Sunday, 30 October 2011

'British Sausage Week' article for Great British Chefs

It was while I was legging it down the street brandishing a clear bag of beef and mustard sausages screaming ‘excuse me madam’ when I realised I love butchery. 
I was working for a smart butchery in the North East of England and this lovely elderly lady would come into the shop and purchase this particular denomination of sausage (pursing her lips and tutting if we had sold out..) and I knew if I didn’t run after her I would be put down in the appropriate ex-school teacher ‘Sorry Sir’ sort of fashion. While the sweat was beading on my forehead, my steel-toe boots very heavy and especially inelegant and all the passers-by finding this hysterical, that it occurred to me how much love our nation has for the sausage. 
The sausage is one of the few culinary creations totally formed from the butchery in its entirety. It isn’t a ‘jus’ or a ‘terrine’ it is meat, seasoning, etc. in a case. Natural if possible. It is appropriate for any meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner; and is favoured by children and adults alike. It can embody pork, lamb, beef or indeed chicken or game. It is a miracle as it utilises all ‘spare’ meat. 
 Every butcher loves a well made sausage. It is one of the first skills an apprentice learns and savours with relish. I have loved learning the craft of perfecting the seasonings, ensuring the meat is minced in the correct fashion and of course linking them skillfully.
For British Sausage Week in O’Shea’s we will be doing our usual range of Toulouse, Pork and Leek, Spicy Italian, Smokey Beef, Old English, Pork and Stilton, Lamb Merguez, Chilli Beef, Irish Breakfast and many more.

Monday, 17 October 2011


Lately I have been giving the concept of 'flavour' some thought. It's something we relish and savour. It's something we value. But what does it actually mean? It's not exactly like taste, it's more like the soul of taste. Well we could philosophise about this all day! But I had a flavoursome experience recently with aged beef.

Now most beef snobs will tell you that beef should be hung for minimum 21-28 days. Minimum. Now where I work we usually hang it for 30-40 days. And we can go even longer if it is what the customer requires.
Now I am not a beef snob. But this meat was on a whole other level. This piece was rump and by looking at it, had been left to mature and dry for about 35 days. I cut the piece in half and shared it. the inside of the meat was a beautiful claret colour with white marbling and yet the outside was black. And I mean black, but not sticky. Most would assume this meat to be ruined. But I refused to accept this.

So I asked Mick (the source of all butchery knowledge) what I should do with it, because I felt it in my gut that this steak could be spectacular (or maybe I was just hungry..). He said, get the pan piping hot, with sunflower oil.. Drain the oil. Add mayonnaise, lemon juice and ginger and place the steak (black side down) into the moisture. This essentially revitalises the steak, infusing it with juices once more. Aged meat is often described as 'gamy'. This steak was on the gamy side, but it was stunning. Absolutely amazing. It wasn't the most tender of steaks but the flavour. Holy Moly. I now know what flavour is.


Friday, 7 October 2011

'making meat look pretty..'

Since time began women have been trying to make things look attractive. Whether it be their homes or indeed themselves, beauty is a thing of great importance.So when I was posed with the challenge of 'make this meat counter attractive to the eye..' I thought. Holy hell. How can you tart up a bit of meat (apart from by actually putting it into a tart of course..). But I set to it, thinking what looks good and what looks awful, I definitely knew what I didn't like.

Most people do not even consider just how much effort and how much pride a butcher places on his or her counter. And also every individual will claim theirs is the best and I happen to think that's wrong. It's like saying in my sitting room I have the best wallpaper. And not surprisingly it boils down to a matter of taste. There are some rules that are good to stick to, such as using a variety of colours, place things in different dishes, make sure joints of meat are not just dumped in a pool of blood, ensure there is as little mess as possible. But most importantly make it look vibrant and fresh and change it around, to ensure the customer notices something new.

The best thing about the counter? there are no rules, you are free to do whatever you like. I am still developing my sense of style and I try and see it objectively. Thinking realistically, what do we need to sell, what do we have lots of, let's put offers on. Cut steaks fresh every morning. Ensure the chops are brand spanking new every day and utilise the larger joints to provide textured layers.

One could argue that it isn't quite the same as applying make-up or interior design or even planting hydrangeas in a straight line, since after all, we can not lose sight of the fact that it's chopped up bits of animal. However  the meat world deserves a bit of glamour. What would Gok say?? Let's set to it shall we..