Beef jerky

Food & drink
How to make beef jerky

People have dried meat to preserve it for thousands of years.

The practice seems to have arisen independently in both South America and Africa, with the two traditions cross-pollinating with the Spanish conquests of the Americas. The Native Americans eventually adopted the Spanish word for their dried meat, ‘charque‘, changed the inflection and morphed it into the word ‘jerky’.

Jerky was borne out of necessity.

The vast spaces across the continents meant that travellers had to have a reliable way of preserving meat without refrigeration, and drying provided just that. Jerky is light, portable and nutritious, packed with protein, and it lasts for months in good condition.

Today, jerky is still synonymous with the Americas, both north and south. It’s still a popular snack, and the flavour combinations are vast.

It’s also very straightforward to make, simply a matter of flavouring and then gently dehydrating strips of meat, most likely beef, but goat, or even buffalo or kangaroo work well, too. More…

The Wooden Chopping Board Co.

Kitchen gear
The Wooden Chopping Board Co.

The most important things that any half serious cook owns are a couple of good knives.

Not a block of sixteen assorted flimsy efforts from IKEA, but two decent knives – one big cook’s knife and a smaller version – either German or Japanese, their edges honed to a razor-sharp finish on a steel or preferably a whetstone.

These knives are the workhorses of the kitchen. Any cutting task can be accomplished with just those two knives. There are other specialist knives out there that might tempt the eye, and yes, heaving around a great big cleaver (six quid from your local Chinese supermarket) is kinda fun, but none of them are strictly necessary.

Two knives, the best you can afford, German or Japanese, one big, one small.

That’s all.

These knives are pieces of engineering marvel. They’re milled to micrometre level specifications by some of the world’s most skilled manufacturers. Looked after well, they’ll last a lifetime. Looked after poorly, and well, you may have well have just used one of your crappy IKEA knives to shred through £100.

The second most important thing in any serious cook’s kitchen is a chopping board. More…

Surviving the barbecue: cheat sheet

Food politics
Surviving the barbecue: cheat sheet post image

More…

Sindhi Gosht

Food & drink
Sindhi Gosht, Madhur Jaffrey

Sometimes, I like simple.

Those meals that are just thrown together with little effort and less thought, the ones that somehow transcend their parts and become something quite wonderful because of either the sheer quality of their ingredients or the application of a transformative cooking process.

This is one such dish – a deep, rich and brilliantly straightforward Asian dish, the sort of dish that everybody should have on standby for those lazy days when nothing much happens.

There are two stages.

A long marinade, and a long, slow cook.

More…

Naturally Nourished, by Sarah Britton

Books
Naturally Nourished, by Sarah Britton

I think I eat too much meat.

I’ve been trying to cut down recently, have a couple of days a week without any meat, and to eat more fish and seafood instead of just, well, red meat, that sort of thing.

My efforts have been moderately successful so far, but I’m hitting a definite limit in my repertoire of vegetarian meals. I’m becoming a little tired of this roasted butternut squash and chickpea stew, good as it is.

The truth is, I’m not terribly good at vegetarian food.

I like to eat vegetarian food, of course, but I’m not very good at making substantial vegetarian meals. It isn’t through want of trying, and I’ve picked up some excellent ideas and dishes from some superb cookbooks recently, but there’s always space for more inspiration, no?

And what is the point of the humble cookbook if not to inspire?

Some are better than others. Some work, some don’t.

Here’s one that does.

Sarah Britton is the writer and nutritionist behind the superb blog, My New Roots, and author of the successful cook book of the same name. She specialises in vegetarian food, and may prove to be my saviour.

Britton’s latest book, Naturally Nourished, is a rich collection of vegetarian food from soups and salads, though larger main courses, into side dishes and small plates, finishing up with some savoury and sweet snacks.

Most of these recipes are designed to be put together quickly and easily, and Britton pushes the concept of ‘rolling over’ recipes from day to day to make life easier.

It’s quite simple, really.

Batch cooking with organisation.

Day one – make a quinoa salad, but cook double, so that there’s enough left the second day to make something out of lentils and quinoa, but cook double lentils for the day after, etc, etc. Why anybody would want to cook any quinoa at all is beyond me, but you get the idea?

There are plenty of recipes here that could be adapted to that sort of approach, and there’s a lot of time to be saved by doing so.

It’s tasty stuff, too.

I like the idea of some soured cream and onion chickpea crisps … essentially posh roasted chickpeas, which have been a recent success with the kids in our house, especially when accidentally loaded with a little too much salt.

There’s a stuffed pumpkin recipe, labelled as ‘ceremonial’ that might have crept out of the pages of the Seventies cookbooks my mum and dad used to have, were it not for the decidedly on-trend filling of bulgur wheat, feta and figs.

There’s a mildly perplexing watermelon mojito ice lolly recipe, which looks stunning, mint leaves encases in watermelon red ice, but which on closer inspection omits a vital ingredient in anything purporting to be a mojito: rum.

I felt cheated.

All in all, a useful and interesting cookbook, well presented, superbly written and a treat to look at.