Monthly Archives: October 2013

Beef Shin

I was watching BBC Breakfast this morning, and they had an article on about ‘unusual’ cuts of beef, namely marrowbone, shin and skirt. Maybe it’s my age, but shin and skirt didn’t seem unusual to me, but I understand there may be a lot of people younger than me who have only ever shopped in Tesco’s and buy their meat wrapped in film and neatly trimmed.

But that was OK, because we had a chef on to tell us more about the cuts and what to do with them. All good so far.

For those of you who are not familiar with skirt or shin, they are cuts that are full of flavour, but need to be slow cooked, otherwise they’ll be too tough to eat. I have to confess I do not know too much about marrowbone, as to me it’s something you give to the dog. Not that I wouldn’t be willing to try it, it’s just that I never have.

Anyway, the point was made that people are reluctant to cook these cuts because they don’t know what to do with them. Not that we all lead busy lives these days (a comment that would have sent me into full-on rant mode), or we may not have heard of them. No. It’s because we don’t know what to do with them.

Now one thing that the vast majority of people do know how to do these days is look something up on the internet. I have just typed ‘beef skirt’ into Google, and the predictions that have appeared in the drop-down box are as follows:

Beef skirt recipes, beef skirt steak recipes, beef skirt stew, beef skirt slow cooker, beef skirt curry.

Typing in ‘beef shin’ came up with even more interesting predictions, like ragu, chilli and macaroni.

Not knowing what to do with something is no longer an excuse. Aversion, apathy, fear and lack of time are possible reasons to avoid these particular pieces of meat, but lack of knowledge just doesn’t wash.

So, for anyone who is interested, a simple recipe for slow-cooked beef shin is as follows:

3 or 4 rashers of bacon, cut into small pieces

2 medium onions

2 medium carrots

1 stick of celery

1kg of beef shin (or skirt)

500g of beef stock (one stock cube in hot water will do)

A few cloves of garlic, if you want.

Plain flour

1 bay leaf (if you have any)

1T tomato purée

salt and pepper

Oil

Frying pan

Slow cooker or oven-proof casserole dish

Heat a little oil in the frying pan, and cook the bacon for a few minutes until it starts to brown.

Whilst this is cooking, peel and slice the onions, carrots and celery.

Remove the bacon from the pan and put it in your cooking pot, but leave as much of the oil behind as you can.

Then cook the onions, carrots, garlic and celery in the frying pan for a few minutes until the onions have started to soften. Transfer them all to the pot.

Now get a bowl and put a couple of tablespoons of plain flour in it, and season it with some salt and pepper. You now need to dredge the meat, which should have been cut into pieces roughly an inch square, in the flour, a few pieces at a time, and those few pieces should be put in the hot frying pan and browned. Add some oil if you need to.

Tip: don’t put too much in the pan at once, as this will steam the meat rather than brown it.

Once you have browned all the meat and put in in the pot, add the beef stock, bay leaf and tomato puree, and put the lid on.

If you have a slow cooker, the best time to do all this is in the morning, and then set it on Low for eight hours. If you are using the oven, then 150 degrees or Mark 2 will be fine, for at least four hours. So for you, this would be something to cook at the weekend, but it can easily keep in the fridge and be reheated the next day.

It’s ready when the meat can be broken with a spoon or fork without any effort.

If you want, and have some available, you can also add half a bottle of red wine at the start. Also, if the gravy is a little thin, then add a tablespoon of cornflour mixed in a little cold water and put back in the oven for a few minutes.

Serve it with mashed potatoes, or some crusty white bread. You’ll probably need some of that to mop up your plate at the end, anyway.

It’s that simple, and nothing to be afraid of. And there are hundreds of more recipes out there, so not knowing what to do with it really isn’t an excuse.

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Thanks Dad

God was feeling content. The ambrosia had been particularly fine today, and with his belt loosened, an afternoon nap was just what the doctor ordered.

He’d already sent the angels away, and had settled in to his armchair, with his feet up and a blanket over his lap, and eyelids that were getting heavier by the second. His brain was in that half way point between consciousness and sleep.

He was in the Garden of Eden, in the days when Adam and Eve were still walking around naked, and he could happily chat to them and come and go as he pleased, before that damned serpent went and ruined everything. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves in the trees, birds were singing and the rivers were flowing with pure, crystal clear water. Paradise indeed.

It was his happy place, somewhere to go to when he was feeling down. Not that he was down at the moment. It was just his subconscious taking over as he drifted off into quiet slumber. The peace and quiet of the room was soon replaced by the sound of a gentle snore.

“Hi, Dad.”

He jolted awake, bleary eyed and not quite sure where he was. It didn’t take long for him to focus on his son, standing in the doorway looking a little embarrassed and rather dishevelled. There was dried blood all over his hands and feet, and a nasty looking gash in his side.

“Jesus, what are you doing here? You’re not due back for a few years yet. You look dreadful. What on Earth happened?”

“Did you not get my messages? What’s the point of praying, if you aren’t going to listen?”

“Sorry. I’ve been a bit distracted lately, what with Gabriel being all upset about the incident with the sixteen year old girl. Mary, that’s her name.”

“You mean Mum? The one you knocked up, and then left on her own to face her father, her fiancé, and the rest of the community? What in God’s name were you thinking?”

“Yes, well, a bit of a cock up there, to be honest. I got a bit carried away, and then didn’t know what to do. Dear old Gabriel said he’d sort it for me, but then he went all emotional, and refused to come out of his bedroom. I’ve been trying to get him to talk to me for the past thirty years. Maybe you could have a word with him.”

“Sorry, Dad. That’s your business. It’s bad enough that you abandoned me down there. I don’t see why I should have to sort out your problems for you. I think I’ve had enough to deal with, thank you very much.”

“Fair point. So, how was it?”

Jesus sat down in a chair next to God, to his right. “This feels nice. I could get used to sitting here.”

“Well, it is reserved for you. But not yet. You’re supposed to be down there saving Humanity.”

“Yes, well, I never really did understand that bit. I go down to Earth, tell everyone what a great guy you are, I die, and somehow they’re all saved. Doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“I’ll explain it someday, when we’ve got more time. In the meantime, tell me everything.” He clapped his hands, and an angel appeared in the doorway. “Ah, Julian. Can you get us a tray of ambrosia, and a jug of nectar? Thanks ever so much.”

Over drinks and nibbles, Jesus explained to his father what had happened in the thirty odd years he had been a human, walking and talking with people, convincing a few that he wasn’t mad, and thoroughly upsetting the majority who thought he was.

“And then it all came to a head when that backstabbing Judas kissed me on the cheek. There I was, minding my own business, doing a bit of praying, and the next thing I know, I’m being dragged through the mud, nailed to a cross, and poor Mum is crying her eyes out. And not one of my friends did anything to rescue me. The only chap who tried to help was Pilate, but his hands were tied. I don’t think he wanted the mob to start rioting. I can’t say I blame him, to be honest.”

God took a drink, and shifted nervously in his seat, while he thought of what to say. He’d been silent all the way through, but knew he should say something now.
“OK. This is not how it was meant to be. Yes, you were supposed to die, but it could just as easily have been through old age. I don’t think I ever specified the method. I can’t remember, to be honest.”

“What do you mean, you can’t remember? I’ve been stoned, spat at, denied and eventually crucified. And you can’t remember? Well, thanks very much, Dad.”

“OK. Let’s have a think about what we should do. I can understand the Romans not being happy, what with all their gods to worship and everything. But the Jews? They’re supposed to be on my side. I did this for them. I guess there’s no pleasing some people.”

“Some people? Just about all of them, I’d say.” Jesus took another piece of ambrosia. Death had given him an appetite. “Haven’t got any wine, have you? I got quite a taste for it while I was away.”

God ignored the wine comment. “Right, it’s Saturday tomorrow. They’ll all be worshipping me, and won’t be very receptive to anything else. You go and shower, and put some clean clothes on. Let me sleep on it, and I’ll let you know in the morning what I’ve decided to do. Actually, you don’t fancy popping back down for a few weeks, do you?  I think I’ve just come up with a solution.”

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Schools, Police, Fire…. and Healthcare

I am willing to accept that many Americans are fed up with the rest of the world telling them they are wrong about so many things – gun control, foreign policy, healthcare, their incorrect use of the word ‘football’ to name but a few – and so yet another blog harping on about the Affordable Care Act and the failure last week to agree a budget is probably not going to go down well.

I realise that the ACA is not particularly liked on either side, but it is the best of a bad job from what I can see, and is a step towards Universal Healthcare, even if that is as likely to be available in America as finding the Quran in the Westboro Baptist Church gift shop.

So I am not going to lecture, recount my experience living in Florida for a year and the different mindset people have over healthcare, or give any negative comments.

I just want to compare healthcare with those things that are provided by the state without question, namely education, law enforcement and fire fighting and prevention.

I’m lucky. In the 52 years I have lived on this planet I have never been trapped in a burning building, had my head stuck in some railings or needed to have one of our cats rescued from the top of a tall tree. And yet for the past 27 years, since I moved out of the family home, a portion of my property taxes have been used to fund the Fire and Rescue Service where I have lived. One day I may need to use them; until then, I am happy to pay my share for the benefit of the whole community.

I have also never been burgled, mugged or had any reason personally to call on the police, but the same thing applies.

I have four children. Two of them have finished school, one of whom is working full-time, the other is deciding whether he wants to go to university, and in the meantime also has a full-time job. My other two are still ‘enjoying’ their schooling, and will do for a few years yet.

I paid taxes that were used to pay for education before I had children, and I shall continue to pay them long after they have all left and gone on to other things. There are many people who do not have any children, but don’t think twice about their taxes being used to educate our children.

The police are there to keep our streets and neighbourhoods safe and as crime-free as they possibly can. The fire-fighters are there to deal with emergencies, and I’m sure the vast majority of people are very glad that they are there. Schools and teachers are there to give our children the best start they can give them with the resources available.

Is healthcare not just as important? Is it not important to keep the population healthy, and treat them when they become sick? Surely this is how the economy stays strong, with a healthy workforce?

Now I know there are many who will argue that using taxes to fund ‘Socialized medicine’ takes away your freedom of choice, amongst many other issues. But just like with education, you can still have that choice. You can currently choose to send your children to a private school. Here in the UK, we can choose to have private health insurance. There’s no difference.

As I said at the beginning, I am not criticising your beliefs or your country. I’m just curious to know why some things can be provided for the good of the nation, but healthcare can’t.

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