I hear lots of talk about using economical cuts of meat, but the problem is that a lot of butchers and supermarkets don't actually sell the stuff. I was in Loon Fung supermarket in Chinatown recently and it dawned on me that all the gear that we don't want, or rather that the meat traders think we don't want, goes to the Asian community. I bought two pig's kidneys, a pig's liver and a couple of tongues for only a fiver, so I thought I would devote this week's column to delicious cheap cuts.
Pig's tongue with green peppercorns and ginger
One tongue is enough for two people as a generous starter or main. You can buy fresh green peppercorns from good Asian supermarkets or otherwise use canned.
2 pigs' tongues
1 litre of chicken stock
100g root ginger
1 head of garlic
1 star anise
1 onion, halved
Mushroom and coriander stalks (see below)
tbsp sesame oil
4 spring onions, sliced on the angle
150g shiitake mushrooms (stalks removed and reserved) sliced
A handful of Chinese flowering chives or some chives cut into 6-7cm lengths
2tbsp fresh green peppercorns or canned
1tbsp thick catsup manis soy sauce
A handful of coriander, washed, stalks removed and reserved
Peel the ginger, reserve the peelings and put them in a saucepan with the tongues. Shred the rest of the ginger finely and put to one side. Peel and slice about 4 cloves
of garlic and put them with the ginger and put the rest of the peeled cloves in the pan with the tongues. Add the stock, star anise, coriander stalks, shiitake stalks and onion to the tongue, season, bring to the boil and simmer with a lid on for 2 hours or until tender, topping up with water if necessary.
Remove the tongues from the liquid and leave to cool for 5 minutes and remove the skin by just peeling it away, then return the tongues to the stock. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and quickly fry the shredded ginger and garlic, then add the spring onions, shiitake, chives and peppercorns for a minute; next, add the soy sauce and a couple of tablespoons or so of the cooking liquid and remove from the heat. Remove the tongues from the stock and cut them in half. Spoon some of the onion mixture on a serving dish, place the tongues on top, spoon some more of the serving mixture over with the juices and scatter the coriander over.
Baked potato Madame Fort
On a 24-hour-or-so flight to the Adelaide Food Festival the other month, my travelling partner Matthew Fort was reminiscing about his late mother Jean Fort's passion for cooking and some of the dishes she used to cook. Anyway, this recipe sounded eminently borrowable and by pure coincidence Matthew and I had lunch arranged just after we took the pictures for this article, so he was able to give it his thumbs up. It makes an admirable light supper dish – Matthew wolfed it down, and declared it a dish true to the spirit of the original, if slightly fancier.
4 medium to large baking potatoes
4 lambs' kidneys, trimmed
2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
100g butter, or more if you wish
2tsp grain mustard
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tbsp dry sherry
100ml beef stock
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Bake the potatoes directly on the oven rack for about an hour or until soft. Leave until cool enough to handle, then cut about a third off the top and carefully scoop out the main part, leaving the skin intact. Mash the potato with butter with a fork and season to taste. Return the skins and tops to the oven to crisp up for 10-15 minutes, then refill with the potato, place the tops back on and keep warm in a low oven.
Meanwhile, melt a knob of butter in a pan and gently cook the shallots for a minute, add the mustards, sherry and stock and simmer until it has reduced down to about 2-3 tablespoons – then stir in a couple of knobs of butter. While you are making the sauce, heat some butter in a frying pan, season the kidneys and cook them for 3-4 minutes, turning them as they are cooking and keeping them nice and pink.
To serve, slice the kidneys 3 or 4 times vertically, remove the tops from the potato and push the kidney into the potato; spoon over a little sauce. Place the lids back on or serve them on the side.
Pig's liver with peas and leeks
I haven't bought pig's liver for ages and I had forgotten what a bargain it really is. This piece cost me just a couple of quid and was plenty for a starter for four or even a main course.
About 100g butter
1 small leek, cut into rough 1cm squares and washed
150ml chicken stock
A teaspoon of cornflour
100g podded weight of peas, cooked
2tbsp breadcrumbs lightly toasted
1tbsp chopped parsley
A piece of pig's liver weighing about 400-500g, trimmed and cut into rough 2cm cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently cook the leeks for a couple of minutes, then add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for a minute. Dilute the cornflour in a little water and stir into the stock and continue simmering for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens a little. Then add the peas and simmer for another minute; stir in a knob of butter, season to taste and remove from the heat. Melt a little butter and mix with the breadcrumbs and parsley.
To serve, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a heavy-based frying pan, season the liver and fry on a high heat for 2-3 minutes, colouring the liver on all sides and keeping it a little pink. Spoon the leeks and peas into a deep serving plate or bowl, place the pieces of liver on top and scatter the crumbs over.
Slow-cooked tamarind beef top rib
Peter Hannan, our beef and pork supplier in Northern Ireland, sent us these lovely cuts of beef from just above the ribs. Ask your butcher for a boneless piece of meat cut above the forerib. It has a great ratio of fat that just melts away when slow cooked.
A piece of top forerib weighing about 1.5kg or more
2tbsp grain mustard
250ml pomegranate molasses or honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
60-80g root ginger, scraped and grated
Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Line a roasting tray with a couple of layers of tin foil to avoid the cooking mixture burning on the tray. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, rub into the beef, place on the foil and cook in the oven for about 3 hours, basting and turning every half hour and adding a little water if the liquid is drying out. It should be tender by now, if not, return to the oven until it is. Leave to cool a little and serve thickly sliced.