Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Meat - Delivered Straight to Your Door!


I'm always looking for great suppliers to recommend, so when I came across Green Pasture Farms, I was excited to try their free range (grass fed) meat.

Buying a regular meat box allows you to plan ahead, avoid queues, support a sustainable business and buy quality you will struggle to find on the high street. All the animals are pastured, ensuring that your meat is not flabby with barn induced fat. It will also contain more omega 3 than un-pastured meat, simply from grazing on grass and pecking in the dirt. As it is increasingly hard to find genuinely pastured pork these days - this is reason enough to buy from them.

In my box I received some delicious gluten free sausages. I have struggled to find free range or organic gluten free sausages, even in my beloved Waitrose! One solution is to ask your local butcher to put some pastured pork through their equipment, but you'll have to buy a large quantity and work out all the seasoning yourself. These pastured sausages are very meaty and flavoursome - although worth checking exactly what is in them before you buy, just in case you are sensitive to any of the seasonings.

Because Green Pasture Farms offer nose-to-tail eating, all those delicious hard working cuts and organ meats are available. For anyone eating a 'real food' diet, including offal, bones & meat on the bone is an important way to massively increase the nutrient content of your diet. Look for, 'Odd Cuts' on the website to find marrow bones, tongue, scrag end and other delights you simply won't find in the supermarket.

For those of you who are interested in rendering your own beef dripping (tallow), you can buy pastured beef suet - for a really clean fat that will keep for ages. Rare and delicious pastured lard  and beef dripping are also available.

Finally, for anyone who doesn't have the luxury of a local supplier of raw milk, Green Pasture supply this. It is quite expensive, but if you buy in bulk and freeze it, you can get a discount that makes it worth adding to your order.

One of the cuts in my box of delicious meat was some fat lamb shanks. Any meat on the bone (except beef rib) benefits from long, gentle cooking, encouraging all the connective tissues to relax and dissolve, minerals and gelatine to come out of the bone and the meat to become as tender as you like. With a savoury, flavoursome cut you can break out some fragrant herbs and spices. Although lamb is often paired with powerful rosemary and deeply savoury anchovies, I love it with saffron, for an unmistakably Middle Eastern twist.

You don't need much saffron to infuse the whole dish with flavour. In fact, a heavy hand will turn your fragrant supper into something that tastes quite medicinal! Sweet onions, coriander seed and cinnamon balance those medicinal notes perfectly.

Saffron Lamb Shanks (serves 4)

2-3 fat lamb shanks (approx 900g)
1 large red onion
1 heaped tsp ground coriander seed    
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch saffron threads
1 tablespoon tomato puree
4 large carrots cut into batons

sea salt and black pepper
lamb, beef or duck fat to cook
flat leaf parsley or fresh coriander leaf and pomegranate seeds to serve

Choose a pan that will comfortably fit all your shanks in it. Brown the shanks in a heaped tsp of fat and then take them out and set aside.

Finely chop onion and sauté gently in the browning fat until starting to smell sweet and take on a little colour.

Add saffron, cinnamon and coriander, stir for 30 seconds.

Add tomato puree and cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes. The tomato should start to smell sweet and concentrated. Don't let it burn!

Add shanks and enough water to come about an inch up the pan. Season with salt and lots of black pepper. Cover with a lid and bring up to a simmer.

Simmer, covered, for 2-3 hours until completely tender. Turn the shanks a couple of times to evenly absorb the saffron colour. Keep the water topped up, but don't add too much or you will dilute the flavour.

Add the carrots about 30 minutes before the end of your cooking time.

Once the meat is tender, remove shanks, season (if needed) and reduce the liquid until it has a thin gravy consistency. Take meat off the bone and return to the sauce to heat through.

Serve with rice cooked in lamb or chicken stock and scented with a couple of cardamon pods. A dark green parsley and spinach salad and scattering of pomegranate seeds makes a delicious winter meal.