I dont want to write this, because writing it means the end. The official end of A Year of Meat. Charcutepalooza has changed my life in the best way possible: gradually and imperceptibly but more on that later if there’s space.
I suppose I could have hosted a sophisticated dinner party for a few select friends. But throughout the year so many people have asked me about my ongoing meat projects that I decided instead to do an open call so that whoever was willing and able could have the chance to come and taste the fruits of my labour. That turned out to be 25 hungry humans.
It was a massive struggle to come up with a menu. After much deliberation I sought advice from Meat Master @dehyphenlish on twitter. He made the most spectacular suggestion that I produce 4 or 5 different types of charcuterie from one beast – goose being the obvious seasonal choice. His idea was obviously the best, but it didn’t really suit my plan to allow everyone to have a taste of what I’ve been up to all year.
The idea of making making Asturian Fabada, a Spanish dish similar to cassoulet – slow cooked meat and beans was also briefly considered . But I couldn’t source fresh (free range) blood for the morcilla so I let that one fall to the ground. Another time perhaps. As for the goose idea – that will happen some day most definitely for sure.
Finally I decided instead to make one of everything. Of course I did. Because I am highly skilled in making life difficult for myself and overdoing things. Beef, pork, lamb, venison, poultry, fish, vegetables and fruit. All were to feature in my final challenge having been brined, pickled or cured in some way. Or at least, that was the plan.
I made two crucial errors in the execution of my Charcutepalooza Finale Grand show-off show-down. Firstly, the night before my Meat Party I went out on a jolly and danced the night away before collapsing into bed at 3:45AM ON THE DAY OF MY OWN PARTY.
Secondly, and perhaps not surprisingly after four hours sleep, with a mountain of meat to climb before the guests arrived that evening, I totally forgot to charge the camera battery.
Hmm. Yes. Bummer. I’m just glad that because Charcuterie usually requires a bit of advanced preparation I already had the foundations in place.
But you know what? It was fine. It was messy. It wasn’t perfect or smoothly executed. I wasn’t the hostess with the mostess. Stuff went wrong. The photos are for the most part blurry, orange and quite frankly pathetic and will probably make for a totally rubbish blogpost, but sometimes you just gots to forget about it and live in the moment. We had SO much fun.
Ok so enough pseudo drama, y’all want to know what we ate. So here it is:
This featured a selection of all the cured meat I made for the November challenge. I was reluctant to share my precious hoard of Biltong, but I relented and everyone enjoyed it. We had Biltong (beef marinated in vinegar and dry cured), Droëwors (a dried beef/lamb sausage also with vinegar), Duck prosciutto and the infamous Chorizo bites. There was crackling to snack on too.
I made Wood pigeon mousse with duck livers, Armagnac and cream which was served more like a sort of fancy dip with beetroot, parsnip and swede crisps (bought, not made) and rainbow carrot sticks from the farmers market. I bought various breads from the market too. I’m sad that my own sourdough starter Bride of Frankenstein did not feature.
I cured a side of Scottish salmon in Gin, fennel seed, orange zest and juice and a pinch of star anise. One half of the side was cold smoked with Beechwood and left the other unsmoked for comparison. This was served with beetroot slices and creme fraiche seasoned with citrus zest and black pepper. One of my favourites for sure.
Next up: it’s not Charcuterie, but I wanted to serve it because in April I met up with traveling Charcutepaloozans Inspired by Wolfe and Nic Cooks. We had a meal together at St John Restaurant where I enjoyed the signature dish of Roasted bone marrow on toast with parsley salad.
So this little snack was made in homage to everyone who has travailed and triumphed along with me through0ut the year – those who I met in real life, and all my lovely virtual Twitter friends too.
I’ve made a fair amount of bacon throughout the year. In fact I think I echo sentiments of most Charcutepaloozans by declaring that I refuse to buy bacon anymore. The homemade stuff cannot be beaten. Of course provenance counts – good breeding is essential. I usually buy free-range Blytheburg Pork, but for the grand finalè I wanted something extra special so I ordered 2kg of Gloucester Old Spot from Marky Market.
With my bacon I made what turned out to be the star of the show: Bacon Jam served with Polenta (fried in lard of course). It caused a bit of a hoo-ha earlier in the year on Twitter but it’s the first time I’ve gotten round to making it. I trimmed Eat like a girl’s recipe down to the basics (leaving out the chilli and coffee) and it still tasted fabulous. I can’t resist posting just one more photo of pigs belly with nipples.
The crackling was out of this world. Isn’t pig fat the best?
Short-rib Pastrami – here on the left is a truly awful photo of something that tasted rather good. My American guest was very excited that I even had Jarlsberg cheese so she could make herself a mini Reuben.
To give the dish an Anglo slant I made Picallili instead of Sauerkraut to go with it. It was one of several things I made that did not go according to plan, but then ended up better than the original idea. Traditional Picallili is made with cauliflower, greenbeens, carrots etc. However first I over salted them, then I overcooked them (they only needed blanching and must retain a crunch).
At the last moment I decided to ditch the veg entirely and instead used apples and pears. Perhaps the only problem is that it is lacking is a little colour variation. The recipe is at the bottom of the page.
Oh, did I mention we even raised money for a good cause. I asked guests to bring something to drink and a donation to charity and over £100 was given to Cooking for Life which trains underpriveleged Brazilians for work in the hospitality industry.
I got people to taste and more importantly ENJOY things they’d never eaten before, plus it would seem I’ve inspired some of my guests to have a go at making their own cured Salmon and Bacon Jam. Hooray to that!
The final dish (or so I thought) was Pickled damson sorbet. I love this photo because it looks like I made hundreds and hundreds, but actually there were only about 30 shot glasses filled with the spicy syrup.
This recipe, which I figured out all on my own (though I don’t think I can claim it to be original) was made using the Pickled Damson I made for my Pork Pie blogpost. Stoned the Damsons and pushed them through a sieve to get a sweet-sour syrup which I then froze in little shot glasses. I served them with Polvorones (lard cookies) and piped a little whipped cream on top.
And then finally (almost). The lamb parcels.
I’m sure it’s happened to most of you… that moment when you open the fridge and *gasp* see a whole tray of food you’ve forgotten to serve. So it was with the lamb parcels.
By this stage – well after midnight – there were still a few hard-core partygoers who hadn’t yet succumbed to the meat sweats and headed for bed. No one wanted to miss out so I cooked up the lamb parcels and we enjoyed them circa 1am – a solid seven hour feeding frenzy. I’m glad I served them, even so late, as this was yet another dish designed on the hoof, but turned out amazingly well. I’ll certainly be making it again and improving upon it. Recipe at the bottom of the page.
The final bit of ‘Charcuterie’ I produced proved to be too much for all but one of my guests. Another food trend I discovered on Twitter this year was the Pickleback. It originated in the US and made it’s way to the shores of the Thames via the Pitt Cue Co. The traditional version is a shot of Whisky of chased with a shot of Pickle brine.
My version used a shot of Gin chased with brine from the Salmon cure (infused with dark sugar, fennel, star anise and orange). It may sound over the top, but is actually quite good, especially if served at sub-zero temperatures. Although I will admit these should be tried only by the brave, and definitely at a strict limit of one per person (which I observed) it was the best and booziest way salute an evening, nay a whole year dedicated to salt, fat and meat.
I love you Charcutepalooza, Goodbye!
– these are recipes I made up, and even if someone else has also made them up it is purely luck/coincidence.
Pear and Apple Picallili
A brine to cover the fruit using a ratio of 50g salt to 1liter water
Roughly 1kg of apples and pears peeled cored and diced.
10g English mustard powder
5g cumin seeds toasted and crushed
1 inch long piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 Tablespoon cornflour
600ml cider vinegar
Brine the fruit in the saltwater overnight then drain.
For the sauce:
Mix all the ingredients together will a little of the vinegar until a smooth paste is formed.
Add the vinegar to a saucepan along with the spice paste and bring to a simmer for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened.
Next add the brined fruit, cook for a further few minutes – do not allow the fruit to overcook or turn mushy.
Pour into sterilised bottles and seal for later use.
As per usual this picke improves with age but may be used immediately and keeps for up to a year
Lamb confit and aubergine Filo parcels
Note: Amounts are estimated as I did not keep a check on how much of what I was using (sorry). I have divided this recipe into its 3 separate components
Filo pastry (1 pack) cut into squares of about 10cm
About 100g of melted butter
I used cured lamb breast cured with salt and a Garam Masala spice rub. Lamb breast is a good cut to use as it has a good meat:fat ratio
About 900g cured Lamb breast
300g fat (I had lard to hand, so used that)
Cover the lamb with fat and cook in an oven at a very low temperature (90C) for several hours until tender (mine cooked at least 5 hours, but was probably ready before then)
When cool enough to handle remove the lamb from the cooking fat and shred it with your fingers
4 small aubergines
A couple of cloves of garlic crushed in salt
Juice of one or two lemons
2-3 tablespoons of tahini
2-3 tablespoons of thick strained yoghurt
Place the aubergine on an open flame – a grill works well, but I use the hob on the stove. Cook them until the skins are blackened and they are soft inside.
Peel off the charred skin and reserve the smoky cooked flesh of the aubergine.
Using a fork mash the aubergine in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients a little at a time – keep tasting until you are satisfied. I have made this recipe many times and always do it to taste.
Mix the lamb and aubergine together with a spoon or fork
Layer two pieces of Filo pastry together – they should be painted with the melted butter using a pastry brush.
Place a tablespoonful of the meat mix onto the pastry
Paint butter around the edges of the pastry to help it stick together
bring the four corners of the filo together and scrunch and twist until it is all closed up
bake in the oven on for about 20minutes at 180C or until the pastry is golden
don’t put it on too high a shelf or the top will burn before the bottom is cooked.