When my daughter asked me if humble cuts were what you made humble pie from, I realised that we butchers sometimes talk a language of our own. So just in case you’ve been wondering too, here’s what I’d call a humble cut: it’s basically any cut of meat that’s not a steak or a roast – simple as that.

Steaks and roasts are pricey because they’re usually pretty lean and tender. Pure muscle and not much else, they make for clean and easy eating, and they look attractive on the plate. Humble cuts, on the other hand, contain more in the way of bits that look distinctly iffy in their raw state – fat, gristle, silverskin and bone. They include offal, and some of the tougher bits of the animal that could never just be flashed in a hot pan and served as they are.

Beef Shin & Pork Cheeks

So if they’re naturally tougher cuts, why would anyone want to eat them? The answer is flavour, flavour, flavour! We butchers love these cuts, because we know just how tasty they are. True, they’re harder to handle than steak cuts, which is why it’s really important that you get them from a butcher who knows what they’re doing. It’s fiddly work to remove all the unwanted silverskin, fat or bone, but the results are so worth it.

Lamb Casserole & Oxtail

Remember though – these cuts need long, slow cooking. Humble cut cooking is real, old-fashioned cookery – braising, pot roasting, casseroling. This long, gentle cooking renders all the fat and silverskin into an amazingly rich, glossy gravy, and allows time for all the flavour to develop. To me, there’s nothing beats the smell of a pot of Beef Shin or Pork Cheeks bubbling away slowly in the oven. You’ll get far more flavour from slow-braised Oxtail or Lamb Neck Fillet than you will from any steak – it’s proper comfort food.

So what did I tell my daughter? I said, you’ll not get a humble pie from them, but you can make a Steak & Kidney Pie to die for!

Posted by Mark in Head Butcher   |  Leave a comment
14/10/2014

Stefan Kölsch - Head Chef

With this being the season of hearty home cooking, Hans suggested I get in touch and offer my answers to our customers’ most frequently asked questions about braising. So here goes…

What exactly is braising?
Braising is simply cooking meat (or certain vegetables) by searing first, then adding liquid, covering and cooking at a low temperature. The term covers everything from casseroles to pot roasts, and many other things in between.

What’s the best liquid to braise in?
Stock and wine are both good. Keep the stock the same type as the meat you’re using, if possible, or use a lighter stock such as vegetable or chicken as a base. Don’t use beef stock for a pale meat – it will drown out the natural flavour. Either colour of wine can be used with any meat – it just depends on the final flavours you want to achieve. Also try cider with pork or lamb, and beer or stout with lamb, beef or venison. Water can be used if you must, but the final flavour won’t be as deep.

Should I add anything else?
It’s entirely up to you. Frying up some onions, garlic, and root veg of your choice before simmering usually works well. You may wish to add aromatics such as bay, thyme, rosemary or juniper berries. Cream, mustard, port, crushed peppercorns and my own personal favourite, rowan jelly, are all things I’ve added to braised dishes – and no-one has complained yet!

How do you know when a casserole is ready?
Stick a fork in the meat – it should slide back out easily, or gently pull apart. If the liquid isn’t as thick as you’d like it at this point, fish out the meat and thicken up the rest by bubbling it on the hob, adding a little cornflour for extra thickness if you like.

Can you overcook a stew?
No – as long as there is plenty liquid still in it, the meat shouldn’t dry out, but it may start to fall apart if you leave it for a very long time. Vegetables may also start to disintegrate.

How should I reheat a casserole or stew?
You can do this in the oven, on the hob, or even in the microwave – just heat as much as you need at a time, be prepared to top up the sauce with a little stock, and cover it to make sure it doesn’t dry out. If you’re reheating it on the hob, be sure to give it a gentle stir from time to time, so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

And there you have it. I hope this has been useful – why not test out what I’ve said on our wonderful humble cuts?

Stefan Kölsch
Head Chef

Posted by DonaldRussell in NEW to Donald Russell   |  Leave a comment

One thing we’re delighted about here in Donald Russell is the renaissance in Traditional Butcher’s Cuts.

These are something we’ve been shouting about for years now – in fact, we’re proud to consider ourselves trailblazers on this particular issue. Perhaps it’s because we’re traditional butchers ourselves, and feel strongly about keeping the skills of the butcher’s craft alive. In this age of mechanisation, it’s much cheaper to cut by machine, but we believe that the very best results come after the careful application of a highly trained butcher’s knife.

Barnsley Lamb Chops & Lamb Shanks

There’s another reason we love them, of course – they’re delicious; simple as that. Traditional cuts usually include more tasty fat and bone than today’s fashion for lean meat, as well as more of the connective tissue that dissolves into rich, unctuous gravy.

All of these bits, which are usually trimmed off standard cuts, provide a real depth of flavour that can otherwise be missing. The bone adds flavour as it cooks, while the fat carries the flavour in the finished meal. Take Oxtail, for instance. Who would imagine that those gnarly-looking, slightly gristly chunks of meat on the bone could be transformed into the silky, savoury, intensely beefy joy that is a classic Oxtail stew? It’s those gnarly-looking bits that have done all the work. The bone adds really deep flavour, and the marrow and gristle dissolves into the glossiest, most delicious gravy, just waiting for a chunk of bread to mop the plate clean … sorry, I’m getting a bit carried away here!

Oxtail & Pork Belly

They’ve got yet another great advantage, too – they’re really thrifty. A plate of soft, tender Lamb’s Liver, in a thick gravy with onions and perhaps some bacon, will satisfy yearnings that you didn’t even know you had, without breaking the bank. A hearty, old-fashioned Barnsley Lamb Chop or a hefty slice of Pork Rib Belly turns lunch into a banquet, while Diced Beef Shin, Pork Shoulder or Lamb Neck Fillet are just begging to be simmered slowly into rich, comforting pies and casseroles.

So if you find that meat just doesn’t taste the same as your long gone memories, try some of these Traditional Butcher’s Cuts. They’ll make you realise exactly what you’ve been missing!

Yours aye,

Corrie.

Posted by Corrie in NEW to Donald Russell   |  Leave a comment