January and February are definitely months to eat warming, comforting, wholesome and healthy food. It’s usually a time to spend a little less following the festive excesses and also to examine our five a day a little more closely!
At Paul Shum Family Butcher we are all for affordable but good quality food and we find that this is the perfect time to turn to slow cooked casseroles, stews and other delicious one-pot dishes. One of the benefits of a slow-cooked dinner is, with the minimal of preparation time beforehand, you can leave it to cook long and slow all day while you are busy doing other things: “Prep and forget”!
Beautiful, melt in the mouth meat can come from a variety of cuts. Paul makes it his business to know the farmers and their environments as the best meat can only come from the best-kept animals – which of course is where we start as your family butcher. Chuck steaks, lamb shanks, silverside of beef, brisket, oxtail, ham hock, the choices are endless and not usually the most expensive choices. Slow cooking gently breaks down the meat over a long, low heat, which is how it becomes so tender.
In a nutshell you need to chop everything you are including into bite-sized pieces, seal the meat in a frying pan, before transferring it to the slow cooker, use a good stock and leave. You can use a lidded pot in the oven on a low heat which will work just as well as a slow cooker.
Combine your meat selection with plenty of root vegetables, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, gravies, sauces, herbs and flavourings and you’ll end up with an all-in-one dinner that is full of depth and goodness. The attraction to slow cooked meat is that you can try all sorts of different recipes, from traditional beef stew and dumplings to more exotic curries and tagines. You can experiment with different seasonings and interesting additions. Try a tablespoon of brown sauce in a traditional stew for a great flavour! Alcohol is good as it reduces and cooks out leaving a good foundation for any sauce.
On a practical note, you can cook in bulk and freeze portions or serve straight from the cooking dish. Enjoy it as it comes or with a baked potato or crusty bread.
[This article appeared in The Fisherman, Yoxall, in January 2021 - our thanks to them for their generous inclusion of our article]