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Saturday, 18 December 2010

Brawn

Earlier this year we were invited to provide some recipes for a regional cookery book.Always one to keep his head down and get on with the job in hand(i.e cooking some decent food and making some cash),Chef greeted the news with dubious enthusiasm verging on outright contempt. When he discovered Id already committed to do it,I was greeted with an infeasibly highly raised eyebrow which momentarily faded into his hairline(and that's quite high BTW.....)followed by a nervous twitching around the corners of his mouth,obviously stifling a smirk; it wasn't long before I realised why.
Though we cook everything from scratch we never measure anything,which clearly is a fundamental problem when you're writing a recipe..Listing the ingredients was straightforward,but breaking this all down into an coherent written instruction with exact measurements, isn't as simple as it sounds.Not wishing to embarrass myself by providing the readers with a mouthwateringly tasty recipe which in practice didn't actually work(my pet hate), I spent bloody ages perfecting the recipes we eventually contributed(thankfully only three).Hence I have major respect for those recipe testers who do get it right.
Though we have a vast collection of cookery books which we dip into daily,making any savoury dish will rarely involve following the precise recipe but using simply as a reference for the ingredients.Most dishes are cooked and tasted with seasoning/ingredients adjusted as we think necessary.
Obviously baking (being a science) of course is the exception. Whereas cooking is an art......
Of the sleb chefs, in my experience a significant proportion of their cake/pudding recipes are pants just don't work.I have a theory that some of them sabotage their recipes by planting a minor booby trap adjustment just so that you cant recreate their perfect pudding at home,thus safeguarding their position of hierarchy.Culinary sheisters.Yes its you I'm talking to,YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!
(NB One of the exceptions is Gary Rhodes,I know he may be a tad annoying to watch on telly, but his pudding/cake recipes ALWAYS WORK)
If we're looking for a traditional pudding recipe we tend to look to the older books.If you're using one of these, its best to follow the imperial measurements as the conversion to metric can sometimes alter the finished result.
This is one of my favourites,I found it a few years ago in a second hand book store.


Its a signed first edition copy by Maura Laverty who was an Irish author and playwright.
This is the old gal herself in a 1960 news cutting folded carefully into the cover of the book.



As a preface to each chapter there's an amusing little anecdote of old Ireland, from which I have gleaned almost as much pleasure as trying out the recipes:

'The Foley's were married nearly a year before Sheila discovered that a wife's first duty to her husband is to cook him the kind of meals he likes,and that no marriage can really be happy unless a man is happy with his table treatment..'


table treatment????,the mind boggles....in triplicate....
similarly:

He finished his pint.'Aye Indeed' he said 'A woman wont ever be happy till you let her see who's boss.'

Ahem...Cough....I think we'll just draw a veil over that..

I came across this recipe for Brawn in her book. My Grandma was partial to a  bit of pigs cheek and used to make this when we were very young, we would never tire of the sight of the pigs ears sticking out of the stock pot which always solicited prolonged sniggering.
Pigs Ears are one of those things that are just inherently very funny.A while back Chef had the bright idea that he would include crispy pigs ears on our bar snacks menu.I stumbled unexpectedly upon a surreal but very serious conversation he was having with the butcher on the lines of; 'Well..how many ears can you keep me in per week??'
Butcher 'well I can do you at least 60 pairs a week..'
I wondered WTF was going on..
Next day the sample ears duly arrived,each pair intriguingly connected by a thin strip of skin much like a pair of ear muffs.As soon as I clapped eyes on them I commented that there was no doubt in my mind that Chef would be wearing a pair before the morning was out.
He didn't let me down...

The ingredients in this recipe are few,lots of versions include carrots,celery, parsley and the like, I've made many different versions and have found this one to be actually very effective made in this way.Authentic,simple and true to its roots.
Its really the old version of ham hock terrine isn't it?


Maura Laverty's Brawn

1 Pigs Head
1/2 oz salt
1 wine glass cider
2 bay leaves
1/2 oz peppercorns
6 whole cloves
(That's cloves..talking of making a recipe idiot proof,a friend of mine once spotted this ingredient in a recipe and added 6 whole heads of garlic to the dish..)
Method
Prepare the head by cutting off the cheeks and ears.Put all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and add sufficient cold water to barely cover.Simmer for 2 hours or until the flesh falls away from the bones.Strain off the liqour into another saucepan and boil rapidly until it is reduced to 1 pint.Pick the meat from the bones,discarding any fat and gristle.Pack the meat into a bowl and pour over the reduced liquor.Leave to set.When cold and firm,scrape off any fat which may have settled and turn out.



*We line a terrine with cling film and wrap the brawn up,its easier to turn out and you can place a weight on top to compact,which also makes it easier to slice into portions.

P.S. This week I'm pleased to report the addition of a new word to my vocabulary.The word 'nu'(pronounced 'noo') is a teenage colloquialism usually employed as a greeting and can be paired with the word 'son' to form the greeting 'nu son'.
Definition: 'hi how are you/hows it going'.
I've witnessed three of my teenagers demonstrating this particular linguistic nuance when answering the telephone over the past week.I wonder if its exclusive to the Northern dialect..Have you heard of it???

11 comments:

Heavenly Housewife said...

I agree. It is so annoying when you use a recipe by a celebrity chef to try to recreate something you had at their restaurant, and you know its not the same. The one exception I have found is Ottolenghi.
Hope you have a merry christmas.
*kisses* HH

Looking Fab in your forties said...

How funny, couldn't you put a pic of chef with the pigs ears on, on the blog ha ha

Northern Snippet said...

HH-Ive just bought the Ottolenghi!

Mrs Fab-I regret to this day not capturing that very moment for posterity..

meemalee said...

Oh col! Did you know Food urchin, the Grubworm and I are having a "brawn off" in the New Year?!

legend in his own lunchtime said...

Don't ever let him make anything with their testicles:)
It's a derivation of "What's new?" and it is common in the east end of London

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

oh these kids today... I aks you!

not so sure about the brawn myself... never really had a thing for pigs head.

re a comment you left on my recent post, can I ask how you're planning to cook your goose and ham this year as I'm doing the same and not 100% sure which recipe to follow... there are billions out there!

Northern Snippet said...

Meem-had no idea,looking forward to hearing bout it now tho.
legend-haha quite.. I'm impressed might have known you'd have heard of it.You're so knowledgable.

Dom-there's a recipe for Xmas ham on the blog,goose we keep quite simple,prick the skin and roast skin side down for a bout 40 mins then turn,sea salt and pepper the skin and roast.We stick an onion,and a couple of garlic cloves in the cavity and make stuffing separate using sausage meat,leeks apple and celery.Obviously you will know he goose fat makes the best roasties!

Young at Heart said...

ooh I'm such a squeemish cook where meat is concerned but my Dad would have loved that.....isn't Full & Plenty a great name for a restaurant!! Usually use my cook books as an inspiring springboard but have recently used some of Nigel's and Nigella's quick suppers to great affect....also lucky enough to live a full 5 minutes walk from Ottolenghi's so have no call for their cookbook.....

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear NS, I loved this post.

Maura Laverty's book sounds great. I read the odd cookbook but never take any notice of measurements. I not only have never owned an iron I've also never owned any scales. It's worked for me so far.

The pigs ears story is brilliant, shame you didn't capture that on camera! I do love crackling and proper pork scratchings and I've had some crispy ears at St. John in Clerkenwell which is one of my favourite restaurants (I'm sure you know it). I normally opt for the safer options of pheasant or cuts I recognise. The Actor goes for bone marrow on toast and all sorts. I had a big dinner there for one of my Birthday's and someone shouted "Is anyone here a vet? I need this menu translating!"

I hope your Christmas plans are going well. I'm all done apart from collecting meat on Thursday... thank God xx

Northern Snippet said...

YAH-Yes it is a great name for a restaurant(files away for future use)!
Christina-I gave up on ironing years ago just fold things up and store away until needed.How lucky for you to be near St John I would love to eat there,maybe one day if I can tear myself away!

Nicky said...

Were the pigs' ears well received as bar snacks? Definitely appeal ...

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