Being within striking distance of a good butcher is an absolute godsend. Here in London, we have Walters down the road (a great source of scotch eggs, for one thing.) My parents in Somerset have two butchers in their local town; one has excellent lamb and hogget, and the other is the place to go for beef. But whilst we are very lucky, not everyone has easy access to shops of this quality.
To help consumers be sure that they’re buying good quality meat, EBLEX, the industry body for beef and sheep meat producers (catchy name!) have their Quality Standard Beef and Quality Standard Lamb marks. These standards are now being relaunched, and as part of this relaunch, EBLEX held a butchery class in London. Beef and Lamb under the Quality Standard marks have to comply with rigorous standards from farm to abbatoir, with only carcasses than satisfy the conformity and fat cover requirements gaining approval. The QS mark also guarantees provenance from English (St George’s cross flag) or British (Union Jack flag) farms. Older animals are also excluded, and there are minimum hanging requirements to ensure great tasting meat. There is more information on the standards at Simply Beef and Lamb.
We were guided through as quick introduction to seam butchery by Henry Herbert (him off the telly with his brother as “The Fabulous Baker Brothers”. He showed us how to seam out the rump cap from a large piece of rump, which I was particularly interested to see, having really enjoyed it the other day.
After the beef came the lamb, where Henry started with a whole half lamb (if that makes sense). We were running slightly out of time, but I was interested to see his plans for the skirt, which was taken off, deboned and rolled ready for a long, slow roast, which sounded delicious. After taking off the ribs and shoulders, and producing a rack of lamb, I was very interested to hear the recommendations for cooking the rack, of leaving the fat on the outside, scoring it and then cooking it fat side down, starting in a cold pan to let the fat render down as the pan warms up before finishing off in the oven and the letting it rest.
Henry demonstrated the process for deboning the leg. As this was going to be the hands-on part of the evening for us all, we were all paying close attention, but it’s really one of those things where the best way of learning is by doing. The basic process is to take off the shank, the H bone and the thigh bone, all the time keeping the knife close to the bone to minimise wastage. Easily said, and easily written, but less obvious until you get your hands on a joint. Once boned, the joint is rolled again and tied up with string, where I was particularly keen to master the slip knots for the truly professional finish.
The main thing I really took away from the evening was not to be scared to give it a go. With a bit of thought and a sharp knife, there’s no reason not to try. It’s not as though it’s going to bite back. Now how should we cook my carefully boned leg?
Click for a full Cutting guide for leg of lamb.
Many thanks to EBLEX for a lovely evening.