Chuck, Flank and Shank
My earliest memory is sitting on my father’s shoulders, aged three, in an old-fashioned butchers shop, surrounded by sausages dangling from the ceiling. I remember their savoury smell and damp skins, and trying to prevent them from brushing against my face. Also memorable was the insistent thud of the cleaver as the butcher chopped our meat. I liked the sawdust on the floor too; it looked very clean.
My love for such places continues, and I am fortunate that there are three traditional butchers near where I live, all of whom sell a good choice of meat.
As well as the usual chops and steaks, you’re likely to find plenty of traditional cuts: scrag end of neck, ox cheek and flank steak, for example. Smart new butchers have also emerged in the region and are doing well. It’s not hard to understand why. In these covid-ridden times more and more of us are cooking from scratch, perhaps for the first time. No better place to shop than the butchers where you’re likely to get the service and knowledge not always available in supermarkets.
If you haven’t already done so, make a trip to your local butcher and see what’s on offer. Mine sometimes sells pigs ears, in two bowls labelled ‘left’ and ‘right’ – he’s well known for his humour. There are plenty of other options too, including mighty ox heart (great for kebabs), delicious little lambs kidneys, and tasty extremities like tails and trotters. Ham hocks and lamb shanks are also
My all-time favourite is oxtail, perhaps the most familiar of these cuts. It’s a bony protuberance made up of much sinew and fat, and seemingly very little meat. The meat is richly flavoured, however, and there is plenty tucked away in the crevices. Given a few hours of languid simmering, the meat falls from the bone in delectable nuggets, and unpromising-looking gristle melts into glorious gelatinous juices.
According to the recent Food and Drink Report from Waitrose, oxtail sales have increased by a hearty 258%. The report goes on to say: ‘Slow-cooking cuts are great value, foolproof and can deliver deceptively fancy results.’ Though not exactly fancy, I like oxtail with winter roots as in my recipe Oxtail, Celeriac and Carrots. It’s a spirit-lifting supper at this dank time of year, so do give it a try.
© Christine McFadden, January 2021