It’s the soil, stupid.

@hlovins Hunter Lovins explains how we should start grazing to save the planet…

…no, not us. Not humans. That’d be silly. No, she’s truly excellent on why it’s cattle we should be grazing more of, in her piece entitled “why George Monbiot is wrong: grazing livestock can save the world

Or listen to Rick Haney, a U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientist in this piece called “Dirt First”, flagged up by Dan Barber.

@defendingbeef The Science of Soil Health: Compaction

and by Nicolette Hahn Niman:

Well managed cattle improve soil health by increasing organic matter-soil carbon. This in turn improves the soil’s capacity to hold more H2O

© Nicolette Hahn Niman

Great description of how to raise pigs; in this case some very beautiful Hindsholm hogs from Denmark but this process should apply everywhere around the globe. Slow is good. Fast is bad.

And how to solve the bread over-supply? This piece from Eater is interesting.

Here’s Grant Achatz

“He stood up and greeted her loudly in rapid-fire Italian, waving his arms and kissing her on both cheeks. She bear-hugged him back. The woman appeared to be eighty years old, even though she was probably sixty. She wore a blue dress with small white flowers scattered across it and a white apron loosely tied around her rotund midsection.
A man who I assumed was her husband walked over, plunked down wineglasses and a plate of crostini with chicken liver, bean, and tomato toppings. He filled our glasses with a hefty pour of red wine.
“She usually just cooks, well, whatever!” Tom said. “Today she’s made chicken under a brick, some gnocchi, wilted greens, and fagioli al fiasco. You guys know what that is? Basically a very typical Tuscan way of cooking white beans. She’ll place them in a glass flask over a dying fire until they’re creamy. They’re pretty awesome.”
“Yes they are,” I thought. “Yes they are.”
I peeked around the corner and saw the woman bent over a makeshift grill with glowing embers beneath, pushing a plain old brick on top of our chickens. Four glass flasks filled with beans were positioned around the edges.
We ate and drank for two hours. I didn’t want to leave. Everything was more perfect, more delicious, and more inviting than any of the three-star restaurants we’d been to. Even the service was better.
At the end of the meal the woman brought out a plate of almond cookies and we dunked them in Vin Santo. “Grazie,” everyone said.
I left the restaurant in a daze, and not because of the wine.
I realized immediately that I had just had the best meal of my life.

And finally, if this picture isn’t the very definition of “happiness” then I don’t know what is…


Fried brain sandwiches

Harvesting pigs brains. Not a huge best seller nowadays, I’m led to believe…

© The Butcher & Larder

Ask a friendly butcher to save you some next time they’ve got some heads in stock. And ignore all thoughts of zombie movies. As well as any fears about mad pig disease. Use a reputable source — as always — and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

When you have them home and on the work-top ready, start by giving them a quick rinse in cold water to make sure there are no stray bits of bone hanging around. Next, you need to poach them — lightly simmered for only a few minutes — in a court bouillon (which will also serve to remove any remaining blood) to ensure they’ll firm up but won’t break apart in the cooking and will retain a ‘custard’ like texture. Once done, take them straight out of the pan to cool. Make sure to check for and peel away any membrane you find on the top side, then, using a knife, split them down the middle between the two lobes.

You’ll then need to make up a simple, thin batter:

1 large egg, beaten
250g. flour
3g. baking powder
Salt and black pepper to taste

Gently dredge the brains in the batter, then fry quickly to a golden brown in a hot pan, for no more than 2-3 minutes. Serve in a crisp roll. There’s no need for any added extras but you can throw a squeeze of lemon juice or a sharp pickle into the mix, to cut through the delicious creamy, rich texture.

According to the redoubtable Chris Cosentino, a 150g. tin of Rose’s canned pork brains in milk gravy contains around 3,500 mg of cholesterol which, it turns out, is 1,170% of your daily recommended intake. By way of comparison, that’s also apparently approx. 44 times the amount of cholesterol to be found in a standard Big Mac. So, probably not something that you’ll be wanting to throw down your neck on too regular a basis.

But, “waste not, want not” and “nose to tail”, remember? Go and enjoy!


Make the most of it; there’s no repeat.

Lester caught it perfectly, when writing about Richard Hell:

“We’re all stuck on this often miserable Earth where life is essentially tragic, but there are glints of beauty and bedrock joy that come shining through from time to precious time to remind anybody who cares to see that there is something higher and larger than ourselves. And I am not talking about your putrefying gods, I am talking about a sense of wonder about life itself and the feeling that there is some redemptive factor you must at least search for until you drop dead of natural causes. And all the Richard Hells are chickenshits who trash the precious gift too blithely, and they deserve to be given no credence, but shocked awake in some violent manner. Either that or be spanked and put to bed.”

So, eat, drink and be merry. And love your fellow human.

Missed out on the real pork?

There’s a lot to say about our recent trip Japan and there will be a huge number of posts to follow covering a (small) portion of the mélange of varied delights that we encountered. This first one covers my (initial) disappointment at the fact that the Kagoshima Korobuta pork had already sold out on the menu of the tonkatsu restaurant we’d chosen by the time we came to order. Val will testify to how close I came to being (and looking) stupid and walking out.

In a welcome departure from the (generally very low) standards set by food courts in the US and the UK, department stores (and railway stations) in Japan contain some of the finest (and often most expensive) restaurants around.

Tokyo Station is almost a city within itself — we managed to get totally lost — with a stunning number of shops and restaurants both inside and out the ticket gates. On the B1 level, you have Tokyo Character Street with anime and manga characters; Tokyo Okashi Street, a massive selection of sweets and snacks, and Tokyo Ramen Street, with eight of Tokyo’s top ramen shops. You’ll also find a mind-bending array of ekiben–the special bento boxes that are designed to be unique to each station and are highly recommended when it comes to Shinkansen travel.

There are (count them), 36 alone just in the Takasimaya store in Tokyo’s version of Times Square. We chose Katsukura, a tonkatsu (豚カツ) one, as we’d not eaten that particular dish yet in the 3 weeks we’d been in Japan.

The menu wasn’t complicated.

Obviously, knowing my love of the Berkshire, I chose that — only to be told that they’d sold out. Sensibly not allowing me to throw my toys out of my pram — Val suggested I choose the Kinka version. There’s a separate post to follow on this pork variant. It’s not one I’d heard of before but apparently is pork farmed by Hirata Farm (平田観光農園) of Yamagata Prefecture. I’m researching this now, so more updates to follow

One of the rather fun bits here, was that you were encouraged to grind your own sesame seeds to the consistency you prefer using this lovely wood pestle & pottery mortar.

A bit of a history lesson here:

Deep-frying isn’t a native Japanese food prep method but in an 1872 cookbook called Seiyou Ryouritsu (literally “The Western World Cookbook), there’s a description of a breaded and fried dish called Hohru Katsuretsu (or “Whole Cutlet”). The first recorded appearance on a menu was at Rengatei, a still extant restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza district, around 1899 where it was  called Pohku Katsuretsu (“Pork Cutlet)

The Meiji Restoration — which brought with it the opening of trade with the West along with a new constitution modelled after the German empire legal structures — occurred at this time and it’s suggested that the English name offers the source of this dish but it’s much more likely to have derived from either the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel or the Italian Cotoletta alla Milanese.

The name Tonkatsu didn’t appear until quite a lot later; it’s a portmanteau word composed of ton (“pork” in Japanese) and katsu, an abbreviation of katsuretsu, the Japanese transcription of “cutlet”.

So, anticipatory juices flowing, this was the dish that appeared. A great mound of grated cabbage (over which you poured a delicious sweet sauce) and the tonkatsu pork with an accompanying savoury/spicy sauce. And a bowl of plain rice. And that’s pretty much it. Pour the pork sauce into the sesame seed bowl, mix and dip.

So how did it taste? Superb juicy pork, stuffed with flavour. The crumb, light & crispy. A small beer and some cold sake all that was needed along side it. Thanks Val for making sure I didn’t miss this 🙂