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Here you can find a collection of our thoughts, reports and ramblings together with some fun things we find along the way. We try to update the blog at least once a week and more often during busy periods so make sure you check back regularly..

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jul 17 2015 10:00AM

Serious Topic Alert. There is a slightly dark tone to this blog piece but a necessary one.

Last weekend we killed and ate our dinner. We stabbed it twice and then barbecued it. Ask yourself honestly whether you were at all uncomfortable reading that? If you were, can you put your finger on why? Is it because you find the idea of eating an animal unpleasant or merely the idea of being invovled in its death?

The meal in question was a large spider crab that we caught diving off the Dorset coast. We killed him in the recommended way (the crab is pierced, once between the eyes and once on the underside, to kill both its nerve centres) and then barbecued him on the beach. It sounds brutal, and it is, but is also about as quick and "humane" as killing an animal can be. He had lived a long, entirely free range life and when the end came he died quickly. Yet some people will be uncomfortable with the idea of being present when their dinner dies.

As society evolves, most of us are increasingly detached from the source of our food and we're increasingly unaware of what goes into its production. Surely we owe it to ourselves, not to kill all of our own food or even to witness its death, but at least to understand where it comes from and what it goes through in order to arrive on our dinner plate. Whether we're talking about a fish, game bird, cow or a crustacean, every time we eat meat or fish an animal dies to feed us and buying the produce from a shop invariably shields us from the worst of the process that is involved in taking its life. It is an unpleasant and sometimes barbarous process. Yet, without understanding where our food comes from and what it goes through in order to reach our plates, how can we decide if it's something we want to be part of?

As with so many things, the answer is to to educate ourselves. Rather than seeing meat and fish as sterile, packaged commodities on the supermarket shelf, we should make it our mission to understand as much as possible about how it got there. How was it born, how did it die and how was it treated every step of the way? The more we know, the more we can make informed choices and the more we, as consumers, can make the food chain an ethical one that we are happy to be at the top of.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Mar 16 2015 12:44PM

A few weeks back we blogged about ox cheek and the advantages of getting to know some of those lesser known cuts of meat. Well, since then we've been in the kitchen perfecting a recipe for something quite special.

Traditional Italian ragu is (genuinely) one of the finest pasta toppings you’ll ever taste - the magic of slow cooking turns a cheap cut and some ordinary vegetables into a fantastically rich, thick and meaty sauce that will forever remind you of Rome (even if you're eating it in Royston). But some recipes can be very complicated. We really wanted to simplify the process without losing any of that flavour.

Here is it - a slow cook classic, redefined for the forgetful shopper.

One Ox Ragu

To serve 4:

1 large ox cheek (or two smaller ones), cut into chunks

1 tbsp flour

1 large onion, peeled and diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

100ml red wine

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of rosemary or thyme

1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes or pasatta

1 pint beef stock

1 tbsp oil

100g of pasta per person

1 large chunk of Parmesan cheese

Pre heat the oven to 180C. Heat half of the oil in a heavy casserole dish and sauté the onions and carrot on a medium heat for five minutes until the onions are softened and translucent. Add the garlic and fry for another minute or two. Remove all the vegetables and put to one side. Dust the meat with the flour and plenty of seasoning (you can do this by placing the meat pieces, flour and seasoning in an air-tight plastic bag, twisting the top of the bag, trapping somesome air inside, and give it a good shake). Heat the remaining oil in the pan and brown the meat pieces on each side. You may need to do this in a couple of batches and don't worry if some bits stick to the pan. Once all the meat is browned, return it all to the pan, deglaze the base by pouring in the wine and scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the vegetables, herbs, tomatoes and stock. Give it all a quick stir and pop into the oven (uncovered) for three hours, stirring occasionally until the meat is falling apart. If it gets too thick at any point, pour in a little water. The ragu freezes well or will keep for a couple of days in the fridge. When you're ready to serve, cook your pasta according to instructions and ladle a generous serving of the sauce onto each portion, topping it off with some grated cheese.

Trust us, it's one-derful!

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jan 16 2015 09:20AM

Having told you that we intend to celebrate burns night on 25th January we found out today (courtesy of Radio 4) that genuine Scottish haggis is still illegal in the United States and has been since 1971! Apparently the FDA disapproves of eating sheep lungs. We're not sure why, since the air in Scotland is very clean ;) If any American readers out there know what our cousins across the pond eat for Burn's Night we'd love to hear from you.

UPDATE: according to two helpful correspondents, Haggis (of a sorts) is enjoyed in the States on Burn's Night. Scottish ex-pat butchers do a roaring trade in US-made haggises (haggi?) that don't fall foul of the strict meat import rules.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Oct 28 2014 05:50PM

This week we had plenty of spare time in and around the Barn and, as the clocks went back, wanted to cook up something hearty and warming to mark the longer, colder nights. So, on his recommendation, we bought some ox cheek from our local butcher.

The cheek is, as you'd expect, a hard working muscle and demands long, slow cooking. But it's well worth the effort. There's much to be said for a juicy fillet steak but at less than a quarter of the price, you can’t afford not to give this flavoursome cut a go. In fact, that is doing it a disservice because you most definitely don't need to be on any kind of budget in order to try this. (You won't always find it on the shelves so it pays to phone ahead if you're hoping to pick some up.)

We cooked it for 4 hours at 150C with stock vegetables (carrots, celery and onion), a tin of chopped tomatoes, a glass or two of red wine and some beef stock. The oven does all the work for you here, slowly drawing out every scrap of flavour into a thick, rich ragu sauce - after so long cooking, the meat just falls apart. Served on top of a bowl of pasta it was the perfect filling meal after a long day digging (and, if you must know, shovelling horse manure) on the WS allotment.

The moral of the story? Well, it's a simple lesson in supply and demand. If you're willing to try other cuts of meat, you automatically have the upper hand over other shoppers, By stretching your just boundaries a little, you’ll find some of the tastiest cuts, from the same delicious cow (or pig, or sheep) that are just cheaper because the market for them is smaller.

Here's the recipe we used as a guide.

Go on, get a bit cheeky this weekend. You won’t regret it.

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