Friday, 28 February 2014

Butcher or Bin Man

This Italian-style sausage was made using off-cuts from my last pig slaughtered. When I say off-cuts I mean pieces of meat that my butcher was casually carving off the shoulder I had asked him for and binning. I stood chatting to him not really registering what he was doing. But then I shouted stop. He looked startled then amused. He fished the pieces out of the bin and bagged them up for me still looking amused.

I thought about it afterwards. How far have we come from The Famine? I mean have we actually progressed at all? 

How have we become so casual about food waste? How have we got to the stage that we bin perfectly good meat because we can't be bothered doing anything with it?

With these pieces of meat I made an Italian-style sausage. I just looked up a recipe and loosely followed it. I know now I added too much salt but apart from that it was really good. I wrapped it in cling film and left it in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I then used my small vacuum packer and vac packed it and cooked it in a water bath for an hour at just under simmering point. I left it in the fridge again for another week.

I can't find the recipe again as I really had no idea what it would be like and was just trying this out as an experiment. I do know there were dried herbs (I used Herbs de Provence that I bought last year in the south of France), paprika, chilli flakes and garlic powder and lots and lots of salt. The pork cuttings were from the shoulder and had a good coating of fat. Essential to carry flavour.

Italian sausage and bean casserole
I made a pork and borlotti bean type casserole with the sausage to serve with pasta. It had lots of red wine and garlic and the usual mirepoix.

I really wish I could butcher my own pigs because to be honest, when you go to the trouble to feed them and care for them the way I do, it really galls to think a butcher can casually bin any part of them.

Next time I will go over to my butcher and gather up all the off-cuts to make some more. I have since found this recipe here.

It's not the same as the last time but the great thing about making sausages is it is all trial and error. Just don't do what I did and lose the recipe.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Slimming World - My take

I was asked to write some nutrition and diet information for a local group following Operation Transformation when I thought, I really need to follow my own advice. I eat really well but have a weakness for fat and sugar in that 50:50 ratio which is now credited as being the cause of the obesity epidemic. And as I did not want to join a group I work with, I decided I would (sceptically) give Slimming World a go. I have been down the Weight Watchers route and decided I couldn't hack the hard sell on their own processed "low fat", sugar-free, full of additives processed foods.

I was warned by my friend who dragged me along to keep my mouth shut and give it a go. I did, I bit my lip when the group leader said the fat-free yoghurts were "syn" free but when I looked at the label they had 7.9g of sugar per 100ml. I shut my mouth when she recommended a spray to fry with ( I didn't chance reading that label as I probably would have exploded). I really wanted to say that the world has been eating "low fat" since the 70's and since the 70's being getting progressively fatter, I didn't. I buttoned it when she advised a dessert had 3 "syns" as it used low fat fromage frais and meringue (sugar, sugar, sugar).

I am also at a loss to understand how you can eat as much pasta as you wish but can't eat homemade *sourdough bread (which has no fat added). I also can't understand how homemade soup is "synned" along with canned soup or soup using a stock cube (the first two ingredients being fat and salt).

I think as well that since they are obviously making so much money here, they could at the very least list Irish brands and supermarket labels in their handbooks rather than all the British ones they do.

But, having said all that the bulk of the advice is sound.  And it has a proven track record. And it doesn't advise starving yourself, in fact it actively discourages this. While you can go down the starvation route, you will eventually fail. This is the primary reason diets fail. And the primary reason you lose weight initially but then your body goes into "starvation mode" and hangs on to the fat for a rainy day.

I am due for my first weigh in on Monday. I have followed the advise to a point. I will not buy fat-free, I won't ever use a carcinogenic sweetener, I won't spray an "oil" on my pan.

If I lose a "shed load" I may delete this post.

But in the words of the Jungle Book - "get with it Baggy".  Lose the outdated low-fat advise.

24th February 2014
*In two weeks I have lost 6lbs or 2.7kg following Slimming World's advice (up to a point.) I was told today that head office had never heard of sourdough bread and so could not tell me if it was a free food like they consider pasta to be. I was also told that bread is made from wheat so I must "syn" it. I'm not sure what they think pasta is made from.............

(Incidentally sourdough bread has a low glycemic index quite similar to pasta.)

Update here

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Pigs and Myths

Pigs do not eat anything and everything. Pigs are not dirty. Pigs do not smell. Pigs are not stupid.

Humans are stupid.

Having watched a programme on television last night on BBC1, I would have believed the opening statements. Countryfile stated that pigs eat everything. Well Countryfile, unless you starve your pigs they do not eat everything. They are exactly the same as humans. They have preferences. In fact, there is an awful lot like humans about pigs. But, they do not make inane pronouncements about humans. In this respect they are a lot more intelligent.

I rear pigs. I am the small holder the pig farmer on your programme spoke disparagingly about. I am the pig farmer that he assumed would feed pig slops. Actually, I would not feed my pigs the crap most humans eat. The processed, full of salt, full of hydrogenated fat, full of colourings, full of stabilisers, full of preservatives that you probably eat whilst you feed your pigs a combination of genetically modifed soy and maize.

My pigs enjoy a mixed diet of barley, organic pig nuts and fruit and vegetables from my local vegetable shop. They gallop around an acre, rooting and grazing on grass and weeds. They are curious, nosy, interested and moody.

They are unbelievably clean. When they are not confined in a concrete factory, they do not smell. They make a point of going to the furthest part of the field "to do their business".

They all like different foods. I have had pigs that adored strawberries and melons and wouldn't touch broccoli. I have had pigs that loved broccoli and cauliflower and turned their snouts up at pears, apples and kiwi.

They are sociable and they make distinct noises. I am able to distinguish some of them but I am not fluent in "pig speak" yet. I'm getting there.

I respect my pigs. I love my pigs.

I kill and eat my pigs knowing that they have had the best life pigs can have and I know what they have eaten.

Feed pigs slops by all means but make sure the slops are what you would be prepared to eat.

The Pig Idea is a good one but not all slops are good.

Another glaring inaccuracy Countryfile came up with was that feeding pig slops was the cause of the BSE crises. It was not. BSE was caused by feeding cattle with meat and bone meal. Cattle are vegetarian, they do not eat meat!

Boil your Cloth

I have just been reading about an outbreak of Novovirus in Heston Blumenthal's restaurant "Dinner" (again?). At some point in their life almost everyone will suffer from some form of food poisoning either by their own fair hand or by someone else.

The most common way "germs" are spread in a kitchen is by your cloth. I have been in so many pristine kitchens where it almost appears as if you could eat your food off the floor. No doggy footprints ever cross their threshold, no cats trip lightly across their counter tops seeking the milk jug. But; look in their sink area or better still lift up and smell the cloth or sponge they use to wash up with or clean down the work surfaces.  You can be almost certain it will be rank.

I always boil my cloth (with a small amount of washing powder) or at very least wash it and leave it soaking overnight in a weak bleach solution. I am obsessive about this. It is by far the cleanest thing in my house and it needs to be. I am very relaxed about everything else. But cloths and wooden chopping boards are rigourously cleaned every day or after every use.

The upside of this is that the Le Creuset pans I use to boil the cloth get lovely and clean as it is also a great way to remove stains.

So boil your cloth and allow it to dry out overnight.