By suggesting that cooking for your dog is an act akin to cooking for your human loved ones in her cracking Jam Today, Tod Davies tricked me into finally reading M. F. K. Fisher. Davies excellent idea comes from Fisher's How to Cook A Wolf, in a chapter titled How To Stay Alive. Highly enjoyable reading.
After all, I thought, we eat well - very well. Why shouldn't Poppy? Fisher calls her dog-friendly concoction Sludge and it is, she says, as good for people in hard times as it is for dogs in good. I've taken to calling it Slop rather than Sludge for the onomatopoeic plop a few spoonfuls make as they hit her bowl, but Poppy adores it regardless and I get to feel like a proper dog mother as she licks the bowl clean. Marvellous all 'round.
What I like about the idea is that it is just that; an idea, not a recipe, one I can file away in my head.
There’s a cheerful economy to this that pleases me no end; leftovers are an important part of the deal, especially when you put your mind to getting creative, and I've found that looking out for cheap cuts of organic meat is enjoyable in a slightly creepy way. The above batch featured ginger, parsley stalks, beetroot and carrot, millet for the grain component and almost-out-of-date organic lamb. Cooked slowly in the quiet of a wet Melbourne afternoon, this combination has been her favourite yet.
Start by browning 1 lb of chopped meat in a bit of oil in a heavy, lidded casserole-type of dish. Chop 1 lb of dog-friendly vegetables* and add them next. Tip in 1/3 lb of brown rice (or millet, quinoa, barley - she's loving barley right now) stir well and pour in just enough water to cover. I add a bit of smoked trout skin and a crumble of seaweed because Davies makes an excellent case for the inclusion of both. Bring it all to a boil, reduce the heat, then cover and simmer until the rice is cooked. Long and slow, to be sure.
Keeps, refrigerated, for a few days. Please note that this is not a complete dog food, not by any means, so keep feeding your dog good quality dried biscuits and bones, all the usual things. Think on this as a kind of bonus. Which it most certainly is.
*NO alliums (onions, garlic, leeks...), legumes, or deadly nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant) - seriously, NO alliums, okay? - but anything else is fair game. Broccoli, daikon, radishes, carrots, celery are all good and even better if you save trimmings during the course of the week.