Ale Braised Ox Cheek

As you may have deduced, when an animal is slaughtered every part of it is butchered. Though this may appear, on the surface, to be a somewhat obvious and worthless statement, it does highlight potentially important ramifications. Remember, every popular cut of meat (leg of lamb) has a less-loved or even unknown counterpart (ox cheek, lamb neck or breast) – the meat that isn’t used gets wasted or goes under appreciated. This is a travesty on so many levels, not least because less popular cuts are often the most delicious and economical.

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beef, stock, thrifty, marrow, bones, frugal, living, life, cooking, food

Regardless of whether it is freshly made or in cube form, stock is an essential part of many meals, particularly soups, stews, casseroles and broths. Of course, there isn’t always time enough to make one’s own stock, but when one can find a few minutes it is certainly a worthwhile undertaking. It has the power to bring food alive – it’s not difficult to distinguish between freshly made stock and the slightly suspect supermarket hexahedron.

The local butcher will forever be one’s foremost ally in the pursuit of cracking homemade stock. As you might have guessed, a frequent by-product of their line of work is a hefty supply of animal bones. These are virtually worthless in monetary terms – mere superfluities to most meat eaters – but they do make for jolly tasty stock. So, simply pop down to your local butcher and ask for some stock bones (pork, lamb, beef… whatever) and you’ll almost certainly walk away with a clutch of bones, full of delicious marrow ready to add richness to anything it touches. Now, that really is frugal!

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Chinese Crispy Beef with Noodles

This recipe was requested by friend Gemma in order that she could forego the expense of the Chinese takeaway. Naturally, I wanted to provide for this wee Scottish lass, but the idea also tickled my frugal weak-spot since one of my pet hates is perpetual takeaway eating – as Gemma’s request suggests, it isn’t particularly cost effective. Oh and your waistline may well benefit too!

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Curry, loosely termed, is one of those dishes that everyone thinks they can cook incredibly well. However, more often than not it turns out that those who have claimed such a thing are spectacularly mistaken. Indeed, I’ve met very few people who can cook a remarkable curry, which is almost surprising given the many declarations of brilliance. Remember this, preparing a curry by using a shop-bought paste does not count as making a curry. When constructing a curry intended to be truly exquisite, it is impossible to undervalue time, attention and a homemade spice mix. Though one may rest assured that once one has undertaken the feat of making a homemade curry, one shall never intentionally return to the relatively insipid paste which insists on emerging from the dingy recesses of a factory filled glass jar. There’s nothing quite like a harsh lesson in reality, is there?

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I suppose the item on the agenda worth tackling first is the sudden moral rejuvenation of most inhabitants of the world. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is the year for which we have all been waiting, 2012 has finally dawned and one can say, with certainty, that resolutions will not be in short supply. Of course, I am not one to go in for such moral undertakings; it is an accomplished fact, or fait accompli, that 97% of all resolutions will have been thrust harshly into the cold within 72 hours of their formulation. Still, it’s the thought that counts. I suppose all that is left to say is: Happy New Year!

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