My eye of round beef has finished curing. After washing the spices and sludge off its surface, and dowsing it with a little white wine, it is ready for stuffing into natural casing.
After reconstituting the casing, it seemed far too narrow for the beef to fit inside it, but amazingly, the meat went inside with surprisingly little fuss.
The casing is one of the largest you might use in charcuterie, the beef bung. It could easily fit a larger piece of meat, and much longer too. Then I trussed the beef and casing with butcher’s twine, which took a bit of time to get the hang of. In the end, it didn’t look too bad for a first attempt.
I went to hang the beef in my curing chamber, and Sod’s Law, it was just too long to fit. I hadn’t accounted for the stretching of the casing and the length of the loop of twine adding a couple of inches to the length. After some cursing, it turned out the bresaola will fit if I hanged it at a slight angle, with an extra line made fast to the other end so it hangs rather like a hammock. I hope it doesn’t make a difference to the drying. It should be ready when it has lost 30% of its weight; maybe 2 or 3 months. Curiously, although my chamber is not tall enough to accomodate the whole length of the bresaola, there is plenty of room behind the beef to hang another piece of meat – I may have to make some pancetta or something else.
Breadcrumbed shallow-fried beef sweetbreads, with homemade “Russian” sauce on the side. The sweetbreads require a certain amount of preparation – soaking, simmering and cutting out the various membranes and vessels – but it is not difficult and done properly, the sweetbreads are quite delicious. Sweetbreads are also one of the few parts of the animal not used in yakiniku so they are fairly cheap here in Tokyo.
The sweetbreads straight out of the packet. They have been well butchered and contain almost no blood, so the hard work is already done.
Sweetbreads after being prepared: gently cooked through and with all the vessels, membranes and other connective tissue removed. To make cooking easier they are then pressed between two weighted-down plates overnight in the fridge, so they firm up and have an even thickness. There are many ways to cook them: the old-fashioned method is to have them fried and covered in a Malmsey or Madeira sauce; they can also be deep-fried or added to meat stews and Ruhlman & Polcyn stick it in sausages, with an architectural receipt as long as your arm. Personally I prefer the simpler stuff, and just breadcrumbed the sweetbread pieces and shallow-fried them in olive oil with a mayonnaise-type sauce for dipping on the side.
The taste and texture is amazing – not bloody, like liver nor creamy like brain, just very delicate and juicy and delicious. I can see how a rich fortified wine sauce would go well with sweetbreads; there is always next time.
Headed out on the Yutaka-maru, sailing from Nakaminato, Ibaraki, for another good day’s fishing.
Infant conger eel, eaten raw with just ponzu and the orthodox accompaniments (chilli-grated daikon radish and little green onion tops). In Japanese these are called noresore.
One of the kings of charcuterie, or perhaps of winter one-pot dishes: fabada asturiana. Mine contains homemade morcilla (Spanish black pudding) and home-cured salt pork – but I cannot pretend to have made the chorizo, which I paid a sinful price for to a Japanese importer. Some of the more flightier recipes call for saffron, spices and other delicate ingredients but I found the chorizo, rich fat salt pork and blood sausage added more than enough flavour to the dish and anyway I reserve my stock of Spanish saffron, jealously, like some kind of culinary John Elwes, for such deserving dishes as paella and Muglai biryani.
It is a hearty peasant dish and needs nothing else other than some lightly toasted bread and of course, a rich Spanish red wine to wash it all down.
these are made continental-style, in natural casings rather than black plastic and with browned onions instead of rice or barley. I also added some garlic and paprika, so they are really more of a morcilla than a John Bull black pudding. Straight after poaching they are cooled down in ice water, then they will keep in the fridge for a week or more. Despite the Spanish flavour of the recipe, they eat just as well sliced and fried with an English breakfast, although I also plan on making the perfect winter dish fabada asturiana with some of it.
after one month of drying. It is very, very tasty, and a great improvement on my previous attempt at fermented sausage. The flavours are really powerful and intense: cheese-like fermented aroma, cheese-like lip-smacking umami, and of course a great dose of delicious pork fat. The sausage could still use some more drying – the recipe says 1 to 2 months – although it is ready to eat now. I plan on leaving the rest of the sausages in the batch to dry for another couple of weeks. Whilst I tried this sausage on Saturday, two days ago, it remains to be seen whether I develop a botulism poisoning or not. Anyway, I think my next project will be fermented Turkish suçuk sausage.
Since Trafalgar Day fell on a Sunday this year and I was at home, I made some roast lamb, roast potatoes and mushrooms. Mint sauce on the side, of course. Lamb shank is a somewhat clichéd and trendy ingredient in England but has yet to be so here in Japan and is plentiful and cheap, so I bought two pair and set them to slow-roast most of the day. It is impossible to muck up and contains my own sinful delight, bone marrow.
Shank also means carving is the utmost simplicity – placing one on each diner’s plate. The potatoes and mushrooms were sliced thin and placed in a tray and also baked; very easy. I cannot lay claim to either of these recipes as they came from the BBC Good Food website. There was plenty of Madeira and wine to wash everything down, and I reached such a high state of spirits I sang Spanish Ladies whilst dressing the lamb, and every verse I could remember of The British Tars whilst pudding was in the making…
No English meal would be compete without a suet pudding, slow-steamed and served piping-hot with custard. I made spotted dog/Dick, and the custard too was home-made; recipes courtesy of Traditional English Puddings.co.uk.
I can’t find a whole jowl here in Tokyo so I bought some pieces of pig cheek for yakiniku; butchered very oddly with most of the fat cut off in strange patches, but the closest I can get to the real thing. I thought I’d try some after just six days in the drying chamber – the pieces of meat are thin so they are drying fairly quickly – and although I think these need maybe another week or so, having some pecorino cheese at hand I couldn’t resist making some spaghetti alla carbonara. I have been converted: from now I will always make such pasta with guanciale, and not pancetta. The cure is straight from Ruhlam & Polcyn.
The hot summer here means I can’t really do any dry-curing or fermented sausages, but I have been busy making fresh sausages for my kitchen whenever I have time. I finally got round to making the rather cryptic merguez or mirqaz, a heavily spiced lamb sausage, from the Ruhlman & Polcyn book.
This is the first recipe I have tried from this book that didn’t turn out so well: the end product was too watery, too greasy and with not nearly enough chilli-heat. Their interpretation of a sausage from Barbary is also incongruous, containing both pork fat and red wine. However, this is all a learning process and every chef must tweak his recipes to suit himself. I found so long as the sausages were grilled rather than fried in a pan they came out very well, and being stuffed in lamb casings, are slender and cook very easily (stuffing into lamb casings is another learning curve). I found grilling a half-dozen or so and shipping them in a grilled pitta bread sliced open, with just some shredded lettuce and cucumber and maybe a little extra chilli sauce, made an excellent snack dish. Curiously enough some of my Japanese drinking buddies tried the sausage, poached first and then browned over a fire, and really liked it (lamb is not a mainstream ingredient generally in Japan).
With lamb casings being rather slim and delicate, I found the casings ran out with still some sausage-meat leftover, so I disposed of this in a pasta. It may sound eccentric, but loose sausage-meat is a excellent dressing for pasta, or mixed into scrambled eggs or omelettes, formed into patties or even cooked and crumbled and put on toast (try it). I fried the meat with red peppers, onions and topped up the chilli-heat with some cayenne pepper, before tossing with fresh spaghetti. It was very good.
Perhaps to ameliorate the merguez attempt my next batch of sausages were good old English breakfast breadcrumb bangers – no chance of mucking these up and they came out nice and thick and I used the biggest die on my grinder so the meat is very coarse-cut and has a good texture.
For my charcuterie I usually buy inexpensive imported Canadian pork in bulk here in Tokyo – I would like to use Danish but have yet to find any – and imagine my surprise when I spotted these on sale on the pork shelf at Hanamasa: pig cheeks! I am not sure if these have been halved or split but they don’t look very big…at least they look very fatty, and should cure and dry up nicely.
I bought one packet and froze it, so once the weather cools down a bit, I shall have a go at making guanciale. The batch of pancetta I made last winter is run out, so I need some stocks for my homemade spaghetti alla carbonara.