Mrs Portly says . . . let's have a meating
PUBLISHED: 11:42 19 May 2015 | UPDATED: 11:42 19 May 2015
Linda Duffin urges support for the local butcher and his (it's usually 'his') superior, value-for-money service and products
If there was a Twelve Step programme for online shopping addiction, I’d be attending weekly meetings and confessing my sins.
Living as I do a 20-minute drive from the nearest town, I buy almost everything via the internet and I’m on first-name terms with most of the delivery drivers. I tell myself it saves on time and petrol (true) and stops me impulse-buying (lie). My long-suffering husband has long since resigned himself to the endless stream of packages arriving at the door and simply raises a quizzical eyebrow.
My internet habit extends to online grocery shopping, which can be a godsend, but also a less than magical mystery tour when you’re selecting the produce sight unseen.
After an occasion when I ordered what one supermarket referred to as ‘stewing steak’ and I got a package of pallid, unrecognisable meat that was totally lacking in flavour, I determined to buy more of my meat from a proper butcher.
March 23-29 marks National Butchers’ Week, aimed at supporting and promoting independent High Street butchers. It’s a worthwhile campaign, in my view, because the skills and experience of a traditional butcher are irreplaceable.
Yes, supermarkets employ professional butchers, but how often are they actually behind the counter to help you select that perfect cut, to tell you where the meat came from and how best to cook it? Not to mention the pleasure of watching him (it’s usually a ‘him’ in this country) bone and tie it in a few deft movements. Yet so many butcher’s shops have closed forever and it’s a lucky village that still has one.
Earl Soham butcher John Hutton admits it can be hard to attract young people to the trade, but says he’s winning the battle against the supermarket giants.
“We’ve had to diversify, but we’re still here and the future is bright. I don’t see how supermarkets can handle the volumes they do and keep the consistency and quality, whereas we can. All of our meat is sourced from either Suffolk or Norfolk, you’re safe in the knowledge that it’s come from a local farm, and price-wise we’re not any more expensive.”
So in honour of the local butcher, this month’s recipe is a classic Boeuf Bourguignon. I used shin of beef, the cut I was unable to source from my online supermarket and one whose collagen content breaks down over long, slow cooking to give a lip-smacking result.
Boeuf Bourguignon (serves 4-6)
1 kilo shin of beef, trimmed and cut into bite-sized chunks
80g streaky bacon, cut into strips
150ml red wine
About 300ml beef stock
1 clove garlic
Bouquet garni of thyme, parsley and bay leaf
Salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp flour
250g small mushrooms
12-18 baby onions, peeled and left whole
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a casserole and brown the beef. Remove and set aside.
Melt the bacon lardons until translucent but not browned. Set aside with the beef.
Add a little more oil and fry the onions until golden all over. Pop them in a bowl for later.
Fry the mushrooms for a couple of minutes. Add to the mushrooms.
Put the beef and bacon back in the pan, stir in the flour and cook briefly, then pour in the red wine and stir well.
Let it bubble up for a minute and add the beef stock, garlic clove and bouquet garni. Season to taste . Cover and cook gently on top of the stove for two hours, adding more stock if necessary.
Finally add the mushrooms and onions and cook for another half hour or until the meat is meltingly tender.