Tuesday, 22 March 2011

What a grind

One of the reasons that I was so thrilled with my kMix back in December was the knowledge that it can be accessorised. Now we're not talking a Chanel clutch here – but the meat grinder might just be the culinary equivalent.

It arrived from Kenwood on Sunday, just as the final remains of the previous weekend's roast lamb shoulder were sitting in the fridge and wondering what would become of them.

The answer was obvious – a shepherd's pie. But not just any old shepherd's pie – the first I've made with left-over meat, as it would traditionally have been made.

In the event, I picked up a small amount of lean lamb from Waitrose, knowing that there wasn't quite enough for two of us at home. As I waited at the butcher's counter, I was amused to notice the mincer there, with a vast notice on it informing everyone that you could only use it if you'd been trained.

It required no training to get my home front one up, running and extruding meat. The grey meat and white fat that was left on the plate came together as delicate pink strings. The raw meat produced red ones.

An adjustment was needed to the cooking. The raw meat went into some lard with a diced onion and carrot and was cooked for 10 minutes, before the left-over meat was added and the cooking continued for a further 10 minutes.

A slug of left-over red wine and a little chicken stock joined these ingredients, together with some peas that had briefly been cooked in boiling water from frozen and then well drained (it makes no sense to add something frozen to a cooking dish – it'll reduce the temperature and add water), then everything was decanted into a buttered dish.

Potatoes were boiled and then mashed with cream and butter before being spread on top. It all went into the oven (pre-heated to 170˚C – for a fan oven) for 25 minutes.

And bloody good it was too – not perfect: I'd not added quite enough moisture, while the left-over mince had rather collapsed from those strings as soon as it hit the hot pan – an indication of how much fat was in them, I think. I'd probably also use an attachment on the grinder that leaves it in thicker strings next time. But the taste was good –and with a depth of flavour that was definitely different to that produced when making the dish with raw mince alone.

While I'd wanted this very grown-up gadget (thankfully, very easy to strip down, clean and put back together again) primarily for its mincing prowess, it does have another rather attractive ability – that of making sausages.

Chatting on the phone to my mother on Sunday evening, I mentioned this. She almost giggled and then asked, in something sounding remarkably like disbelief: "You're not going to try making your own sausages, are you?"

Of course I am. It won't be particularly difficult to find skins and basic recipes are easy to get hold of. What will be interesting will be the chance to experiment with flavours – and I'm also looking to make tomato sausages, like the ones I remember having when we visited my maternal grandmother and hadn't tasted for years until visiting a Glasgow butcher in January.

Not that I'm only interested in 'bangers': there's a whole world of charcuterie out there that I fancy getting a little better acquainted with. Beyond that, I've been tempted by the idea of curing for some time, and last night's edition of Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets gave that ambition another boost with a duck ham that almost looked too easy to be true.

A big, meaty adventure awaits.

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