Apologies for radio silence. We are currently snowed in without internet access, but thanks to the wonders of modern connectivity, I realised that I am able to write and post this using my phone. We are in an isolated farm house in the Peak District, almost a mile from the nearest hamlet, Priestcliffe, which is half a mile from the A6 between Bakewell and Buxton (the former noted for the Bakewell Tart, the latter for its mineral water).
Fortunately, the central heating is working and we have enough food to keep us going until Friday, when Mr Tibble from Priestcliffe will hopefully come with his tractor and help get our car to the A6. We have plenty of leftovers because we were renting the cottage with friends, who were sensible enough to leave after the weekend before the heavy snowfall. Each of the four couples had been assigned a meal to cook for the weekend. Since I had prepared a fore rib roast of beef during my butchery lesson at the Ginger Pig, we volunteered to do Sunday lunch. Short-break rental cottages can be frustrating: blunt knives, imprecise electric hobs and a complete lack of even the most basic store cupboard ingredients. With that in mind, we packed salt and pepper mills, eggs, flour, a baking tray for the Yorkshire pudding, a carving knife, horseradish sauce and mustard (English, Dijon and wholegrain). We managed to leave London before 3pm, hoping to avoid weekend traffic on the M1. On the way, somewhere along the North Circular near Ealing, I realised we had left the beef in the freezer. Good thing it was Jim and Claudia who were responsible for dinner that night and not us. Claudia pan fried some chicken legs and thighs and served them with a tarragon and shallot sauce.
It snowed that night, but Chris and Kate also had to buy provisions for their chocolate fondant pudding and blueberry pancakes, so the three of us ventured into Buxton on Saturday morning. Supermarkets rarely sell a beef joint big enough to feed eight and invariably it is already off the bone, so I headed for the local butchers. Roasting beef on the bone is tastier and more fun for the table, but it needs to be chined to make it easy to carve. A good local butcher will chine it for you and French trim the ribs (scrape away any meat that might burn). He gave me the bones for stock and some trimmings to baste the meat. Three kilograms of beef was enough for eight people and cost the same, per kilo, as the supermarket. We served it with roast potatoes, roast parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, honeyed carrots and braised red cabbage with apples. And gravy, lots of gravy. Jim was quite right to point out that the ribs were as prized as the slices of beef and others were quick on the uptake. It could have served ten without seconds but what is a Sunday roast without seconds? You need plenty of gravy to warm up the seconds.
Although Jemma loves Sunday roasts, she doesn't like cold meat leftovers. There was a nice piece of chuck or brisket steak attached to some of the fat that the butcher had given me so I carved it off and set it aside for later in the week. Since there was rice left over from John and Helen's Thai Green Curry, I planned a beef and mange tout stir fry. It needs marinating, but preparation and cooking takes less than 15 minutes, so it makes a great mid-week meal. All the better that it cost virtually nothing.
Cost: less than £2 per head
Time: 5-10 minutes preparation, 30 minutes marinade, 5-10 minutes cooking
300g beef (fillet tails or frying steak, but avoid stewing or braising steak)
3 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon mirin
1-2 cloves of garlic
2cm of ginger
2-3 spring onions
1 packet of mange tout (or sugar snap peas)
Cut the beef into thin strips so that you can cook it quickly on a high heat. If you use a low heat, the beef will be chewy and tough, even if you buy expensive beef.
Slice or chop the garlic and ginger and add with the soy sauce and mirin to the beef. I used white wine vinegar and sugar instead of mirin.
Leave in the marinade for at least 30 minutes (or a day or two in advance).
Cook the beef and the marinade in a hot non-stick frying pan. After 2-3 minutes, add some spring onions (sliced on the diagonal) and the mange tout.
Stir fry for a further 2-3 minutes and serve with rice.