Pull Up A Chair
Wholesome, Simple Fare Around the Berry Family Table
Tanya Berry’s kitchen is not a gourmet kitchen. There’s a simple electric stove, a top-freezer fridge with family pictures magnetized to it, a toaster oven but no microwave. It doesn’t have acres of counter space.
But it has a large round table around which the family, friends and company took and take meals, and the noon meal is substantial. In summer, it might be meatloaf along with cucumber and onion salad, sliced tomatoes, green beans and homemade whole-wheat bread. Menus are informed by the garden and what the neighbors are selling, including eggs, produce and chicken.
Tanya’s cooking is simple, plain and good. It is all from fresh food, what Michael Pollan might call “real food.” Nothing comes from boxes; there’s no Cool Whip or toaster waffles. Everything is from scratch, but nothing is complicated.
The Berrys have raised lamb for years, selling “freezer lamb” to friends and eating it themselves. Freezer lamb (and freezer beef) describes selling the whole animal to one buyer (rather than particular pieces). The lamb is processed, wrapped and flash frozen, and the buyer takes all of it home for his or her own freezer.
A freezer lamb, like freezer beef, sometimes yields pieces that you wouldn’t find in a normal supermarket. There’s lots of ground meat, which Tanya uses in her spaghetti and meatloaf. A leg of lamb requires no recipe, she says: You just stick it in the oven and roast it. So when asked for a recipe for this issue of Edible Louisville, Tanya gave us one for lamb breast. Lamb breast looks just like standard pork spare ribs, with bones on one side and a large layer of meat striated with fat on the other. Like pork ribs, a lamb breast can be fatty, but slow cooking brings it to a delicious tenderness, either on the grill or braised, as in Tanya’s recipe. This recipe also works with lamb shoulder or beef chuck roast.
Other recipes Tanya shared are “those that get eaten up around here.” Daughter Mary Berry will say that her father isn’t too interested in food. But he loves granola in the morning, especially served with heavy cream, and he’s fond of fruit desserts — blackberry cobbler and apple pie.
Lacy Cakes (A Flat Cornbread)
Lacy cakes are a simple and delicious form of cornbread, with no added fat to the batter but enough fat in the skillet to make the bread brown and crisp. Kentucky products Weisenberger cornmeal and JD's Country Milk buttermilk make tender, delicious lacy cakes. Tanya Berry advises adding as much milk as you like to get a flatter or puffier cornbread.
- 1 egg
- 1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1 cup white cornmeal, such as Weisenberger
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Beat the egg with 1 cup buttermilk. Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix. Add more buttermilk if you like a thinner cake. Heat vegetable oil or good-quality lard in a heavy (cast-iron) skillet and scoop batter with a 1/4 cup measure or similar tool.
- Fry like pancakes in vegetable oil or good-quality lard, until brown on both sides, turning only once. Serve with butter, syrup or jam depending on when you're eating them (as a savory, they an be served as dinner bread; as a sweet they can be served as breakfast or dessert). Makes 6 to 8 cakes.
Saucy Lamb Breast (Or Shoulder)
Alternative to the recipe below, Tanya suggests putting carrots and potatoes in the pan to roast with the lamb for an easy meal-in-a-pot.
- 1 lamb breast (or shoulder), about 3 pounds
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups tomato sauce, juice or chopped tomatoes
- 2/3 cup vinegar
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Heat oven to 450°. Cut the lamb in 3-inch (or so) pieces and place in a deep, wide, sturdy roasting pan. Put the lamb in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, to brown the meat.
- Remove pan from oven and reduce heat to 325°. Pour off all the fat from the pan and, if desired, pat the meat with paper towels to absorb excess fat. With the meat in the pan, add remaining ingredients. Cover tightly with foil and roast lamb for 2 hours or so. Meat should be falling-off-the-bone tender. Serve with potatoes, rice or grits and a green vegetable or salad. Serves 6.