I read a recipe for coq au vin jaune in the weekend paper. It didn’t have the above ingredients, I should make clear, though they did make appearances elsewhere.
In fact, the coq au vin jaune recipe seemed unusually (for our weekend newspapers) make-able –except for that ‘vin jaune’.
The writer, helpful soul, explained that the wine is:
‘made from late-harvest savagnin* grape and matured in oak barrels beneath a layer of yeast’
*[not a typo, I copied it directly]
Ten pages later came a page of ‘Great French wines’. And, lo! A bottle of vin jaune, an ‘idiosyncratic’ wine from ‘the foothills of the Jura mountains’.
Apparently it’s a ‘must-have’ at the best restaurants.
It retails at – wait for this – £49.95! I’m not even going to bother converting the currency. It’s plainly expensive.
And this is in the Sunday edition of one of our lefty national newspapers. Yes, lefty.
Lefty, it’s plain, no longer means embattled working class, earning a hard crust (scraped with dripping). Nor public sector worker, poorly paid but following a vocation. Nor over-mighty trade unionist bringing the country to its knees. Or whatever you think lefty means.
But let’s not get into that today. I want to write about food.
Because I’m tired of the metro-centric media and their attitude to cooking.
Tired of recipes with ingredient lists as long as a child’s Christmas wish list. No, scrub that, they’re longer. And probably more expensive. And even less likely to be played with after the novelty has worn off.
Cookery writers, it seems, delight in searching out the most obscure ingredients. Not, I suspect, because they’re necessarily terrific additions to the taste of a dish, but because they want to perpetuate the elite status of the food writer.
It’s just a way of showing off. An ever-escalating treasure hunt for the newest, most obscure, most expensive ingredients.
‘Oh, dear,’ says supercilious food writer, glancing down at a serf.
‘You can’t find ptarmigan liver puree in Chesterfield? Poor you. I get it from my local Anatolian shepherd’s market in Notting Hill.’
And the foodie goes off to order an amuse bouche of tender bamboo shoots, plucked by baby pandas, cleansed in Icelandic volcanic springs, fried in peacock fat with larks’ tongues and finished in fairy dust.’*
*(I made that up. No one uses peacock fat.)
Seriously, if we want people to cook, eat well – and not become obese on high doses of nasty transfats, high fructose corn syrup and the like – we need to be sensible about food. Make good food easy to cook. And not suggest everyone should be cooking with the latest Mongolian delicacy dug up by some precious ‘expert’. Or (pet hate warning) the latest variety of chilli.
People, fish pie does not need chilli.
So, stop reading now if you’re just here for the fun and frivolity. Here comes my first recipe post. There will be some more, now and again, on the same theme:
‘simple food for simple folk (like me)’.
This time it’s a meaty dish. Veggie next. Fish occasionally – maybe on a Friday.
Health warning: I’m not a one woman Good Housekeeping Institute – this is how I do it, all measures are approximate, based on my experience, my oven (electric), my hob (gas) and my taste (not too much salt and no chilli please).
Don’t blame me if you get it wrong!
SIMPLE CASSEROLE OF BEEF, SLOWLY-COOKED
This will feed two, three or four people depending on what, if anything, you add, eg, potatoes. If you can set a timer on your oven to start while you’re out this is perfect for an after-work meal on a wintry day.
1 large slice of braising steak* around 1 lb/450 g (more if you like) or 2 smaller pieces
*(thick flank, from the hindquarters)
1 or 2 onions
3 large flat mushrooms, or 5 or 6 medium closed cup ones or none if you don’t like them
1 pint/500 ml or so of liquid – enough to cover the meat and onions.
Options include stock, red wine or cider, or wine mixed with water and/or stock, or cider mixed with water and/or stock.
Seasoning of your choice – eg, pepper, Worcester sauce (despite the label, Worcester not Worcestershire sauce), a bay leaf or two, herbs such as thyme and marjoram.
Slice or chop the onions and place them in a casserole (fry if you want, but not essential).
Place the meat on top (again, fry if you want but not essential).
Add the liquid.
Add the chopped, cleaned or peeled mushrooms.
Add some seasoning. You can always add more towards the end.
Put on a close fitting lid and leave in a slow-ish oven – say 160 (fan)/170 (conventional)/325 old-fashioned degrees, gas mark 3 – for at least two and a half, preferably three hours
Optional variations and extras
If you want the sauce thick, you can either start at the beginning by flouring and frying the beef before you add the liquid, or, as I do, at the end use cornflour (check pack for instructions) to thicken it. Transfer the liquid to a pan if the casserole is not hob-proof, if it is, just take out the meat and keep warm on a plate in the cooling oven while you heat and thicken the gravy.
You can add a dessertspoon of tomato puree or even a tin of chopped tomatoes before cooking to make it richer.
You can add more or less whatever winter veg you like to this dish – or even a tin of chopped tomatoes.
Chopped leeks work well with mushrooms. Or use a couple of big carrots chopped in thick rounds and one or two sticks of sliced celery instead of the mushrooms.
Small potatoes or chunks, with skins on to maximise the food value and help keep them from disintegrating, make it a meal in a dish.
Mashed potato/sweet potato, a 50/50 mix, is good with this dish. Add a bit of butter, a bit of milk (you need less with sweet potato than ordinary potato) and if you like, a spoonful of mustard or horseradish sauce, or a sprinkling of ground mace.
You can steam a green veg like kale or broccoli over the potatoes while they’re boiling.