Monday, 30 January 2012

Jamie Oliver's braised oxtail

Sprouts? Yeah, sprouts.
To be accurate, this isn't a Jamie Oliver recipe. It's one by Aaron Craze, an early student at Fifteen London. Award winning apparently, and to be fair, Jamie gives him his dues in the book this first appeared in - Cook with Jamie.

The original recipe includes gnocchi but my Mum isn't a fan of that, so I served this with a mash of celeriac and potato that had been flavoured with lots of fresh thyme which was itself quite delicious. Just boil equalish quantities of potato and celeriac and mash with lots of butter when cooked. I added 5-6 fronds worth of fresh thyme leaves which gave a nice aromatic taste to the mash and the little green leaves made it look very appealing.

Due to some missing ingredients I had to tweak things a bit, but what I came up with still very nice. This dish, and the brisket chili, that I've blogged about before have really put me off using mince for good. There just isn't any point. It is so much more satisfying to both cook and eat proper meat.

The recipe for the braised oxtail as shown in the book is:
1 oxtail (jointed) - I got mine from Ruby & White, must butchers would be able to supply it if given notice. I've also seen it for sale in Waitrose.
1 celery stick finely chopped
1 onion peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped (carrot, onion and celery = sofritto)
1 leek, trimmed and finely chopped
1/2 bottle of white wine (I used Chenin Blanc, avoid Sauvignon Blanc as it is too fruity)
1 tablespoon crushed fennel seeds (I didn't have these so used a little star anise)
1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 dried chilli
1 tablespoon tomato puree (I used tommy k)
4 x 400g tins plum tomatoes (a silly amount, I used 1 tin in a dish to feed 3 people)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
A handful of fresh sage
Salt and pepper

It's worth noting that the original recipe is for 6 people. I'm not convinced by that. I used 1 oxtail and fed 3 people. The oxtail uncooked weighed a little over a kilo, but the meat was less than half that weight. Maybe I made the sauce a lot meatier than it is meant to be, but I'm glad I did.

The cooking is easy. Sear the oxtail in a large pan then add the chopped the veg, turn the heat down and cook till the veg is lightly browned. Then add the wine, spices, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes. Top up with water if necessary to make sure all the meat is covered then put in an oven (150 degrees Celsius) for about 4 hours.

When the meat is beginning to fall off the bone, remove the pan or dish from the oven and shred all the meat off the bones. Then return it to the pot. Add the oregano and simmer to a nice thickness. Serve with fried sage leaves and gnocchi.

Although what I cooked was a slight departure from the original it was still very nice. It may have been better if I'd left the star anise out, which I would next time, but I was still very pleased. As were my missus and my mum - and they can be a tough crowd.

If you are tempted to give this a go then do, it's not difficult and the final dish is as tasty as they come.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

At least I didn't make a resolution!

Cos if I did, then it would have been to concentrate more on my blog and it would be well and truly broken. Still, that's life without wifi. Hoping to rectify the situation v soon, and write up the best of my recent cooking - mussels and ribs. Still, at least there's twitter to keep me active. Hmm, or maybe I've neglected that as well.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Food poverty

Food poverty. At first it seems like an odd term. Is there any difference between financial poverty and food poverty? One is caused by the other after all. But, perhaps it is worth giving food poverty a name so that, like fuel poverty, the people suffering can be identified, the causes can be highlighted and a solution found.

I've just been listening to the Food Programme. It's one of those programmes that makes me not resent paying the TV Tax, sorry, the Licence Fee. This particular edition looked into food poverty - not having enough to eat, going hungry. I find it difficult to understand why some people in this country can't afford to feed themselves properly.

And that it what it comes down to, affording food. My partner and I were both on benefits - Jobseeker's Allowance - for most of 2011 so I'm used to having to shop on a tight budget. Luckily it was just us two. I'm sure if we had kids then the budget would have been stretched, especially if we had young children who needed nappies. As it was our food shopping cost around £40 a week, which is less than £1 a meal per head for 3 meals a day. We didn't eat badly by any means, and prioritised eating well over other things. We also decided on taking a daily multi-vitamin to make sure we got all the required vitamins and minerals. it may have been psychosomatic, but it felt like they made a difference.
But it's not just those on benefits that have trouble buying enough food. Individuals and families living on low incomes also struggle. That's why, even in such wealthy cities as Bath and Bristol, you can find food banks run by The Trussell TrustFoodCycle projects and other smaller and less well publicised projects.

I'm not sure whether charities are the best answer to the problem, but they're certainly a vital part of the solution as they can place themselves exactly where the problems exist. They're not without their weaknesses though, as they rely on the goodwill of volunteers and donations which aren't always available, or at least not in a steady and reliable supply.

I'm planning on 'doing my bit'. I volunteered at Oxfam when I was out of work, and although it was usually enjoyable, it was all that rewarding. So I hope to be able to volunteer at FoodCycle and/or the Food Bank in Bristol soon. It seems that in the current economic climate those that can give a little really do need to, whether it's their time or their money.