Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Meat as a luxury? (2) ... What we used to eat.

As I grew up in the U.K.  (between 1944 and 1964) the "norm" was to have meat as part of the daily main meal (evenings Monday - Friday); (noontime Saturday and Sunday).

Meat on the plate was the sign that we were doing well. It was considered to be essential. Vegetarians were thought to be slightly odd.

Mum did her best to put meat on the table - but as funds were limited we often ate the cheapest cuts.

There was liver, which none of us "adored" (though in these days I like liver and onions).

Mum once fed us tripe. 'Twas hard to swallow on account of its texture so we disliked it immensely.  ( I made "tripe and onions" a few years ago and enjoyed it).

We had a cheaper form of ham - known as "fore spur" - it had more fat than regular ham.

I discovered that the word fore-spur is from an older Somersetshire local dialect viz  Fore-spur, or Vore-spur s.  the fore-leg of pork

Mum made steak (stewing beef!) and kidney pudding (steamed in a suet based crust), or steak and kidney pie (baked in a regular pie crust),  Both were and are "oh so good" even though most Americans are weak kneed at the thought of eating kidneys.

We ate and enjoyed faggots, made from scratch and baked, then served with good gravy, potatoes and veggies.  (I can never explain faggots to Americans, but do accept  that at their very best they are excellent).

Dear American friends, do become a "foodie" and think of faggots as a desirable English ethnic food. (see below).

Mum often roasted "breast of lamb" at a very high heat,  so that the fat became all crispy and crunchy. (I do not remember that she ever boned, stuffed and rolled it before roasting).

The same was true for "belly of pork slices" -  when cooked well  the fat is as good as the meat.

In the winter months our Saturday mid-day meal was often stew.  Although I was never crazy about the "doughboys" (dumplings) which often topped the stews, I learned to enjoy Mum's Lamb stew (made from the bony "best end of neck of lamb" (or maybe with lamb scrag.).

Chicken was still a "treat" believe it or not.  But Mum made sure that the mid-day Sunday meal featured (over) roasted beef; or perhaps some leg or shoulder of lamb, or leg of pork.

At other times there were pork (chipolata) sausages, or poached smoked haddock with a poached egg on top, or kippers -  and as we grew more prosperous we enjoyed  Mum's famous mixed grill with bacon, a lamb chop, grilled beefsteak, grilled mushrooms, a fried egg or two  etc, etc.

And even in our poorer days there was the pay day treat of fish and chips from our local shop (named Evelyn's) with crispy chips (twice fried in lard) and battered and fried cod or haddock.

Lord above, we ate well on"cheap meats",

Breast of Lamb

Belly of Pork slices.

Scrag of Lamb


Best end of neck of Lamb

Beef caul (for Faggots recipe).


Here is a decent recipe for excellent Faggots.

The recipe is from one posted by 'Somerset Lad' on the River Cottage Forum, but is typical of this type. In the original the meat is cooked in liquid before being ground and mixed. This adaption by Debbie who posts on River Cottage and runs Hidden Valley Pigs, omits the pre-cooking stage.

2lb Pig's Fry - Lungs, Liver, Heart (I used just Liver and Heart)
1lb Fat Pork (belly's good)
8oz Fresh Breadcrumbs
1 desertsp each of Dried Sage and Parsley (I used fresh parsley)
Salt and Pepper (about 3 level tsp salt and 1¼ level tsp pepper)
Caul Fat if you can get it

Mince the meats then mix in the dry ingredients.
Leave to stand for about an hour - it will firm up.
Shape into the size faggots you want (about 9 is good), wet hands help to do this, put in a dish and fill it about a third of the way up the faggots with stock or water. Cook in a 190°C oven (170°C fan) for about 40 minutes. Cover with foil if the tops are getting too brown
If using caul, soak it in tepid water for about an hour, then wrap a piece around each faggot before cooking.
Faggots freeze well.

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