Universal Business Directory of 1794 has this description of the Covered Market of Oxford:
The old shambles in Butcher Row [Queen Street] are likewise taken away, and a new general market, upon an extensive scale, is erected between the High-street and Jesus College Lane; which market is universally allowed to exceed every thing of the kind in this kingdom. At the south entrance from the High-street it contains forty commodious shops for butchers. North of these are eight others equally commodious, occupied by gardeners, &c. between which are two spacious colonnades for poultry, eggs, bacon, cheese, &c. &c. divided into forty stalls; and beyond these, extending quite to Jesus College Lane, is a large area for country gardeners, fruit, and divers other commodities.
I love the Covered Market. I walk there in 10 minutes, buy a paper at discount price, pick up a pound (they still understand the weight) of shallots, a shaggy head of purple and green oakleaf lettuce, some wonderful French cheese (when I am not dieting) from Jessica the self-styled Queen of Cheeses and a bag of chicken carcasses for soup from Fellers. I will only buy my chicken, game, liver or chops (when I’m not a vegetarian, which happens occasionally in cold winters) from Feller and Daughter, Organic Butchers.
This morning Mitzi (Michelle) Feller finally gave me half an hour in her cubbyhole above the shop (I had tried to speak to her on at least three separate occasions but she was tearing out her hair over a messed up order each time). She hated it when her mother insisted on “Daughter” being added to the sign. “I should have been born a man,” she sighs. “I can get through twice as much work as any man.” She’s an Old Girl of Headington Girls (posh!) but has been working since she was a teenager. Her father came from a Council estate in London and started his profession there. Mr and Mrs Feller have been ardent collectors of tapestry for many years and made a generous benefice to the Ashmolean Museum, which held a major exhibition recently.
What did she like best about her work?
“Talking to customers” and persuading them they should try unusual or different meats.”
And if you trust your butcher you’ll try venison and ox cheek, which Mitzi says is superb cooked slowly for 3-4 hours.
Nigel Slater’s Recipe for Ox Cheek
Beef cheeks with prunes and anise
As the cheeks cook, they may become very dark in colour. Don’t worry, just turn them over in the sauce and leave to cook until tender. I like to serve these with fat, floury boiled potatoes. You will need a spoon for the “gravy”.
olive oil 2 tbsp
beef cheeks 2, large (about 900g total weight)
banana shallots 6 medium
carrots 250g, young and small
beef stock 500ml
star anise 4
coriander leaves a large handful
Brown the cheeks in the oil over a moderate heat, letting them colour on both sides. Lift the cheeks out of the pan and set aside. Peel the shallots and cut each in half from root to tip. Add the shallots to the pan and let them colour lightly on both sides.
Heat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3.
Scrub the carrots, add them to the shallots, then pour in the sake and stock. Tuck in the prunes and the star anise. Season with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and slide into the oven. Bake, turning over from time to time, for three hours until tender.
Add the coriander leaves and serve with lightly steamed greens, such as bok choi or spring cabbage.
When I see a tray of organic chicken livers I grab them and use them either in risotto or my more-ish pate.
Chicken Liver Risotto a la Nanu
A cereal bowl of livers (more or less), de-membraned and soaked in milk
Shallots, garlic, Sherry or Muscadet, fresh/dried herbs (oregano, marjoram), couple of handfuls of arborio rice, about a pint of good chicken stock- fresh home-made is best.
Use a large heavy frying pan or wok-type utensil. Start by sauteeing the chopped shallots and garlic in a good knob of butter until translucent. Ad the drained chicken livers cut in smallish but not tiny pieces turning them this way and that until they are still pink inside but more or less edible. Lift out of pan and set to one side.
To the remaining shallots and garlic throw in the handfuls of rice. Stir over a medium flame for 2 minutes and then add the alcohol (don’t drown the rice, just enough to moisten it generously). Leave to rest for 5 minutes at least (this tip came from Richard Little, who knows his Italian food). Turn on the heat again and moisten the rice with a little stock, stirring all the time. Continue until all the liquid is used up and the rice tender but a tiny bit al dente. Season!
Stir in the delicious morsels of chicken liver and dish up. Ambrosial!
NeverFail Chicken Liver Paté
- Lots of chopped onions or shallots and cloves of fat juicy garlic
- Chicken livers, demembraned and soaked in milk (drain after 20 minutes)
- Sauté onions and garlic in a good pat of butter.
- Add the livers, cook until done but pink inside (5-7 minutes), add a few herbs and juniper berries. Season.
- Add a generous slug of any sort of alcohol until it bubbles and the gravy thickens
- Whizz in blender and eat with rye toast