Tasty Yum Yum Recipes 1: Ragout a la Dijon


One of the many failings of poncy recipes, out of books and whatnot, is that they often do not give the slightest thought to how the man on the street, or the woman on the Clapham omnibus, can make them for themselves. It is in the interest of making some small reparation, for this shocking state of affairs, that we provide the following recipe in this occasional series.

All quantities are for two; all ingredients other than the bleeding obvious to taste. In the interests of safety and hygiene, we recommend that you take the following precautions before commencing:

1) Always wash your hands before starting and after touching raw meat, and likewise the utensils and relevant surfaces that come into contact with it. You can live dangerously, but food-poisoning looms.

2) Get off the street and the Clapham omnibus, you fools. The proper place for cooking is a kitchen.


Ragout a la Dijon


4 Pigs' Kidneys
Garlic
2 or more large Onions
Largish Closed-cup Mushrooms
Wild Rice/White Rice Mix
Various herbs, condiments and suchlike that we'll mention as we go along, including, of course,
Dijon Mustard
Half a Bottle of Cider

Chuck the kidneys in a saucepan with a couple of bayleaves, mixed herbs, salt and cold water. Heat the pan incredibly slowly, until the water begins to gently bubble and turn over. This gives you time to chop up all the other stuff. Chop the garlic finely rather than crushing, for reasons that'll become obvious. Chop the onions coarsely. Leave the skin on the mushrooms, rinse them and pretty much just split 'em - we're talking good rough peasant food here, however ultimately poncy. Don't forget to rinse the starch and crap out of the rice, or you'll live to regret it. You have been warned.

By now, your gently simmering pan of kidneys should be a nauseating froth of leaked-out fat, blood and vestigial urine. Marvellous. Heave the whole lot down the sink except for the kidneys, which should now be firm, greyish and strangely attractive. Cut the meat of the kidneys off the inedible core in little bite-sized chunks, pretty much the same size as your split mushrooms - you'll recognise the 'inedible core' like a shot, believe you me.

Get out your big cast-iron frying pan or skillet - what do you mean you haven't got one? Okay, use that aluminium thing that looks like it's made out of tinfoil - but whatever you do don't use a wok. We're talking about the entirely other, supposedly unhealthy kind of frying than is done in a wok. Wok fans will have to wait for some other time. Bastards. Start your rice boiling and forget about it. A steamer with a timer's better, and plus you don't have to spend the rest of the evening with the pan scraping off bits of glued-on rice. Why am I wasting my time talking about bloody rice? Everybody knows how to do rice ...

Set your garlic frying until it's crunchy in butter, and olive oil to stop it burning - or just a bit of oil, if your arteries just went clang. Heave in the onions, shallots and bits of kidney, and fry on a moderate to high heat until golden and, well, fried-kidney looking respectively. At this point turn the heat down a little and heave in the mushrooms, turning them to coat them uniformly with the remains of the oil, and then fry them till they're soft and glistening. Yum.

Now comes the fun bit. Turn the heat down a bit more, chuck in the half a bottle of cider. Crumble in a stock cube, mixed herbs, Cajun seasoning and a couple more bayleaves, stir everything through and leave to bubble for a while. Go and read a book or something. I recommend one of mine.

After it's reduced a bit, stir in a couple of teaspoons of Dijon. You can add a bit of cream if you like, but I can never stop the bastard from separating, myself. Reduce it gently until its rich and messy. (Keep tasting the sauce and - if all else fails and it still tastes ghastly - add a half-teaspoon of sugar. Nobody tastes it but it triggers pleasure-receptors and lets 'em at least choke it down.) Fish out the bay leaves, slap it all down on plates on top of the rice and you're done.

Serve it with glasses of the same kind of cider you used in the cooking - and, incidentally, never, ever cook with anything you're not willing to drink. Finish the meal with white ice-cream and calvados - and make damned sure nobody gets so much as a taste of it till they've cleaned their plates.


For the morning after, incidentally: Stick the left-over rice in a covered bowl and leave it in the fridge for kedgeree. The traditional English breakfast is, of course kedgeree, lamb's kidneys and a flagon of small ale, but, bearing in mind what was eaten the night before, if you want to try it then you're on your own.
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