Lamb and Beef, Pork and Veal

The best way to cook meats well at home is to cultivate a good butcher. And the best way to cultivate a good butcher is to open an account.

Accounts are strange social instruments. They guarantee a happy repartee until one party lets down the other. So, you will get to know your butcher, and he will get to know you – probably too well. But that risk is worth taking if you are sure to get the quality, the cuts and the special favours that good butchers are able to provide.

I used to treat butchers like barbers and taxi drivers until I had a desperate need to start an account – the desperate need being that there was no ready money to handle the bill on a daily basis. Opening an account meant a lot of smiles, a good banter, urgent phone calls, deliveries and a dirty, crumbled cheque at the end of the week – and everybody was happy.

If your butcher refuses the idea of an account, don’t take it to heart, just take your business elsewhere. The truth is, any butcher who is worth his saltpetre will welcome a customer asking strange questions. Butchers really do get bored with whizzing saws and pulsating mincers and barbecue chops and scoops of nondescript mince; they yearn to be recognised as creative giants, to treat piggies’ ears in the style of Vincent Van Gogh.

If it all works out, you will come away with a few good jokes a week, a little in-house gossip, and most of your preparation will have been done before you get home. Good cooking depends on quality preparation. And with meat, and fish of course, the butcher can fillet and tie and slice and fiddle in his sleep. Put him to the task.

What you’ll need


A heavy-based metal pan which can go into the oven. Most meats are best started on top of the stove, and finished in the oven. This browning process was once considered necessary to ’seal’ the meat, but research has shown that to be so much bosh. You try it and see. Brown a piece of meat all over, then leave it on a plain white plate. Check after half an hour. Look at all the juice sitting in the plate.

The advantages of browning in the pan are two-fold:

(i) The browned crust has a flavour all its own. Remember the well-cooked lamb of the old days?

Remember how dry the middle was? But, remember how delicious the almost burnt crust was?

(ii) If you get the pan hot, and the meat hot, it takes much less time to cook in the oven.


A large stock pot, with a heavy base, sitting on a large, dedicated, flat-topped cooking range. Aaah, I’m dreaming. A large pot, a very expensive flat-top cooker, and a stock bubbling away day and night. Imagine the aromas, imagine the soups and sauces at call. I’m still dreaming. One day I’ll have this; one day.


Sharp knives are always important in the kitchen, but less so for preparation when you’re dealing with meat. Remember, the butcher does all that. You will need a sharp knife for carving.


A crackerjack pepper mill. This is more fundamental to my eating than just about anything, except perhaps flash olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano. You must have freshly ground pepper, or no pepper at all, and there is nothing more frustrating than a poorly made mill. Invest heavily in one which works all the time.


A good friend from the Orient, and another from the sub-continent. Meats and spices and long, slow-cooked dishes are enough reason to take a sabbatical in Bangkok, or Bombay, or Singapore. To succeed in this form of cooking, you need a good look at a good cook at work. You need to see and hear, feel, taste and smell the spices sizzling, the stock bubbling, the meat falling from itself and sliding about your tongue before its last hurrah.

The recipes

Rack of beef, roasted 124

The perfect steak, very rare; a parable for meat lovers 125

Beef Wellington for reformed romantics 127

Chong’s Beef Rendang 129

Beef vindaloo from Chishti’s 131

Best burgers 132

Lamb steaks in a simple sauce 133

The loin of lamb, touched with garlic, roasted, and served

pink in a reduced port and lamb stock sauce 135

Lamb fillets 137

Roast lamb with garlic and mashed potatoes 137

Lamb shanks 138

James Mavros ‘lamb’s neck 140

Stuffed pork neck, the lazy way 141

Pork spare ribs; gnawing at the bone 142

Micky’s marvellous marinated pork 143

Veal and pork sausages 145

Veal shanks, or osso buco in the Orient 147

Roast veal for picky feeders 148

Veal chops 149

Something like veal cordon bleu, whatever that is 150

Ham hash 151