Nigel Slater calls Leith’s Meat Bible “the best friend you can have in the kitchen” and whilst that title goes to my husband, I can understand why he endorses the book so enthusiastically – it’s likely to earn itself a permanent home on our bookshelves. Written by Max Clark and Susan Spaull the book is, as you’d expect from it’s name, a hefty and thorough compendium about choosing, storing, preparing, cooking and carving meat.
With over 450 recipes covering beef, veal, lamb, pork, poultry, game and exotic meats (alligator, bison, camel, elk, impala, kangaroo, llama, python, zebra to name just some) it’s comprehensive and the recipes are sourced from all over the world.
The introductory chapters on Understanding Meat (structure, colour, hanging, storage, factors affecting tenderness) and Methods of Cooking Meat are a helpful primer and certainly filled in a few gaps for me. For example, brining tenderises meat because salt causes meat proteins to disarray and soften, allowing them to more readily absorb water moisture. Although much of this water will be lost again on cooking, some of it will be retained.
Each different meat chapter then provides more detailed information (such as history, common breeds, different cuts, preparation and cooking methods and troubleshooting for common cooking problems) before listing many varied recipes.
I bookmarked several recipes as I worked my way through the chapters including beef short ribs braised with cider, steak and mushroom pie, veal escalopes with rosemary, Hungarian veal medallions with aubergine, lamb noisettes with roast butter beans and tomatoes, Lancashire hotpot, mutton pies with herb scone crusts, chorizos, Greek lemon chicken, chicken in creamy garlic sauce, yakitori chicken with ginger and lime dipping sauce, chicken and coriander filo pie, boned stuffed duck, duck confit, balsamic-glazed chicken livers on coriander toasted brioche, mi-cuit foie gras terrine and maybe even llama stew!
Following these meat chapters are a selection of Basic Recipes including stocks and sauces, recipes for pastry and pasta and Accompaniments including ways with potatoes, polenta, rice and classics such as Yorkshire puddings, caramelised shallots and red onion marmalade.
We put one of the recipes to the test, making empanadas. These were lovely, we’ll make them again. We’ll play around with the spice mix and I’m thinking to adapt them by using the pastry recipe with an Indian keema filling for a cross between empanadas and samosas!
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The Leith’s Meat Bible by Max Clark and Susan Spaull is published by Bloomsbury Publishing.