Delicious Cheap Cuts


Will this chilly weather ever end? Anyhow let’s cheer ourselves up with a big pot of bubbling stew. These recipes certainly won’t break the bank and will provide a wonderful meal for family and friends. The trick is to seek out your local family butcher and start to ask questions. Get to know the joints of meat so you can buy wisely and chose the recommended cuts of meat for a particular dish. The good news is that the cheapest cuts are best for stewing and slow cooking and you will need lots of bone for flavour. A nice chunk of neck of lamb or scrag end make a delicious lamb stew. Bulk it out with lots of carrots, onions or maybe a parsnip. You could cover the entire pot with peeled whole potatoes and you will have the whole meal in one pot.

Lamb shanks are lovely and meaty and also a good buy. They take ages to cook to melting tenderness but when the meat is virtually falling off the bones everyone will be licking their lips. Serve them with fluffy mashed potatoes or if you prefer just beans or lentils.

How come so few people over here know about beef short ribs? These are 4 inch strips cut diagonally across the lower ribs. I first came across short ribs in Tom Colliccio’s Craft restaurant in New York on a cold winter’s day, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. However a lovely American friend Mary Jo Wendel gave me her recipe which has become a firm favourite. I’m also mad about a family dish we called Scalloped potato which also contains beef kidney and a tiny bit of flank of beef. Another truly economical dish and the most comforting thing to eat on a dreary winter day.


Mary Jo’s American Braised Short Ribs

From Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

Beef short ribs are about 8–10cm (3–4in) strips of a cross section of rib bones and the meat that links them together. This is more of an American butcher’s cut, but now that we’ve discovered short ribs over here, we can’t get enough of them. This cut cooks out to melting tenderness when slow-cooked, which is why we’ve chosen braising as the method of cooking and the high percentage of bone adds lots of extra flavour. If at all possible, make this the day before it’s needed – the flavour will be even better and it’ll be much easier to remove every scrap of fat when it has solidified on top.

Serves 6

6 crosscut beef short ribs, trimmed


225g (8oz) streaky bacon (in a single piece if possible)

1 tablespoon olive oil or duck fat

225g (8oz) carrots, diced

175g (6oz) celery, diced

8 garlic cloves, cut in half

1 chilli, sliced

1 red pepper, diced

1 yellow pepper, diced

3 large onions, 1 sliced – the other 2 chopped

1 tablespoon tomato purée

225ml (8fl oz) red wine

1 sprig of rosemary

2 bay leaves

small fistful thyme branches

1 cinnamon stick

3 spirals of orange zest

Beef Stock or chicken stock to come halfway up the pot

Roux (see below), optional

If possible, trim and sprinkle the beef with salt the night before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/ 300°F/gas mark 2. Remove the rind and dice the bacon. Save the rind to cook with the beef as it adds gelatine which gives the sauce extra body. Heat a little oil in a wide sauté pan and brown the diced bacon. Remove it to a plate.

Brown the beef in batches (do not overcrowd the sauté pan). Leave 2 tablespoons of fat in pan and use it to sweat the onions, carrots and celery, stirring to dissolve all the browned bits in the sauté pan. Add the garlic, chilli and peppers and sweat for 5–6 minutes or until limp.

Place the beef, bacon and vegetables in a casserole or heavy braising pot, preferably enameled cast iron.

Add the tomato purée to the hot sauté pan and cook briefly. Add the wine and bring to boil. Pour the over the beef and add the herbs, cinnamon stick and orange zest. Add enough stock to come halfway up the pot. Cover with a butter wrapper and tight-fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Braise in the oven until tender, 3–41⁄2 hours – the meat should be tender and almost falling off the bones.

Remove bay leaves, stalks and stems of the other herbs and the orange peel and cinnamon stick. Leave to cool overnight. Next day, skim off the solidified fat and discard. Bring the pot back to the boil, add more stock if needed and thicken with a little roux if desired. Taste and correct the seasoning.



Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred to thicken up a sauce.

110g (4oz) butter

110g (4oz) plain flour

Melt the butter in a pan and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. It will keep for a fortnight in a refrigerator.



Remove most of the fat from each shank and then scrape the meat away from the bone to loosen it. Make two deep incisions in each joint and insert a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of garlic wrapped in half an anchovy fillet into each incision. Season the meat with salt and black pepper.

Heat the duck fat or olive oil in a heavy sauté pan or casserole and sauté the lamb until it is well browned on all sides. Remove the lamb shanks from the pan.

Next add the bacon and cook until crisp, then add the carrots, celery, leek, onion and garlic and cook over a high heat until slightly browned. Add the red wine to the pan and bring to the boil, stirring for a minute or two. Add the stock, herbs and orange peel to the pan, then place the lamb shanks on top. Cover and cook in the oven for 21⁄4 hours.

Remove from the oven and add the tomato fondue, cannellini beans, herbs and enough stock to half-cover the beans. Cover and simmer for a further 3⁄4 –1 hour.

When the lamb has finished cooking it should be falling off the bone. Remove the thyme, bay leaves and orange peel. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Serve the lamb shanks in a hot, deep dish with the beans and vegetables poured over and around. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.






Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic, Rosemary and Cannellini Beans

From Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

This is where the magic of slow cooking transforms something that, cooked on a high heat, would be very tough, into something soft and tender.

Serves 4

4 lamb shanks, about 1kg (21⁄4 lb)

8 small sprigs of rosemary

8 garlic slivers

4 anchovy fillets, halved

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Braising

30g (1oz) duck fat or olive oil

225g (8oz) streaky bacon

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

1 leek, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 garlic head, halved horizontally

225ml (8fl oz) bottle good red wine

300ml (1⁄2 pint) lamb stock or chicken stock

sprig of thyme

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 bay leaves

2 strips of dried orange peel


1 x Tomato Fondue

1 x 400g (14oz) tin cannellini beans, drained or 200g (7oz) dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and then boiled rapidly for 30 minutes

600ml (1 pint) homemade chicken stock or lamb stock

2 sprigs of thyme

leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped

sprigs of rosemary, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/gas mark 2.


Scalloped Potato with Steak and Kidney

From Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen


This is an economical and enormously comforting dish. We used to ask my mother to make it when we came home from college on winter weekends. You can do lots of variations on the theme; streaky bacon is particularly good and shoulder of lamb would also be delicious.

Serves 4–6

1 beef kidney, about 450g (1lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper

450g (1lb) well-hung stewing beef (I use round, flank or even lean shin)

1.3kg (3lb) ‘old’ potatoes – Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks, thickly sliced

350g (12oz) onions, chopped

50g (2oz) butter, or more

370ml (13fl oz) beef stock or hot water


freshly chopped parsley

large, oval casserole, 2.3 litre (4 pint) capacity

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/ gas mark 2.

Remove the skin and white core from the kidney and discard. Cut the flesh of the kidneys into 1cm (1⁄2 in) cubes; put them into a bowl, cover with cold water and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt. Cut the beef into 5mm (1⁄4 in) cubes. Put a layer of potato slices at the base of the casserole. Drain the kidney cubes and mix them with the beef slices, then scatter some of the meat and chopped onions over the layer of potato.

Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, dot with butter, add another layer of potato, more meat, onions and seasoning and continue right up to the top of the casserole. Finish with an overlapping layer of potato. Pour in the hot stock or water. Bring to the boil, cover and transfer to the oven, and cook for 2–21⁄2 hours or until the meat and potatoes are cooked. Remove the lid of the saucepan about 15 minutes from end of the cooking time to brown the top slightly.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve in deep plates with lots of butter.


From Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen


A simple way to turn a very cheap piece of meat into something delicious.

Makes 12–16

900g (2lb) lap of lamb or trimmings from the streaky end of a rack of lamb

plain flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper

beaten organic egg

fresh white breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/ gas mark 4.

Cut the lamb into pieces about 7.5cm (3 inch) wide and 10cm (4 inch) long (size isn’t crucial here, but they shrink as they cook so don’t cut them too small). Dip each piece in well-seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and finally into breadcrumbs. Transfer to a roasting tin and cook in a single layer for 30–45 minutes, depending on size. They should be crisp and golden. Turn once or twice during cooking so they crisp up evenly on each side.

Serve with sauce paloise (like a béarnaise, but made with mint), onion sauce, mint and apple, or redcurrant jelly.

Mashed Potato


Cooking the potatoes in their jackets keeps in the flavours. They are also easier and less wasteful to peel.


Serves 4


2 lbs (900g) unpeeled potatoes, preferably Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

1/2 pint (300ml) creamy milk

1-2 ozs (25-50g) butter


Scrub the potatoes well. Put them into a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for ‘old’ potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put on to a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked. Peel immediately by just pulling off the skins, so you have as little waste as possible, mash while hot.


While the potatoes are being peeled, bring about 1/2 pint (300ml) of milk to the boil. (Use a two pronged carving fork so they don’t break and gently pull off the skin so there is minimum waste – we feed the skins to the hens). Add enough boiling creamy milk to mix to a soft light consistency suitable for piping, and then beat in the butter, the amount depending on how rich you like your potatoes. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.


Beef Stock


Makes about 3.5 litres (6 pints)


2.7kg (6 lb) beef bones or more if you have them, preferably with some scraps of meat on them, cut into small pieces

2 large onions, quartered

2 large carrots, quartered

2 celery stalks, cut into chunks

10 peppercorns

2 cloves

4 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 teaspoon concentrated tomato purée

large bouquet garni, including parsley stalks, bay leaf, sprigs of thyme and a sprig of tarragon


Preheat the oven to 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8.


Put the bones into a roasting tin and roast them for 30 minutes, until nicely browned. Add the onions, carrots and celery and return to the oven until the vegetables are coloured at the edges. Transfer the bones and vegetables to the stockpot with a metal spoon. Add the peppercorns, cloves, garlic, tomato purée and bouquet garni.


Degrease the roasting pan and deglaze with about 300ml (1⁄2 pint) of water. Bring to the boil and then pour over the bones and vegetables in the stockpot. Add enough additional water to cover the bones, about 4.6 litres (8 pints). Bring slowly to the boil. Skim the stock and simmer gently for 5 – 6 hours, topping up with water if necessary. Strain the stock, leave it to cool and skim off all the fat before use.


Fool Proof Food

Rustic Roast Potatoes


Serves 4-6


So quick and easy. Just scrub the spuds well. Don’t bother to peel.


6 large ‘old’ potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks

Olive oil or beef dripping (unless for Vegetarians)-duck or goose fat are also delicious

Sea salt


Preheat the oven to 230



F/regulo 8. Scrub the potatoes well, cut into quarters lengthways or cut into thick rounds 3/4 inch (2cm) approx. Put into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and toss so they are barely coated with olive oil. Roast in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes depending on size. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve in a hot terracotta dish.




Meet two of France’s leading winemakers – Pascal Verhaege of Château du Cèdre, Cahors and Luc de Conti of Château Tour des Gendres, Bergerac at the Wines of Southwest France Dinner. Taste their critically acclaimed wines, matched with a menu inspired by the hearty, regional cooking of the French southwest. On Tuesday 16th March 2010 at 8 pm at the Exchequer Room Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2, tickets are available at €65 per person. To book phone David Gallagher 01 4721012 –

The Gracey family have been farming on Forthill Farm in Tandragee, Co Armagh since the 1700s. Kenny and Jennifer Gracey opened their farm shop towards the end of 2008. They sell their own meat from their Belted Galloway and Longhorn Cattle that produces beautiful marbled tender beef that is hung on the bone for a minimum of 21 days. Their pork sausages are delicious made with 80 percent meat from their prize winning herd of Saddleback and Gloucestshire Old Spot Pigs. Telephone 0044 (0) 28 38840818, email

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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