East London Steak Company saves Christmas

Well, okay, Christmas wasn’t in danger of being banned or anything, but I certainly had a lack of The Christmas Feeling. Having a husband with Norovirus will do that, certainly to him!

You see, we had a wonderful thing lurking in our fridge. It had arrived on the Tuesday and I was very excited to start Cooking the Big Meal. No, really, I was!

This is what we had. Look at that, all in its old fashioned brown paper-wrapped glory.

Pressie   Gravy   All the things   Card  

The packaging was fabulous, and beautifully done. I had a great time pulling out all the packages. There was a Christmas card too, and a recipe sheet! There may have been much squeaking, and then there was a moment of panic as I tried to work out where it would all go but I got that sorted out. There’s something terribly right and proper about a perfectly rectangular block of beef dripping wrapped in brown paper. All this for £45? I think I know what I shall be getting next year too.

Next…the unveiling.

THIS is what colour beef is meant to be, Supermarkets. THIS. With creamy, dense fat, the fat that actually surrounded the meat when it was on the animal, not a bit stuck on the top to add some hope of flavour to the hunk of bright red meat that you insist the customer wants. Only because you have brainwashed them over the years into believing that bright red with no fat is how meat should look, you silly, money-grabbing, quick profit people. Hopeless. If only you invested as much time and money into proper producers instead of mass produced blah…

Look at this piece of beef. It came with a card, so I knew where it was from, what breed, when it was slaughtered. It may not make much of a difference, but it’s information that I like to know.

Proper colour   trimmed rib close up   Trimmed rib  

The beauty of dry aged meat is that is lasts longer in the fridge. Our plan for Christmas Day dinner had to be put on hold due to the Outbreak, so back in the fridge the beef went.

On the 27th, Tex was well enough to countenance food. Out came the meat, and boy did it look and smell fabulous. It does smell strong, I won’t deny that. At first it is a bit of a shock but then you realise that that is how properly aged meat is meant to smell. There’s an almost toffee-like scent to it.

Next I painted the whole rib with dark French mustard, then stuck the beef rub that ELSC sent us, in the cutest little brown envelope, to the mustard.

Mustard and rub 

Into the oven it went, at 200ºC (fan). 15 minutes at that temperature and oh my…the smells that were starting already! Then the oven went down to 160ºC and I cooked it for 25 minutes per pound. Yes, I realise that this is the timing for well done, but Tex prefers it that way and as this was to be the first Christmas thing he’d eaten, it was going to be the way he liked it. My bit was still pink though, as it turned out, even though the photos didn’t capture that.

 Cooked    Soft focus ii

Lovely meat! The second photo accidentally came out with soft focus and film star sparkles, but it deserved it.

I took it out of the oven. and wrapped it very well in foil so that it could rest properly. I didn’t even steal a tiny piece of the fat!

While it was resting, I cooked buttered cinnamon carrots, potatoes roasted in the beef fat (which is why they are so dark in places) and also made a very easy honey roast parsnip recipe that Lorraine Pascale did on her TV show. I will always do them that way from now on.

Peel and cut parsnips into small, evenly sized pieces. Stir fry in a little olive oil with a touch of salt until starting to turn golden brown, lower the heat as far as it will go, put the lid on so they steam cook though, then when soft, up the heat to crisp up the edges then drizzle with honey/maple syrup.

Dinner plate   Lorraine Pascales parsnipsPotatoes   Sliced beef

And that was dinner.

I can safely say that this was the best piece of beef that I have ever cooked. It didn’t disappoint in any way, even though it was well done. It still stayed tender, and juicy and absolutely flavourful. It has a rich taste to it, but not cloying at all. Very beefy, but not with that overly iron-rich, gamey flavour that some aged meat can have.

I still have the marrow bones, the gravy and the beef chipolatas in the freezer, because Tex really wasn’t up to a huge meal, so that’s something else to look forward to.

East London Steak Company, you have yourself a loyal follower.



Spiced Apple Gammon

Part of my usual cooking repertoire is ham, or gammon. As we are lucky enough to have a very good local butcher, I get it from them, and I usually buy an unsmoked slipper joint.  I liked smoked, to be honest, but the general House consensus is that it can be too salty so I go with the unsmoked.

Guide to piggy cuts here: http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/articles/the-meat-guide-bacon

I have bought a high quality, rare breed gammon joint before to try. Yes, I’m afraid I cheated on my butcher. I’m so sorry Mark. I hope you can forgive me.

I have to say it ended up being as dry as anything, despite me cooking it in exactly the same way that I always do, so I have returned to Mark the Butcher in good old Harold Hill, because he’s great. Mark is the kind of butcher that simply won’t stock something if he thinks it isn’t good enough for his customers. If he doesn’t have ribeye in stock, it’s because it was a) not good enough quality and b) far too high a price. A few weeks ago he stopped stocking oxtail because the price had gone up to higher than sirloin. Higher than sirloin steak. Can you imagine? Anyway, this is why we love him, and also because the meat that he stocks is always fabulous. Plus you get Cockney humour plus cooking advice when you go in, it’s great! This may seem like a blatant advert for them, but they are so worth it.

(Caring F & J, 112 Hilldene Avenue, Romford, RM3 8DT, 01708 373792  should you wish to visit)

Where was I? Oh yes, cooking gammon.

Because Husband has been ill over Christmas, I didn’t cook the gammon when I’d meant to, and we had no freezer space to fit it in as a whole piece, so Boxing Day I decided to just cook it off in the slow cooker, then at least it would be ready to slice for sandwiches when Tex felt better, plus it would fill the kitchen with Christmas smells. As I was feeling woefully lacking in anything Christmassy at all, I felt that this would be a good idea.

I had found some rope lights upstairs, so I brought them down, draped them over the back door out of the kitchen that we don’t use any more, and brought Christmas to me.

It really was a very simple procedure, but the result was just lovely.

1 x piece of gammon that will fit in your slow cooker

1 bottle Ringden Hall Farm apple juice, Spartan variety. (any pressed apple juice will do, or you can use sweet cider too)

2 cinnamon sticks

That’s it. I didn’t pre-soak the gammon, because I forgot, hence me using the sweeter apple juice. It needed nothing more than that.

I set the slow cooker to auto and just left it be for 3 hours, then turned the meat over and let it cook for another 3. Turned the heat off, and let the meat sit in the stock for another hour. Lifted it out, then wrapped it in foil to sit and cool overnight.

It was absolutely gorgeous, and I will definitely cook it this way next time. I probably wouldn’t use the stock for soup though, due to my not soaking it. It might just be too salty.


It went very well indeed with the Pain d’Epis!


Lorraine Pascale’s Pain d’Epis

I have a confession to make. I cannot make bread. Anything to do with yeast based cookery seems to fox me completely, and I just don’t have that ‘touch’ that some people appear to. It tastes okay, but whenever I make bread it always seems very heavy and dense. I don’t mind it, not really, but after one slice you generally want a lie down and a bit of a nap. I also have an innate dislike of recipes that take too long and look like a lot of faff. It comes of not being able to really stand up for any substantial length of time. Lots of step is fine, so long as they are quick ones!

I was watching Lorraine Pascale’s Home Cooking Made Easy, and she made what seemed to be a stunningly simply loaf called Pain d’Epi.  These loaves are usually shaped into an ear of corn, and look like this.


“I can make that!” I said to myself and then had to go out and buy the right flour before I could do it. Then I had to rewatch the show hurriedly before it disappeared off iPlayer, as stupid BBC decided not to put that recipe on their website.

I tried it today. My husband has been quite ill over Christmas, so I thought a nice loaf of proper, real bread would be a treat for him whilst still being a non-threatening food for his stomach. It’s worked incredibly well, despite some hiccoughs on my part when it stuck to the pan it was rising on, and had to be scraped off and reshaped. Oops.

Here be the recipe. Thank you Lorraine! I finally have an easy loaf for weekend scoffage, that doesn’t weigh everyone down.

Pain d’Epi (not quite, as I didn’t shape it in the end)

275g strong while bread flour

1 x sachet of dried yeast (I used Allinsons) the kind you add straight in to the flour.

1 tbs olive oil

1 tsp salt (I will probably cut this down to 1/2 next time)

175ml warm water

1/2 tsp sugar (my addition as I wasn’t sure how old the yeast was and wanted to give it a fighting chance)

Put the flour into a bowl.

Add the salt, yeast and sugar. Stir with a balloon whisk to air it a bit.

Add the water, and bring the mixture together with a knife, or with your fingers so it’s a ball of dough.

Flour the work top and knead the dough for ten minutes. Lorraine's way of kneading looks a bit like the wax on, wax off bit from Karate Kid and it really works. Push away with one hand, bring it back. Push away with the other hand, bring it back. It was far easier on my back so I could knead for longer.

The dough will become pliable and elastic. Really, it will. If the yeast is live, it will work. You have NO IDEA of the triumph I felt when the dough turned elastic.

Shape it into a long sausage shape, and place on an OILED or LINED baking sheet (I used a non stick baking liner which is a godsend that I got from Lakeland) and cover with oiled cling film.

Leave it to rise in a warm place for an hour. (I don’t have an airing cupboard so I just left the oven open for a bit while the dough rested on the hob)

After an hour it will have doubled. Yes, I was very surprised about this.

I took off the cling film, snipped a decoration in the top with some scissors, brushed it with olive oil and popped it into the oven at 200C for 1/2 an hour.

(Lorraine said to get the oven hot and then add some water to create a steamy environment. I forgot. SEE BBC? You should have put the recipe and method on the website!)

Then I squeaked a lot as it rose even more.

1/2 an hour later, and I had a lovely, dense crumbed but springy loaf resting on a cooling rack – and no-one was more surprised than me.

I served it up with some home cooked ham that I’d done in the slow cooker with apple juice and cinnamon.


I even made one later in the traditional shape. 


Greek Homestyle Pork or Hirino Spithkasimo


Now, before I start, I will say for the record that there is one sure fire way to annoy me good and proper, and that is to be a TV food show presenter who doesn't even attempt to say a Greek name but just takes the piss, even though the French and the Spanish names were attempted without fuss. Seriously, if you can’t say it, then don’t bother, use the English version - but don’t make a bunch of noises and then pull a face. Yes, Amanda Lamb, I am looking at you.


I saw this recipe on Market Kitchen, back in the heady days when Mediterranean food didn't just mean Italian and Spanish, it included many other countries, and it also meant that the utterly delectable Tonia Buxton was on the show a lot more. That lady is fabulous and, unlike many other celebs, answers her emails when you write to say thank you. Nigel Slater does too.

I watched Tonia cook this and then went straight out and bought the things to make it. I was NOT disappointed at all.

Easy, very few ingredients and a fabulous dish to bung in the oven and leave to cook away on its own when you’re busy off doing other things.

Greek style pork - Hirino spithkasimo


1kg shoulder of pork, cut into fist size pieces - I used leg, less fatty.
1kg Cyprus potatoes peeled and halved if very large
olive oil, for drizzling
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
3 onions, peeled and sliced lengthways
5 tomatoes (more if in season) sliced lengthways - I used a can of Italian chopped, as I had no fresh


Put the pork and potatoes in a large earthenware dish/ovenproof casserole.

Pour a good drizzle of oil in the dish and mix around well. Add the spices and mix again.

Lay the onions and tomatoes over the top pour over a little more oil and season.


Cover with foil and cook in a hot oven (200C) for around 1 hour, then lower the heat to 180C and remove the foil and cook for another hour till browned. Keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t burn. (This is what the original recipe said, but I cooked it in a pot with a lid, and kept the lid on until the last half an hour.)

Serve straight from the dish with a rocket salad they said but I served it with green beans. I loathe rocket!

It’s great on the day, but even better the next. The mix of cumin and cinnamon is quite a Middle Eastern flavouring, but then Tonia is a Cypriot, and many of our dishes have that Middle Eastern influence. Even the language does. When I was trying to learn Greek, my Athenian teacher would often tell me off because I used the ‘wrong’ word.

Not wrong, just Cypriot. Smile