Recently my lover and partner Julie aka Sweetness and Light was bemoaning the lack of good local shops in her post starting "Supermarkets ........". This is something that I could become a "moaning old git" over, a great loss from our highstreets; Butchers, bakers, green grocers and fish mongers replaced by Estate agents, charity shops and chain stores. Lets be honest does every town and village (and out of town retail estates) need a Next outlet, THEY ALL SELL THE SAME DAMNED THING.
Anyway, where do you find a good local food shop. Fortunately here in Durham we have an indoor market, and it does have a good Butcher, Baker, Fishmonger, Fruit and Veg. stall, and a host of other fine shops. Thinking about it, most town markets still have good local traders, who are so very helpful and courteous, (perhaps they have a hidden agenda! Could it be they want you to come back again?), and seem to fall over themselves to give you just what you want. Refreshing, when you remember that , Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, etc. give you what they want you to have.
My market butcher, Norman of Piper's, will never get rich feeding Julie and I, for a start there are only 2 of us, Zak is on a special dog food diet, and we do eat a very mixed diet where meat forms no more than 30% of our main meal ingredients. We also eat a lot of vegetarian meals and fish. So we only spend an average of £10 a week.
So why does he seem to bend over backwards to be so helpful? I recently asked someone in Tesco's (yes unfortunately I do have to use them, some shops, General Grocers have completely dissapeared) where the Strong bread flower was, grudgingly a hand was waved down the store " aisle 15" with a tone implying that I was stupid. Aisle 15 was Juices and Breakfast cereals. I asked Norman, if he had real beef suet, "Oh sorry, we haven't got any, but I can get it for next week, How much do you want, a couple of kilo's" This if for a few pennies a kilo!
On our butchers stall I found a joint I had never seen before, the Jacobs Ladder, a beef joint, from the end of the rib, with the ribs still attached, I think this is what in America is called short rib, a popular joint. I know that beef on the bone is the best for flavour, and this had a lovely layer of creamy fat, looked very full of promise. Norman told me it was great for either slow roasting or cooking in a pot (casserole). I fancied a lovely roast, so that is what I am going to do. I think it is odd, my belief is that America is the home of the big supermarket, yet they do seem to have a range of meats that we don't have.
I like to take meat out of the fridge for at least a couple of hours before I start cooking. I like seasoning meat with coarse pepper and sea salt, I think it brings out a great flavour. As I was going to slow cook it, I decided to let it sleep in the company of some Veggies, onions, carrots, a few whole cloves of garlic and a couple of sprigs of thyme.
I popped the meat on top, bones down and put on the lid. I wanted to cook it for a long time so put it in the oven at 120C/250F/ gas mark 1/2.
After about 31/2 hours I wanted to cook my roast potatoes, so I turned it up to 200C/400F/gasmark 6, took the lid off and let the meat crisp up for about half an hour.
I put the meat in a dish to rest for 20 minutes while I made the gravy and finished off the roast potatoes. I do very much as my mum did, put a tablespoon of plain flour into the casserole with the veg. browned it over the heat on the stove top, then added about half a pint of stock (my mum always used the veg. cooking water) , brought to the boil to thicken.
Mum didn't have a hand blender (don't think they had been invented in the 1960's), but I blend all the veg in the casserole to make a sauce, adding a bit more stock as it was quite thick
It looked good on the plate with some broccoli, home grown carrots and roast potatoes
As you can see it didn't go down that well, (I have only one bone because Zak begged the other)
Actually it was a little chewy, not badly, but the taste was out of this world, real, real beef. There was gravy left over, Julie ate this the next day, sliced on a sandwich, no, honest!