The Entire Beast by Chris Badenoch

From ear and beer to ale and tail

By Robyn Lewis
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The Entire Beast by Chris Badenoch

The Entire Beast by Chris Badenoch

 

The days are getting shorter in Australia now, and that’s just how Chris Badenoch likes it.

The third-place getter in the first round of Australian MasterChef 2009 – portrayed as the bad boy, with tatts, hat, dark looks and past – Badenoch confesses to a very un-Australian thing: he hates summer.

You can almost see him tossing a plate of salad on the floor in disgust. Prawns and fish? Bah! Give this man meat. And beer. But not as your average Aussie bloke might consume them, a barbecued steak washed down with copious lager. They’re for wusses, too. Bring on the whole animal. Crank up a spit roast. Badenoch seems to have stepped straight out of a mediaeval castle’s kitchen.

Quite why then he or his publishers chose to launch his book The Entire Beast - From ear and beer to ale and tail just prior to the start of summer, I will never know. For the book is all about fare that finds its home in dark pubs with roaring fires, or cooked during long weekends of mizzling rain spent indoors, washed down with ales and fortifying stouts.

As the summer of 2011 turned out, it was dark for other reasons, and many a cookbook launched in the wave of pre-Christmas optimism vanished beneath the appalling waves of flood, earthquake and tsunami that followed. But perhaps with the arrival of cooler weather we can now be slightly more hopeful for a respite from natural disasters, and turn our thoughts to cooking and nurturing ourselves with some good comfort food.

So I pick up The Entire Beast again. There he is, glowering on the front cover (dark, of course), with a roasted pig’s head on a pewter platter, an antique carving knife and a glass of dark ale to match the aesthetic, if not the dish (inside, he recommends a German wheat beer or American pale ale).

The rear cover sports the pig’s roasted tail, à la Fergus Henderson, Britain’s 21st century ‘nose to tail’ chef. What lies between the two?

Vegetarians, turn away now. This is also the clear message at the door of Josie Bones, the restaurant cum beer bar that Badenoch has opened in Melbourne’s Collingwood, with fellow MasterChef partner Julia Jenkins, chef Robert Taylor and beer manager (there being no equivalent beer word for sommelier) James Greenfield. The door handles are pig’s trotters cast in metal.

One restaurant reviewer has written that “Josie Bones is not just beer and food matching. It is a beer and food pairing journey…. The Josie Bones beer mission is to take customers beyond the basic ‘compliment, contrast or cut’ nature of beer and food matching, and provide a unique dining experience, which is served best through a degustation approach”.

The same could almost be said of The Entire Beast. It’s certainly a journey, although in the absence of your own chef at home, it’s not about degustation. The recipes are mostly mains, although cooked in quantity (and with the help of a meat-loving assistant) they could form part of a large communal meal featuring several creations from different cuts or animals. A carnivorous feast, indeed.

I love meat, and living on a farm, know quite well where it comes from, and the reality of how it gets from paddock to plate. Our animals (the delicious old English breed of Southdown sheep) lead happy lives, followed by quick, humane deaths – we have butchered plenty ourselves, although I prefer to leave the slaughter to someone else (but yes, I’ve done it once).

I also love cooking it, although we don’t keep, buy or cook pork – they are too intelligent for me to eat, and the conditions in which many of them are kept I find offensive and inhumane. To cover the piggy bits of The Entire Beast, I’ll quote the publisher’s media release:

‘Chris combines his passion for meat with his love of beer to bring us a collection of recipes like no other. He reintroduces time-honoured nose-to-tail techniques for staples such as terrines, sausages and pies.

He raises the culinary bar with stunningly original recipes for trotters, cheeks, ears and, of course, offal.’  Certainly, some of the pork dishes look delicious, and I support the no-waste approach 100%.

So, porcine covers and chapter aside, I’m hoping that The Entire Beast is right up my alley. And I’m not disappointed.

The publishers again: ‘He comforts the uninitiated with great recipes for familiar dishes – his tasty roast duck and rich osso bucco are standouts.’ Certainly Chris’s beef recipes are good home fare, and ones that you can easily manage in an ordinary kitchen.

There are recipes for ribs, cheek and – moving into more adventurous territory – three for marrow, including a tea-smoked marrow reminiscent of George Calombaris’ dish in 2008 The Press Club cookbook: bone marrow smoked with hickory chips, rice and spices.  I might deprive our dogs one day and try it.

Thus to offal, which our forebears consumed with relish but we frequently eschew. In the cow section, nothing too confronting – oxtail, tongue, and steak and kidney pie – items that can be found in a supermarket, not even requiring a specialty butcher.

The sheep section is only a little more adventurous: relatively basic recipes for brains, neck, kidneys and liver, but no face, tongue or the eyeballs that Jamie Oliver devoured on international TV. The paucity of sheep’s liver (‘lamb’s fry’) recipes is a shame as it’s cheap, nutritious and can go far beyond cooking with onions, lending itself to marinating, barbecuing and a range of spices.

However there is heart, again more usually consumed as pet food, including a recipe for heart tartare which I have to admit I won’t be trying any time soon (even though I enjoy other raw meat).

Then there’s roast leg, stuffed rack of lamb and beer-braised lamb ribs, one of several that include beer as an ingredient. Safe home fare, nothing really radical, which is of course perfectly fine for the majority of cooks. The waste not, want not philosophy still prevails, though many are not the ‘cheaper cuts’ promised in the media release.

Moving into the poultry section, there’s chicken, quail – including the couscous-stuffed quail that got Badenoch into MasterChef Australia – pigeon, and duck three ways, including roasted in Flanders red beer, which are all simple enough to tempt those who only eat duck when dining out to finally attempt it at home.

Almost every recipe has beer-matching notes (the exceptions being breakfast, and lamb’s liver, for which he recommends red wine), and helpfully, not for labels but styles, such as: pilsener, pale ale, American or Indian (and an excellent beer glossary for those who don’t know the difference). Badenoch’s beer knowledge is far superior to mine, and I assume that these matches have been well and truly tested. Perhaps a degustation at Josie Bones might resolve any debate.

There’s a small section on ‘miscellanous animals’: kangaroo (fillets), rabbit (in pies with leek), stuffed leg of goat and venison carpaccio. Even snails get a look in here although for the canned not wild variety. In keeping with current fashion there’s more on charcuterie and salumi; cured meats, for those with copious spare time. Yes, there’s the pig’s head again, deboned, marinated, rolled and cooked sous vide (poached at low temperature).

One food reviewer warned me: “Of course Badenoch is not a chef, you’ll see that in his recipes” – however, he does not claim to be, describing himself a ‘fanatical home cook’. No doubt he’s less of an amateur now than he once was, with restaurant Josie Bones about to clock up six months’ operation with head chef Robert Taylor in partnership with Badenoch and Julia Jenkins (also of MasterChef Australia 1).

Interestingly, the current menu I downloaded includes several good-looking salads, veggies and even a fish dish or two; it’s not all red meat and slow cooking at Josie Bones. I’m told that the beer prices are steep, but I doubt the markups are any more than are applied to wine in most restaurants; it isn’t a pub, after all. Foodie friends of reliable judgment have been and loved it.

Few cultures nowadays make sweets with meat (yes, I know, the Chinese have some…) so the dessert section of The Entire Beast focuses on beer. It includes Badenoch’s signature Beeramisu, made with chocolate stout, the name given by some breweries to stouts that exhibit chocolate flavours (there is also a double chocolate one made by Young’s, who adds dark chocolate when brewing).

To me, some of these look more inventive than the meat recipes, including porter panna cotta and a stout fudge cake served with a crystal malt ice cream. Finally, something to serve my husband’s friends with their so-called ‘cleansing ales’ at the end of a meal.

I also recommend The Entire Beast to men who are venturing into the kitchen for the first time, or are expanding their culinary repertoire; the book certainly has a masculine feel about it.

The superbly moody photographs by Adrian Lander take it to another level however, perhaps worthy of the dark depths of the recently opened MONA gallery in Tasmania, alongside Sydney Nolan’s Snake and an untitled eight metre wall of hanging beast carcasses by Jannis Kounellis. Lander’s photos have been described as ‘Jean-Pierre Journet (a French psychoanalyst) meets Caravaggio’. (I still don’t get the melon shot, though).

The Entire Beast is not the how-to manual of nose-to-tail cooking provided by Fergus Henderson, but if you are foraying into the wintry world of matching beer and hearty comfort – not cheffy – food, it’s worth it. As our days grow shorter, I’ll certainly be trying some of Badenoch’s recipes at home. Stout, anyone?

 

The Entire Beast – From ear and beer to ale and tail by Chris Badenoch is published by Lantern (an imprint of Penguin Books, Victoria. 2010; sc 216 pp) and retails in Australia for RRP A$39.95.

 

VisitVineyards.com and Winepros Archive subscribers and Members can purchase The Entire Beast – From ear and beer to ale and tail at 12.5% discount off RRP (postage extra) from our book partners Seekbooks.

  

The Entire Beast – From ear and beer to ale and tail is also available from booko.com.au

 

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April 26th, 2011
 
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