Meat Matters

Choose meat suitable for the cooking method or the cooking method suitable for the meat. There are so many different cuts to choose from, always listen to the butcher advice!
Meat is composed from bundles of fine fibres in the muscle
So the younger the finer and the less movement e.g the loin is finer than leg .
Buy fresh meat, meat is always hung at the butchers to age it to become tender and have more flavour , so at home it is only a question of using it, so buy and use within three days of buying (if keeping in a fridge) less if no refrigeration is available to prevent danger of growth of bacteria .
Look for good colour red for beef, pinkish red for lamb, pale pink pork, pinkish beige for veal.
Firm not oily fat, fresh smell.
A marbling of fat in meat is good, also a rim of fat around it makes the meat more succulent
All methods possible not all suitable for all cuts
Roasting /baking use meat with a proportion of fat
Normal seared at a hot temperature then roasted at middle temperature 180
or slow roasting at 140 to 160 less loss of moisture
Boiling –large pieces of meat e.g. hams, tongue and bollito misto
Grilling and Frying- tender top quality meat not to thick
Wok-like frying, marinating meat gives flavour and helps to keep moist
Stewing -long slow cooking in water, stock etc in oven or in a thick bottomed pot or casserole on heat
Covered but allow certain air circulation to stop the meat decomposing
Cover loosely with greaseproof paper or polythene or container to store

Red mullet

Red Mullet – in Italian Triglia, in French Rouget Barbet
It’s beautiful colour and mother of pearl skin with hues of red and orange make it very attractive fish to the eye. The taste is a joy to the palate, to my mind not very fishy, but difficult to describe. A little like shellfish, which is not surprising, as that is what it feeds on. When choosing bear in mind that it comes to maturity at 2 years. The high percent of oil gives it a more distinctive flavour and makes it a good partner for stronger flavours of herbs like thyme and garlic.
On a historic note: It is an antiquity and was once upon a time “one of the most famous and valued fish”. I have read that the Romans raised them in ponds, quite like our goldfish perhaps.
It is not always easy to buy the red mullet in Holland but worth it if you get the chance, however since they have been breeding in the waters around England, due to the climate change, it is becoming a sustainable fish, thus becoming more readily available on the fish market. See if you can find it this weekend, if not use mackerel, sardines, sea bream or even sea bass for the any red mullet recipes but change the cooking time depending on the thickness of the fish.
To my delight red mullet was on ice on the fish counter of my neighbourhood Marqt (not market), one of a new chain of Biological food shops in Holland. The fish from Marqt is supplied by Jan Van As, fish wholesaler from the Central Food Market on Jan van Galenstraat, where I used to go for most of my fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and poultry, on a regular basis. I remember collecting my fish from Van As in the 1980’s when he had his shop in a small side street of the Haarlemerstraat and the Brouwersgracht, then a really fishy street, now apartments. Those where the days!! Now he has a very modern complex on the Central market, fantastic.
It is best to prepare this fish in a simple way.
Red mullet is usually grilled or often roasted whole in the oven. In days gone by, the roasting in the oven was done in the brown paper bag the fish was wrapped in when you bought it. A bit like eating chips out of the newspaper, as I did as a child.
So nowadays we use greaseproof paper or aluminium foil instead to make a parcel (en Papillote) and bake the fish in the oven or wrap it in bacon or pancetta, or even wine leaves, which gives it a tangy taste, and then open roast it in the oven.
The cooking of the fish on the bone gives it a fuller flavour.
However nowadays the filets are often pan-fried, for easier eating and a better presentation. This can be difficult as the skin is very fragile and often sticks to the pan or breaks whilst frying. A tip from Cordon Bleu in Paris, is to place a round of greaseproof paper, cut to the size of the frying pan one is using, in the bottom of the pan, then add the oil and heat the pan well, before frying the filets for about 2 minutes on each side
See Recipes:
Red Mullet with Artichoke Barigoule image
Red Mullet with Fennel
Red Mullet with Baked Beetroot

The Artichoke

When and how did you first eat an artichoke?
What is an artichoke?
It is a variety of thistle, which has not yet flowered. I love it but can imagine, when faced with it on your plate for the first time, it can be a daunting task to eat it
The whole artichoke is normally served steaming hot or cold, the latter being easier to deal with but not so tasty.
It is served, more often than not, with a delicious home made hollandaise sauce or very simply with a bowl of tasty mustard mayonnaise and a dash of balsamico added to it or a simple herb vinaigrette dressing.
Starving with hunger you bite into the leaves, which you have carefully tugged from it base, one by one, whilst holding on to the artichoke with the other hand. When it is hot that is no mean feat. Then comes the art of dipping the leaves in the sauce, and sucking the sauce up whilst using your teeth to prise the flesh off from the leaf. Then the moment of heaven arrives, you have reached the choke – the undeveloped flower – now to get at the bottom. Scoop out the choke, sometimes called hay, carefully with your knife or a spoon. Savour this moment with passion, cut the heart into bite-sized pieces and pop into your mouth. The sweet, slightly salty bitter taste comes from the stimulating compound cynarin. The somewhat earthy flavour, combined with the soft texture creates an epicurean experience. The soft texture, the wonderful buttery sauce or a mustard mayonnaise or vinaigrette, makes for a divine moment.
A few tips:
Artichokes should be compact as petals of a flower, with no leaves opening out and the leaves in the centre should be very tight. To test for freshness, squeeze the artichoke and it will squeak. Leaves or bracts as they are called should be plump
Stems full and firm, not spongy, if really fresh and if not too old and fibrous, you can boil and eat the stems
When cleaning and trimming the artichoke use a serrated edged knife, there is less chance of the knife slipping and therefore cutting your fingers.
When boiling, bring the water to the boil with a little salt, carefully drop in the artichokes, cover the surface of the water and the pan with a cloth, place a smaller lid than the pan on top and push down carefully – this will keep them submerged under the water whilst cooking. Place the ends of the cloth on the lid to stop the water running on to your stove.
Cook artichokes for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off.
In France they often use “a blonde” – mix a little flour with water to a thin paste and add to the cooking liquid before bringing to the boil. This forms a thin coating over the water. Keep artichokes fresh after buying by wrapping in plastic and storing in the fridge.
There are many different ways of preparing artichokes and as they are one of my favourites many more recipes will follow


My passion for this woody-stemmed rather pungent, oily/waxy evergreen herb may stem from my first childhood task in the kitchen at Christmas, mixing the sage and onion stuffing for the turkey. Though its looks are a bit dowdy it packs a punch when used finely chopped in stuffing or in a winter pesto with walnuts.

Deep fried sage leaves are a more modern way of using this wonderful ancient medicinal herb giving it a real whow effect, enhancing its perfume and making it edible just as it is, and it smells divine. So does your kitchen. Then use crumbled over vegetables, or in sea salt or tucked under the skin of poultry mixed with a little lemon and fried bacon or coppa di Parma, before roasting, grilling or frying.

Nestle its raw sprigs in with roasted vegetables before roasting in olive oil. Its natural perfume will brighten your taste palette summer and winter.

My favorite dish, ravioli with chopped sage added to browned butter with finely grated parmesan at the last minute, I will make it tonight UMM. or should I say Umami when made properly!

I learned the art at an Italian restaurant Antica in Amsterdam 15 years ago . I spontaneously joined the chef in the kitchen when he was preparing my order in the kitchen.

And it grows in my garden so I put it everywhere in sorbets, sage oil, saltimbocca, cakes , shortbread, madelienes . What next…milk before sleeping Ugh no that is going to far ….