Is it true that we are losing our traditional dishes or is it that surveys on changing food tastes are only done on people who eat 2 minute noodles? And if it is true that we no longer subject ourselves to mutton broth, cow’s liver and tripe, does anyone care? A recent survey in Britain discovered that people under 25 had no idea what spotted dick, brawn and scrag end of neck were. They were repulsed by the idea of offal, haddocks heads and squirrel pie. Does anyone now use blood to thicken a sauce? What is sweetened milk set with rennet called? Increased prosperity and time poverty has caused offal, long cooking cuts and desserts such as steamed puddings to disappear from young people’s kitchens. They take too long to cook and cuts of transient pleasure like chicken breasts and lamb racks are preferable. Mistake!
I personally appreciate hogget and mutton for the complex, satisfying taste. The lamb we eat today is almost unrecognisable from the meat our grandparents and great-grandparents ate. They enjoyed a strong taste, fat running down their chins and acidic mint sauce to pull the epiglottis back into shape. Now we faint at the sight of lamb fat and only eat what is technically actually spring lamb - sweet, mild and pink in the middle. Lamb is killed at around 6 months, hogget at a year and mutton at 2 years.
I am very gratified to tell you that food writers, television cooks and chefs believe in saving old recipes. Why? Because they are part of our history and culture and if you lose your past you lose your identity. Also there is a concern about sustainability, waste and the hidden costs of food transport. French philosopher and gourmet Brilliat-Savarin said ‘the limits to pleasure are as yet neither known nor fixed.’ I predict that hogget will be the next big meat, one already often sees slow roasted cheeks in good restaurants and it’s only a matter of time before they bring back the succulent scrag end of neck. Yum.
The photo below is an example of the rewards to be reaped if you can just be at one with the universe and take your time. It is an organic chicken slow roasted with Pastis, fennel and mandarines. It’s not original – you can find it on Pg 179 of Ottolenghi’s ‘Jerusalem’ cookbook.