Monday 15 January 2007

The Demise of London Butchers.......

One of the more depressing aspects of cooking in London over the past few years has been the disappearance - remorseless and almost total - of independent local butchers. Twenty years ago, every local high street was well supplied, and these days they've almost all gone. For the most part, the quality of meat available in supermarkets is dismal - Waitrose being the occasional exception - and opportunities to shop elsewhere are few and far between. Even the meat department in Harrods - which has for years been the one remaining beacon of quality as the rest of the shop has gone to hell in a handbasket - finally shows signs of going the way of the rest of the place, with the vitrines increasingly full of rather tired and listless offerings. If you want to take out a second mortgage, then there's always Lidgates in Notting Hill, I suppose. I was much encouraged recently when Jack O'Shea's opened up where the Irish Linen Shop used to be, just down from Montpelier Square - but it appears that they get a weekly delivery on Thursdays, and if you want something as simple as Beef Skirt by Monday morning (which I just did), then you're out of luck! I suppose there's always the depressing option of becoming a mid-week vegetarian........

Stop-Press: Re yesterday's Chocolate Souffle: possibly because I used the remains of a block of one kind of chocolate, plus a handful of callettes from a new bag of superior quality (Felchlin Grand Cru, I think), the souffles had not done their stuff at the end of eight minutes as specified. I zapped them up to 200 degrees C for about another six minutes - didn't time it, but took them out as the first delicious whiff of cooked chocolate snaked its way from the oven - and the result was perfect. Splendidly crisp top, with an unctuous inside that was just firm enough to hold its own on a fork.

Today's menu:

Smoked Salmon Tiede. (Sautee finely diced onion in butter until it collapses, add some cream and heat to thicken; place on plates, before topping with fresh basil that has been momentarily added to the pan from the onion mixture. Top with a couple of slices of smoked salmon, then put on top of that a spoonful of finely diced cucumber, salad onion and red chili which has been lightly sauteed in butter. Season with salt at each stage along the way and grind pepper generously over the top. NB, Crumbled dried chili can be used instead, but go carefully with it, if you don't want to remove the tops of people's mouths!)

Paupiette of Pork. Slices of pork fillet, beaten flat, and then folded in on themselves, over a small piece of anchovy and basil leaf. Egg and bread-crumbed, and then gently fried for a couple of minutes on each side. You can include some grated parmesan in with the breadcrumbs, but I don't see the point, given the 'edgy'flavour you've aready got from the anchovy and basil. My preferred brand of breadcrumbs is Leimar - very fine in texture, so you don't get an industrial level of coating.

Tartes aux Pommes: There's a particular pink-blush apple I prefer for this - the name of which unhelpfully escapes me, as I normally just pick it out on sight - as it doesn't cook to a mush, but largely keeps its shape even as it cooks through, so the puree has some texture to it. For full recipe, see below.

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