There’s no shortage of cookery books on my shelves. I own around 200, some are very well thumbed and used regularly, while others are not used that often, but they still deserve a place as they’ve been a big part of my food journey over the past 30 plus years. I’ve probably cooked something from every book but what I’ve never done, is cook my way through an entire book. That’s about to change as one of my cooking projects for this year is to cook my through ‘The Whole Cow’ by Scottish author and consultant chef, Christopher Trotter. A bit of a Julie and Julia project but hopefully a bit more relaxing on the cooking front.
The book was first published in 2013 and Christopher cites it as collection of recipes that celebrate the cow from horn to hoof. There’s plenty of historical information in the section, ‘A potted history’……… “Beef whether roasted, fried, grilled or simmered in a rich sauce, has been the focal point of feasts from ancient Roman times to the present day. Records of the most splendid banquets come, naturally, from the literate wealthy classes and it is harder to surmise the diet of the peasant, but – except when times were hard – ordinary people enjoyed roasted meat on special occasions and festivals”.
When I first flicked through ‘The Whole Cow’ , comfort food was what came to mind. The recipes and the pictures just ooze that lovely feeling comfort and warmth, but it is much more than just a collection of recipes. ‘Recipes & lore for beef and veal’ is what it says on the front cover, and the book is also full of interesting history and stories about beef and cattle.
Cooking with beef is not unusual for me and although I cook a wide variety of different recipes, I have tended to stick with the same cuts of beef, despite having some very good quality Scottish beef farms on my doorstep. When beef is mentioned I always think of comfort food, hearty wholesome casseroles, large roast dinners with gravy and Yorkshire pudding or a big plate of mince and tatties.
For casseroles I love shin of beef. It’s a cheaper cut that requires long slow cooking and it gives the depth of flavour and texture I want from a beef casserole. We’re big fans of casseroles in our house, so that’s where I’m starting with this book. Once a dish like this is in the oven, you can relax, the next few hours are your own. Also an ideal meal for the weekend if you want dinner to be ready after an afternoon out with the family.
This shin of beef recipe just oozed of Winter flavours, with juniper, ginger, nutmeg, mace and Rowan jelly. I served it with potato and celeriac mash.
Shin of beef with red wine and Rowan jelly.
Serves 4 – 6
2 tbsp butter
2 onions chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
1kg/ 2 1/4 lb sliced beef shin
1/2 bottle of fruity red wine such as Merlot
2tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground mace
10 juniper berries
2 tbsp Rowan jelly
225g/8 oz fresh chanterelles
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas2. Heat the butter in a casserole dish over a medium heat and soften the onions and the celery. Dry the meat thoroughly. Heat a heavy bottomed pan, add the olive oil, then brown the meat all over and add to the casserole. Deglaze the pan with a little red wine, then add this wine and all the other ingredients to the casserole. Bring to the boil and season. Cover with a tight fitting lid and put in the oven for 2-2 1/2 hours until tender. Serve with mashed potatoes.
Throughout the book, Christopher has included lots of useful ‘tips’ to help you get the best from the recipes. Here’s the tip for this recipe.
Chanterelles and CEOs (porcini are also available dried. For this recipe, you will need about 40g/1 1/2 oz dried mushrooms. Reconstitute them by pouring on boiling water and leaving until cool. Add a little of the soaking liquid to this casserole and use the rest in a risotto.
About the author
Christopher Trotter is a freelance chef and food writer, restaurant inspector and food consultant. As Fife’s Food Ambassador, he organises bespoke food tours around Scotland as well as running cookery classes. He is the author of several books, including the whole hog, Scottish Heritage Food and Cooking with Carol Wilson and the National Trust for Scotland’s The Scottish Kitchen
twitter – @CTScotfood
Facebook – /CTSCOTFOOD
ARTWORK – Thank you to Alice Strange for permission to reproduce the ‘cow’ artwork. A full selection of her work can be viewed at http://www.alicestrange.com