I should be rambling today up at Rushmore. Striding up and down hill and vale through the driving rain and back to a hot meal at Rushmore Golf Club. It is the first ramble of the year, and despite my New Year’s resolution to get to grips with my waistline, I cried off, being exertion shy and a sensible fine weather rambler only.
I have just looked at the menu from the Rushmore Golf Club restaurant and was pleased to find a wonderfully seasonal menu reflecting the soul of British cooking. Game hot pot, twice cooked belly of pork, brisket of beef with champ potatoes, all served with seasonal vegetables. Hearty meals indeed that could be followed by a choice of puddings including a winter fruit trifle or local Stilton and Cheddar. I’m tempted to throw a bucket of water over my head, splash mud on my legs, pinch my cheeks for a rosy glow and merge unnoticed into the group as they walk exhausted and battered back to the club house to settle down to a well-earned meal. I think I might be rumbled though and be ostracised from the group for ‘bear faced cheating and gluttony’.
What Rushmore illustrates is that you can fill a menu with great choice for all and entertain with the best seasonal, local produce. We are living in a world where the production, marketing and sourcing of food, has gone mad. Eating soft fruit in January for example, with its watery diluted taste, dulls the excitement, the palate but most of all the anticipation of the zingy, glorious freshness of a punnet of sunripened, freshly picked berries from the bush in July. I hope and mostly believe, anyone with a true interest and passion for fresh, best value, tasty food, will shun the jet-lagged beans, blueberries and sweetcorn. Seasonal cooking is not a high-minded duty or a restrictive chore but a liberating pleasure. (I may have to be a little hypocritical when it comes to bananas, however hope you know where I am coming from.) The fact that local, seasonal produce comes without a punitive cost to the environment is a bonus many will appreciate. Had the Donheads suffered like Cumbria in December, I am sure this would have concentrated our minds about what we are doing to our planet by continually demanding year round tasteless exotics amongst other things.
Cooking in harmony with the seasons gives me immeasurable pleasure and satisfaction, especially if it’s local or picked from my own tub, garden or vegetable patch. In this wet miserable weather I like nothing more than those toe warming casseroles and stews, pies and puddings, which is exactly where I am heading this month. I have only cavolo nero (black kale) and Jerusalem artichokes to harvest this month, but both will be delicious with this month’s recipe, a warming soupy stew of beef, oxtail and vegetables for bleak days. In a world where our approach to food often seems a kind of madness, seasonality is pure sanity. So for those with New Year resolutions to turn an ear or thought to quality, seasonality or sustainability, please start by treating your family or friends, or even just yourselves (because you’re worth it) to a hearty locally sourced one pot supper this month. Finger wagging over, as I eye up a Moroccan clementine in the fruit bowl. aif
Shin of beef with oxtail and pasta
Serves 6–8 Approx.
£18 when all ingredients bought in the Donheads.
This will freeze well without the pasta which may be added on reheating or add cooked potatoes as an alternative to pasta.
Ingredients (you can add any root vegetable to this recipe or adapt it for a base for any soupy stew with rabbit, mutton or game).
1kg shin of beef (Buttlings will trim and dice this for you into large pieces)
250g pancetta or bacon pieces – cut into chunky cubes
300g oxtail (it’s the bone marrow you want)
2 onions – peeled and sliced
2 large carrots – peeled and cut in to medium-large sized chunks
3 sticks of celery – sliced
1 litre beef stock (made from a cube is fine – or use canned stock from Ludwell Stores if you don’t have home made)
250g macaroni or soup friendly pasta – orzo would work
Olive oil or dripping
Bay leaves, fresh thyme
If cooking in a slow oven rather than for a long simmer, preheat the oven to 140°C / gas mark 3 (AGA simmering oven).
1. Heat a little olive oil or dripping in a large heavy frying pan
2. Gently fry the pancetta or bacon until lightly browned and the fat runs, then transfer to a large casserole
3. Brown the shin of beef in the residual fat in the same pan in batches, transferring to the casserole as soon as it is slightly coloured
4. Seal the oxtail in the same pan, adding a little more oil if needed and add to the casserole
5. Finally sweat the onions in the same pan without allowing them to colour, transferring to the casserole when soft and translucent
6. Add the carrot chunks, sliced celery, a couple of bay leaves and a sprig of thyme
7. Pour over the beef stock adding a little water if needed – the meat should be covered by a good couple of centimetres
8. Season well although sparingly with salt
9. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered at a very low simmer for 2–3 hours until the meat is completely tender. Alternatively, once brought to a simmer cook in a slow oven, covered.
10. When tender, remove the oxtail and pull the meat from the bone, returning the meat to the casserole, discarding the bone. Stir well.
11. Cook your pasta of choice separately and when almost cooked through drain and add to the casserole just before serving. You don’t want it mushy!
12. Serve in large warmed bowls as a complete meal or add some lightly shredded and blanched kale.
A truly, truly scrumptious hearty winter supper
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.