Ahead of his upcoming demo, Luke Mackay talks about his pride in English meat and the satisfaction of taking it from bone, to plate
Many years ago, I found myself in a butcher’s shop in a dark cobbled back street in the depths of Trogir, a beautiful city towards the north of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. I was the chef on a super yacht, chartered by the great and the good for vast amounts of cash and I needed some meat.
That evening I was cooking for the man who had invented MTV and he had already professed in passing conversation his love of a good steak. I took myself off to the aforementioned butcher and using sign language and my own body parts tried to approximate ‘good steak’. The bag of gristle and bone chips did not, I’m afraid, taste even close to ‘good’.
In this particular back street butcher shop, it turned out, they hack at a carcass with a cleaver and just give you whatever happens to fly off. The ‘meat’ was bright scarlet with no hint of having been hung—no aged funk, no rich marbling, no golden burnished fat. Instead blood, cigarette ash and fingernail grit.
Laconic Californian drawl
Luckily, I had some beef fillet in my deep freeze, procured weeks previously for emergencies from a British butcher in Majorca, which was speedily defrosted and presented to Mr MTV who, with a laconic Californian drawl, eventually pronounced it ‘good’.
I’m telling you this story because the experience made me realise how lucky we are in England—and particularly at Borough Market—to have such incredibly good butchers. Butchers who care very deeply not just about the provenance of their meat, but also about every skilled knife stroke that turns a carcass into recognisable cuts.
I’ve done a fair bit of butchery myself and it is one of the most satisfying things to do with food. It is about feel and touch more than anything else. Caressing a razor-sharp blade along a muscle or bone, keeping waste to a minimum and leaving immaculate prime cuts is a kitchen job to savour. Practice at home if you can, or go on one of the many courses that quality butchers run now—you’ll never regret having butchery skills.
English butchery, English animals
On St George’s Day at The Borough Market Demo Kitchen, I am very proud to say that I will be celebrating English butchery, English animals and English recipes and I’d be delighted if you joined me.
I’ll be doing things like ox heart and green sauce, venison scotch eggs, devilled kidneys, toad in the hole, slow roast lamb shoulder and of course roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It’s going to be a celebration of farming, husbandry, butchery and cooking—four things that should always be in harmony, but sadly, nowadays too rarely are.
So if you’ve never tried ox heart or kidneys, or just want to see a man burn himself (again) with a deep fat fryer do come along on Sunday April the 23rd.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends / Cry ‘God for Harry, England and St George’
Join Luke for tips, tastings and recipes on Sunday 23rd April in the Market Hall, 12-1.30pm and then 2-3.30pm, with the first demo being BSL interpreted.