A class act that will never fade away

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Related tags: Beef, Meat, Steak

Richard Fox celebrates that old pub-faithful -

There's something deliciously un-PC about a meat-laden, green-free plate of food. Let's face it, if God had inten-ded us to be vegetarian, he wouldn't have made animals out of meat! Surely, in these days of fad diets and allergy culture, a little fleshy indulgence offers light relief. With this in mind, we should embrace the meat-fest of the mixed grill with open jaws.

Three key areas demand consideration in our pursuit of the perfect mixed grill: variety of ingredients, quality of produce and accuracy of cooking. Not exactly a radical ap-

proach, but as there are no handy sauces or emulsions to smother any shortfalls, mixed-grill chefs run the very real risk of producing a dish resembling the charred remains of yesterday's budget barbecue. Focus on those vital areas to maintain quality, and you've got an irresistible pub classic.

As for variety, we're obviously talking about choice within the meat genre: from soft, delicate offal, through juicy, caramelised-skin sausages to meltingly tender steak - we're looking for texture contrast and flavour definition, not just difference defined by shape. Mushrooms and tomatoes make up the support act and, as with any great event, a disappointing performance can take the edge off the whole show. Tomatoes seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and grilled to al dente texture should add flavour on the fruit front (yes the tomato is a fruit). When it comes to mushrooms, a little poetic license is permissible. My favoured method is to take large, flat mushrooms, dot with butter, slivers of garlic and sprigs of thyme, season well, wrap loosely in foil and oven bake. This method preserves juice and flavour and allows quick and easy re-heating at service time.

Back to the stars of the show - just like the members of a great rock band, each element has a key part to play. But star quality is impossible to ignore: that up-front, all-singing-and-dancing charisma means there can only be one lead singer. The star of the mixed grill is surely the Barnsley lamb chop, which should be bursting with flavour and cut thick enough to remain pink in the middle when char-grilled or grilled over a high heat. Grass-fed, hill-reared British lamb is as good as a meat experience gets, so it's worth investing in your star performer to guarantee plenty of bums on seats.

Maintaining our musical analogy, the sausage can be regarded as the rhythm of the dish, setting the pace for more virtuoso elements. It needs to be substantial, reliable, and with that extra quality that does justice to the other elements. This means a well-seasoned, herb-infused creation from the butcher - grilled on the outside, and finished in the oven to prevent over-charring.

Taking up the bass guitar roll of the rhythm section would be the kidney - always present, fulfilling its role with aplomb, but never threatening to upstage the melody-makers. Just make sure you remove the white sinew, which is not only inedible, but causes the whole thing to curl up on contact with heat. Add a note of light seasoning and avoid over-cooking. A well-cooked kidney should retain the pinkness we associate with the lamb and the steak. Playing lead guitar in our combo is a fine, well-trimmed sliver of tender beef. No need for fillet here - the Barnsley chop is more than a match for the starring role. Just a simple minute steak is sufficient. Ideally, go for sirloin, but bear in mind that because it cooks in just one minute, only the thinnest of cuts is required. Once again, add a little seasoning just before it hits the heat to maximise flavour.

A mixed grill isn't the easiest of dishes to deliver in the middle of a busy service, but as the sausage, tomato and mushroom can all be par-cooked, you just need to deal with the lamb, kidney and steak when the check comes in. Resist the temptation to stick everything under the grill or char-grill simultaneously. Time the meats according to their cut and cooking requirements, and you will quickly build a reputation for delivering the finest meat platter in town.

Old favourites like this don't fade away - just look at the Rolling Stones.

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