.
(Hope this is correct Sally, am guessing at the number it serves - based on the amount of meat - and if I have made a fatal error with the ingredients or method, then let us know a.s.a.p).

Disaster after disaster yesterday in the Goode kitchen. The muesli loaf never did rise, so in the end turned it out (by then the muesli had soaked up any liquid and was an almost solid block), and at least it 'looked' good, albeit unbaked. So decided to cut it into slices (it made 20) and give these a quick bake to see if they would end up like a type of 'biscotti', in which case I then intended masking them in melted chocolate to make 'muesli bars'. Yes, they baked beautifully, but after 15 minutes in a hot oven, then left in a cooling oven, ended up tooth-breakingly rigid. Felt I'd invented a new and healthy type of dog biscuit.

As the saying goes, "Nothing daunted, nothing gained", so my next move was to put a couple of bars into a small dish and cover them with milk to see what happened. This morning checked it out and the bars had softened to the stage of being more like a bowl of milk-soaked muesli. A quick sample and decided the flavour was too 'bready', but would certainly work if the bars had been soaked in beaten egg and milk, then later cooked as a B & B pudding. This will be done today, after adding a little sugar and cinnamon. Tomorrow you will find out if this HAS worked.

Suppose in a way my 'muesli/bread bars' had turned out to be what they used to call 'hard tack' - a form of ship's biscuit, where extremely hard and dried out biscuits were carried on board to later soak up and eat as a form of porridge. So am storing the surplus muesli bars, and - if successful - will use them to make more B & B pudding, or could even grind them back down to almost powder and add them to the next batch of muesli, use for coating fish cakes or use to thicken a casserole. Whatever - they will not be thrown away. I don't do throw away.

My confidence yesterday was at an all time low. Just hate it when things go wrong, but having said that, it is useful to discover that a disaster can still be turned around, and maybe not giving up is what has brought us out of the caves and into the domestic kitchens of today. Not that I am 100% sure that this has done us any favours. Life would have been so much easier when now and again some hulk or another would drag us into their cave by our hair, and 'afterwards' all we had to do was go and pick more berries. With no pots, there would be washing up to do. With no clothes (other than animal skins) no laundry to do. The men brought home the meat, skin it to make new clothes (and would cook the meat for us). Personally, I'd be quite content with that (at least for a while).

In the newspaper yesterday there was a short article about the rising price of jams and marmalades. This is due to the soaring price of sugar, fruits and also the cost of glass. Because of this fewer preserves are bought these days.
We home-cooks should think hard about this, keep an eye on sugar prices, maybe buy some now ready to make preserves later in the year. In the spring plant soft fruits (raspberries, black-currants, red-currants, gooseberries, blackberries....) in the garden (or containers) and save all the jars and lids that become empty over the weeks, giving them a good wash and keep reusing them to pot up our own preserves.

There was also a double-page feature about organic meat and how in some instances these animals were handled in a very inhumane way at the abbatoir before being killed and sometime during the killing process, when they were left too long after stunning and had begun to revive again. Hidden cameras were fitted into an abbatoir that only dealt with organic meats, and the findings were horrific. Animals that are not 'organically' reared are usually treated better.
This is not to say all organic animals are badly treated when it comes to slaughter, but the findings came from what was believed to be a reputable abbatoir, and it is not the only one where this happens. Since the findings, many of the staff have been sacked, but we should always be aware that because some meat can be bought as 'organic', it is not necessarily well cared for in every sense.
We might be able to tell if an animal has been scared before being killed, because this fright will case the muscles to contract and when cooked and eaten, the meat will seem tougher than it should be. A butcher might say it is more to do with the cooking than the slaughter as to the toughness of the meat, and they maybe right. But it is 'food for thought'. Or am I making stupid assumptions?