The Leith's Meat Bible 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 certainly 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 the 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.
Nigel Slater calls Leith's Meat Bible "the best friend you can have in the kitchen" and whilst that's a title that goes to my husband, I can understand why he endorses the book – it's likely to earn itself a permanent home on our bookshelves.
Leith's Meat Bible - Empanadas
1.5 quantity shortcrust pastry (recipe provided elsewhere in the book) or 500 grams shop bought
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
450 grams minced beef
150 ml water
1 teaspoon Cajun spice
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch ground cayenne
200 grams chopped tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
Note: the teaspoon of paprika is to be added in to the shortcrust pastry recipe. As we used shop bought, we omitted this.
Note: we didn't have a ready-made cajun spice mix so made up our own spice mix for the minced beef filling.
Note: as we grow our own, we used fresh rather than tinned tomatoes.
Note: we didn't bother egg glazing the pastries, nor using egg to seal the edges.
- Make/ buy pastry. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, roll each into a 15 cm round, wrap with cling film and chill.
Note: we didn't bother with the dampened greaseproof paper when cooking the onions.
- Place the remaining oil into the sauté pan and brown the beef over a medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a sieve set over a bowl and allow any excess fat to drain away. Remove any excess fat from the pan.
- Add some of the water to the hot pan and scrape up any sediment. Return the meat to the pan, stir in the spices and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and the remaining water, then stir in the onions and garlic.
- Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook at a low simmer for an hour, or until the meat is tender and the sauce is no longer watery. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.
- Lay the pastry circles on the work surface in a single layer. Brush 1 cm of the edge with the beaten egg.
- Divide the filling between the pastry rounds, then fold to make half-moon shapes. Crimp the edges.
- Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.
- Brush the pastries with the egg glaze. Chill until the pastry is firm.
- Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- Brush the pastries again with the egg glaze, place on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Serve warm.
The empanadas were lovely, we'll definitely be making them again and varying the spice mix to find a nicer Cajun seasoning mix. I also want to try them using an Indian keema filling – a cross between empanadas and samosas!
We had the leftovers cold for lunch the next day, and though they worked really well cold too, so a good lunch or picnic option.
Leith's Meat Bible, published by Bloomsbury, is (currently) available from Amazon for £22.49 (hardback).