Just outside St Andrews in the Cupar direction, you will find Balgove Larder. Farm shops are pretty common these days: this one, pun intended, is a cut above. There is a deli, there are books, of course there is a cafe/restaurant. The latter was choc a bloc, with a long queue for tables. But, best of all, is the butchery counter. We watched with considerable interest as senior butcher James (27 years in the trade he told us) expertly dissected a beef rump. No bought in, vacuum packed place this. Everything is prepared on the premises, and there is a full range. Steaks, sausages, burgers? Naturally. But you want more done for you? Can’t be bothered chopping veg for a stir fry? They sell you the mixture ready sliced and seasoned. Just add heat and serve.
But what caught my eye were the more unusual things. Stewing mutton, for example, is not something you see every day. And then I spied beef hough. Hough is shin meat. Gelatinous, which makes it ideal for potted hough, of which my late ma was an expert. I’ve cooked osso buco, which uses shin of veal, but I’ve never been overly happy with the results. Anyway, spurred on by L (that’s the sweet potato woman, if you read last week’s blog) I bought about a kilo, and got two quid change from a tenner. How often does that happen to you in a butcher’s shop? It’s simple enough to cook, but a long slow process (though positively fast food compared to the recent oxtail recipe). My difficulty was the gravy. I have particular dislike of thin runny stews, matched only by my dislike of adding flour later on. (The scum will always give you away). Dusting the meat in seasoned flour at the beginning can work. Reduction is also a possibility. Here I reduced it a bit, then added in a few spoonfuls of the cooked veg and blitzed them with the juice to thicken. Make sure the veg are cut into coarse chunks to survive the long cook. With seasoning, as ever, I like to add a little at the outset, then check it at the end. This is a dish best made in advance, which gives the flavours even more time to mingle.
Ingredients (serves 4 – 6)
1 kg beef hough, off the bone, excess fat removed and cut into large (say, 5cm) chunks; 2 large onions, cut in half, then each half cut into four pieces; 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks about 4 – 5 cm; ½ turnip (swede), cut as per the carrots; 2 leeks, cut into similar size rounds; 150ml red wine; beef stock, enough to cover the meat and veg – about 750ml; oil for browning; 1 bay leaf; salt and pepper.
Pre heat your oven to 140˚C/Mark 1. In an oven proof casserole or pan, brown the beef in batches and set aside. Brown the veg in the same pan (you may need to deglaze it with a little of the wine). Return the beef to the pan, pour in the wine and enough stock to cover. Add the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan and pop into the oven. Cook for 2 – 3 hours until the meat is falling apart. Stir every hour or so. (It occurs to me that a professional might cover with a cloche, a cover of grease proof paper cut to the size of the pan and placed on to the surface.). Check the seasoning. Strain the juices into a separate pan and reduce by about 20%. Add four tablespoons of the cooked veg to the juices and blitz to thicken it slightly. Check the seasoning and serve with good mash and whatever veg you fancy.