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Sophie's Meat Course

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Sophie Grigson rediscovers meat, showing viewers how to cook the finest cuts in exciting ways, but always with an eye on cost and practicality

About the Show

Sophie Grigson rediscovers meat, showing viewers how to cook the finest cuts in exciting ways, but always with an eye on cost and practicality

Series 1 Summary

From the crispest cracking to tender pink lamb, modish calves liver to traditional steak and kidney, Chinatown chicken to the best of British roast rib of beef, Sophie Grigson does for meat what Eat Your Greens, her earlier Channel 4 series, did for vegetables.

Sophie is both pupil and master, learning about the origins of meat from farmers and gamekeepers for whom belief in quality and flavour is a deeply held principle. Butcher Graham Portwine instructs her in choosing and preparing meat, then Sophie demonstrates recipes specially chosen to reflect her newly-acquired skills.

Techniques are a key element to Sophie's Meat Course. Lost kitchen skills - trussing roasts, boning chicken, carving lamb, knife care, and choosing the best cut for a particular dish - are all taught with precision and flair.

  • Episode 1

    Sophie looks at techniques for preparing pork, including boning, rolling and frying. She will be choosing the best cuts - identifying the loin and selecting pork which makes good crackling. Stuffed loin of pork with spiced apple sauce, pate de campagne and American sweet-and-sour ribs are all on the menu.

    Contributing their porcine expertise are Iain Whitney, a pig farmer and barrister who raises rare cross breed pigs, and Maynard Davies, one of the last traditional bacon curers. He offers 29 speciality bacons from many different regions of Britain.

  • Episode 2

    Sophie looks at poultry - and she is not even planning to roast any of it... With the shops full of washed-out, flavourless birds and mass-produced, corn-fed birds with plenty of colour but no taste, Graham offers a guide to choosing a good chicken. The best are dry, free-range varieties that have had a varied diet and room to roam.

    Sophie investigates a farm specialising in rare breeds such as the Light Sussex, which is perfect for the table. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is a charity that helps and encourages farmers to maintain rare breeds and offers a list of approved butchers.

    Duck is often seen as a difficult bird, but Sophie thinks it is undervalued. A winning duck should be fleshy and dry with good fat covering. Usually they come clammy and wrapped in plastic, but it is crucial to let the bird 'breathe'. For further inspiration she meets Chinese chef Barry Yu who reveals the secrets of preparing crispy Peking duck, a perfect dish for the cold Chinese winters.

  • Episode 3

    Time to tackle the squeamish subject of offal. Sophie insists that much, if not all, of the curious cuts are delicious. There's a huge variety of flavours, from the soft and tender lambs kidney to the impossibly tough ox heart.

    Graham introduces some of the more stomach-churning offal options, including sweetbreads, the thymus and pancreas, and testicles, which Sophie reckons are really nice sliced and fried, but not so popular with the men.

    Sophie goes to Scotland to meet Willie Matheson, a travelling butcher who seels a fine haggis. He shows Sophie how haggis is made - by mixing liver, heart and lung with pinhead meal and oatmeal, onions, salt and pepper. The minced mixture is them pushed in ox intestine. Once cooked, it tastes delicious.

    Liver is a more difficult cut. The expensive calf's liver comes from veal calves, and it is very difficult to find liver from humanely reared animals. There are alternatives, but Sophie does not rate all of them. Ox liver she describes as 'rank', but she approves of lamb's liver, which is succulent, tender and less expensive.

    Black pudding can only truly be investigated in Lancashire. Black pudding expert Jack Morris takes Sophie to a pudding competition where hundreds of varieties are sampled and hundreds of category prizes are awarded. Sophie cooks it French style with fried apple slices and mashed potato.

  • Episode 4

    British lamb is highly rated all over the world, and has the advantage of being one of our purest native meats. Although available all the year round, lamb is at its absolute best in the spring. In this episode, Sophie and Graham demonstrate how to select, prepare and cook perfect lamb.

    One of the reasons that most of our lamb tastes so good is that it is raised freely in open fields and pastures. As Sophie discovers when she visits Welsh hill farmer Mick Reynolds, it's not unusual to find sheep being raised in much the same way as they have been for centuries, with large flocks tended by one shepherd and his dogs.

    Mutton used to be widely eaten in this country but now has a poor image, probably still due to the tough and stringy meat that many had to consume during the war years. Sophie meets organic meat producer Bob Kennard and gets to try his traditional recipe for a mutton joint covered in pepper, oatmeal and herbs, and roasted slowly to produce a delicious, tender dish. Perhaps the time has come for a mutton renaissance?

  • Episode 5

    The most important thing about beef, is that it is well hung - for two weeks, according to Graham. The meat should be dark in colour with a creamy covering of fat.

    Sophie goes to Somerset in search of the best beef - from traditional British breeds such as Aberdeen Angus, fed on the finest grass.

    Salt beef is a Jewish tradition, so Sophie goes to Golders Green in London to sample it. David Gilbert is a kosher butcher. He prepares the beef using traditional methods - salting, washing and deveining. The tradition is linked to the preservation of the meat.

    Brisket is used because of its unique flavour and texture. Here, it is tenderised, spiced and cooked by David, and enjoyed by Sophie.

    Fillet beef is wonderfully tender but can sometimes lack flavour. Sophie spices it up with a sweet-and-sour Thai flavour made with fish sauce and chilli. At the cheaper end of the cow, the shin is perfect for slow cooking in stews and casseroles.

  • Sophie's Meat Course

    Episode 6

    Game is a romantic meat, associated with frosty winters, open countryside and hunting. Good game is best obtained from specialist game dealers. Graham recommends wild duck, which has a strong, dark flavour, or the relatively rare and expensive woodcock. For a less exotic treat, pheasant has become very inexpensive.

    Arthur Duffus shows Sophie around the Scottish highlands estate where he looks after some beautiful pheasants. He emphasises the importance of hanging the birds properly so they can dry out. If they were piled up, they would rot.

    Graham describes wild rabbit as small, dark and rank. Farmed rabbit is tender and delicate, lean and as adaptable as chicken. Sophie prepares it using a recipe she has used ever since she found it a children's magazine. The rabbit is roasted with a coating of mustard and oil to flavour and moisten.

    Sheila Charrington raises venison . The meat has enjoyed a recent rise in popularity - it is healthy, lean and full of flavour. Most of her deer are the offspring of one stag, Dunstan, and Sheila has a wonderful collection of his antlers. He has 40 deer to impregnate, so it is not surprising that he loses weight during the rutting season. Sophie puts the tender venison meat to good use, creating pan-fried steaks with a port, orange and dried sour cherry sauce.

Sophie's Meat Course synopsis

Sophie Grigson rediscovers meat, showing viewers how to cook the finest cuts in exciting ways, but always with an eye on cost and practicality

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