We’ve got more weeks of this, you know, and it isn’t too late to make the best of it.
The one thing that you may have more of on your hands than you did before is time, and time is one of the key ingredients for learning new cookery skills, and experimenting with new dietary choices. You can even start to change your underlying habits to make your kitchen a more sustainable place.
I have joined the ‘slow cooking’ revolution. This is a movement that was started in Italy in 1986 by Carlo Petrini, as a reaction to the arrival of the first Macdonalds in Rome, and now operates in over 150 countries. Essentially, it tries to take the distance, the industry and the rush out of cooking, supporting local food businesses, specially small ones, sustainable growing methods and as little waste as possible. The movement identifies ‘ecoregions’ where the culinary traditions are celebrated, and not lost, and it supports seasonality.
As a bee keeper, I know only too well the cost of the unrestricted use of non-organic pesticides and herbicides, and the drawback for my bees of huge fields of monoculture, where all sustainability has been bled out of the ground by the years of chemicals that it has been soaked with. Whatever Monsanto may tell you, glyphosate (Round-up) is a killer for pollinating insects.
I try to restrict my eating of meat to once a week, and am happy to spend more on organic cuts as a result. Something that has been particularly interesting is to experiment with cuts from the cow that I have never had before, such as shin or blade, and to follow traditional recipes, or even just my own instincts. These are generally from the more-used muscles of the animal, and are therefore more flavourful but less tender, which means that you need to cook them differently for the best results. When the alternative is a piece of low-flavour fillet steak at £35 a kilo, the £9.00 I spent on a kilo of ‘skirt’ seems unbelievably good value.
Here is what I did with it.
1. Cut it into half.
2. Sliced one half into thin strips, and diced the other into small chunks
3. Marinaded everything with olive oil, garlic and lemon overnight in the fridge
Prep time: 10 minutes.
I left the strips in the fridge, and simply braised the diced skirt for seven hours on a low heat on a bed of chopped onions, celery and carrots (the ‘holy trinity’), and a small amount of beef stock and red wine. Serve with gratin dauphinoise potatoes and a hearty Italian country wine. Nothing more. Utterly delicious.
Prep time: 10 minutes
I flash-fried the strips of beef with spring onions, ginger, and tender-stem broccoli, then finishing it in a hoisin and soy sauce. Served with rice, with the remains of last night’s wine. Stunning.
Total cost of ingredients for the two meals, about £15.00.
Total prep time under an hour
Total recipe books opened: none
The old adage ‘it’s about the ingredients’ is true. Get the basic ingredients right, and even the novice cook will find it quite hard to mess it up