How To Cook Meat Well – With Raymond Blanc
In March 2020, the UK went into lockdown and I started to wonder about how the world was about to change. The coronavirus pandemic was here. Convenience vanished. Shopping for food became difficult. The culture of the sandwich at the office desk was no more. The shops that made sandwiches were closed, and offices with the desks were shut. Most of us stayed at home, though millions continued as key workers, and to them, we shall always be indebted.
On my own, and in my flat in London, I would call my mum in France. A woman of less than five feet, she had never let her lack of height get in the way of a good meal. I found myself craving, and then cooking, childhood meals that were simple to make and full of goodness. All of them could be rustled up speedily: tartiflette, a plate of crudités, a morteau sausage salad, an onion or tomato soup – and the one that my mother made with the season’s vegetables and chervil, when I was her young helper and runner.
Since 1984 I have spent so much of my time in the kitchens at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Brasserie Blanc, but my professional life became a struggle, filled with tremendous stress and strains; the turmoil of a business put on hold. Slowly, however, I began to really relish the fun that comes from cooking at home. I took to social media, sharing recipes that my British friends would call ‘easy peasy’.
As the weeks of solitude progressed, it was as if we had been ‘given’ more time. We devoted this time to the garden (the weather was glorious), to yoga, puzzles, TV boxsets. And the cooks among us spent that extra time in the kitchen. The fast, fast world in which we lived had stopped zooming along, and was now in slow motion. The hurried breakfast bowl of cornflakes made way for the deep, rich scents of freshly baked banana loaf. The cheap burger on the hop was replaced by the cheerful barbecue in the garden. People spoke of finding positives in this new climate of negatives and, for those of us who love to cook, we did not need to search too far for pleasure.
The pandemic has helped us understand the impact of our lifestyles and the food we eat. I think we will now seriously tackle food waste, and we will be closer to our farmers, butchers, fishmongers, cheesemakers and our other food producers. We need to reconnect more with seasonality, and the provenance and authenticity of produce. Sustainability must be the driving force in the years to come, and we will rediscover our skills. We will grow more and import less, which will be good for the farmers and the economy. By digging into the past, we shall find our future. Maybe I am just an old romantic, but I do believe this will happen.
Inspired? Here are four of Raymond’s great, easy recipes to try…
Pan-Fried Pork Chops & Steamed Kale With Apple Sauce
This is a multitask dish. The five-minute apple sauce is fresh-tasting and nutritious. Meanwhile, the pork chops are placed into the hot pan when the butter is foaming and just about to turn brown. That way, the chops will cook – slowly, slowly – to a dark amber colour, and the juices will stick to the pan. These, with the addition of water, will give you the most marvellous jus.
Slow-Roasted Shoulder Of Lamb With Harissa
When I was about 12 years old, I was introduced to the food of Algeria, and by strange means. This was during the Algerian War, and in France there were camps for Algerian refugees. One such camp was close to my village and, with my friend René, I would go and visit these intriguing, kind and friendly people. They fed us well. I remember seeing whole lambs roasted on the spit and, as the meat was turned, it was also painted with the spicy juices. This dish does not require a whole lamb. When it comes to slow cooking lamb, the shoulder is the best cut, meltingly tender and incredibly tasty. When harissa is added, this is a wonderful dish, and the chickpeas will only complement it. A shoulder of lamb varies in weight, becoming heavier as the year progresses. A 2.5kg shoulder, like the one in this recipe, will take about 4½ hours; one weighing 3kg will need 5½ hours. Aim to remove it from the fridge 4–5 hours before cooking to come to room temperature.
Steak Maman Blanc & Steak With Red Wine Jus
Here are two recipes for pan-fried steak, which was a monthly treat in my childhood home. Steak Maman Blanc is named after my mother because she cooked the steak just like this, extracting the flavours of the meat and the herbs, then adding a little water at the end to create the most delectable, perfumed jus. It’s phenomenal! Then there is Steak with Red Wine Jus, which is also quick and, perhaps, for a more special moment. The ideal accompaniment? Sautéed potatoes and bacon.
Steak With Red Wine Jus
Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home by Raymond Blanc is published by Headline Home, £25. Photos: Chris Terry
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