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Much ado about meat

With the constant pressure on margins faced by caterers, it is understandable that many are tempted to stick to the recipes they have tried and tested instead of investigating and incorporating new dishes on their menus. Here we take a look at some of the cheaper meat cuts that can be used to enhance not only your summer menu, but also your profits

“Cooking with cheaper cuts is simpler than you might think and produces great tasting, interesting dishes that you can make a profit on,” says Steven Creed, fresh director at Creed Foodservice. “The trick is to match the recipe to the type of meat you choose. Generally, slow cooking is the key to tender meat and delicious flavour as it melts away the fat and leaves juicy, ‘falling off the bone’ meat.”

Steven urges caterers not to dismiss casserole cooking for the winter only, as light summer casseroles can be created with the abundance of herbs and tender young vegetables that are in season right now.

Lamb

Lamb is an increasingly popular choice for outside dining; it is very versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes, from simple cutlets to tasty kebabs.

LambEBLEX’s Hugh Judd recommends using skewers of lamb leg cubes or diced chuck to make great summer snacks. “These can be served wrapped in a fajita with grilled vegetables and a tangy sauce or with rice and salad,” says Hugh. “These sorts of dishes are easy to prepare and eat but can also be quickly adapted to suit different menus should the weather change.”

“We’d suggest that you make use of what’s in season to help contain costs, while marinades – which play a vital role in locking in flavours, colour and succulence into red meat on the barbecue – are a great way to offer customers variety while using the same cuts and specifications of meat,” advises Hugh.

Responding to the recent hike in the price of lamb, Steven Creed advises opting for neck – the main ingredient for Lancashire Hotpot – and serving with field-fresh carrots and new potatoes. “Alternatively, boned shoulder can be rolled and pot roasted or diced and used in stews or casseroles,” says Steven. “In both cases, the meat is meltingly tender.”

Lamb shanks are also easy to cook as they are suited for slow cooking and can be braised slowly with a ragout of fresh tomatoes, courgettes and oregano.

Beef

“In the summer, barbecues are all about enjoyment and key to this is ensuring quality,” says Hugh Judd, foodservice project manager, EBLEX. “For example, use quality mince to ensure burgers are succulent, tender and tasty. Mixed with different herbs and spices, char-grilled to perfection and served with a choice of cheeses or condiments, this barbecue stalwart will be irresistible to diners.”

Hugh also suggests that chefs look to innovate with economical cuts of quality meat.

Joints of beef, such as chuck and brisket can be slow-cooked ahead of service and finished off on the barbecue. They can then be thinly sliced and served to order in a roll or over salad. “Offering something that is a little bit different will help you to stand out from the crowd,” says Hugh.

Steaks

No barbecue menu is complete without a steak option. Flat Iron Steaks, Sirloin Pavés, Hanger Steaks and Bavettes are just some of the options that are seam-cut from under-used primals. They lend themselves perfectly to different marinades and can be barbecued and served with seasonal accompaniments or in a sandwich with chips and a relish of choice.

Phil Davies and England’s best burgersPhil Davies and England’s best burgers

“Feather steaks are becoming very popular,” says Steve Love, development chef at McCormick. “The line of fat gives them a great flavour, but they do require more cooking.” Steve recommends marinating overnight in an oil-based marinade with red wine, then slow cooking at 120°C for about two hours before carefully finishing off on the grill or BBQ. “Whatever you do, keep it simple and fresh,” urges Steve. “Summer is about fun and being outside. Your food offering must reflect this.”

England’s best burger

In June, the Mighty Meat Burger from Phil Davies Quality Butchers Limited in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire triumphed in the ‘England’s Best Burger Challenge 2010’.

“We use Quality Standard matured beef rump, the majority of which is sourced from the Cheshire area,” Phil Davies tells EC. “It is coarsely minced for that added meaty texture along with a little beef fat for extra flavour, fresh onion, parsley and seasoning. The mixture is then pressed into 6oz patties – a true meat lover’s delight!”

Turkey

Steamed turkey escalopeSteamed turkey escalope

Increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits and value of turkey meat, plus improved availability of convenient cuts for cooking, would suggest that it is high time to face up to the fact that turkey is not just for Christmas.

Celebrity chef Phil Vickery – the new face for the I Love British Turkey campaign – advises marinating turkey steaks in a simple marinade of fresh pineapple juice, olive oil and a little seasoning before grilling on the barbecue.

Not only is turkey breast meat low in saturated fat, high in protein and packed with vitamins, it can also provide excellent profit margins. Choose from flavoured turkey breast steaks, fillets that can be marinated and barbecued whole, or cut up for threading onto skewers with wedges of red onion and peppers. Why not offer turkey sausages for anyone wanting a low fat alternative to pork sausages?

Packs of turkey cubes are ideal for kebabs, but also lend themselves to stews and casseroles. For something a little different, cooked turkey thighs and drumsticks can be shredded and used in fajitas and tacos.

Visit www.ilovebritishturkey.co.uk for an inspirational selection of seasonal turkey recipes

Chicken

During the last couple of years chicken has become something of a media star thanks to the efforts of celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to encourage the nation to ditch cheap, intensively farmed chicken in favour of the tastier free-range alternative.

ChickensEC spoke to Caroline Burkie at Compassion in World Farming about the nutritional benefits of buying free range. This is what she had to say:

  • A typical supermarket chicken today contains proportionally 2.7 times as much fat as in 1970 (8.6g per 100g in 1970 compared with 22.8g today)
  • A typical supermarket chicken today contains around 30% less protein than in 1970 (24.3g per 100g in 1970 compared with 16.5g today); intensively reared chicken now contains nearly 40% more fat than protein
  • A 100g portion of chicken today contains around 100 more calories than it would have done in 1970 (175 calories per 100g in 1970 compared with 271 calories today); this means that a serving of chicken may contain around 50% more calories today than it did in 1970
  • Organic chickens have 25% less fat than intensively reared chickens (17.1g per 100g for organic compared with 22.8g for intensive) and contain more protein than fat
  • The amount of the Omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, in a typical supermarket chicken decreased by 85% between 1980 and 2004 (180mg per 100g in 1970 compared with 25mg today).

Pork

Tom Mitchell, co-owner of Puddledub Pork – a pork processing and curing business at Clentrie Farm, Auchtertool, in West Fife – says that for a summer buffet, you can’t go wrong with a simple cooked ham. “Boiled or baked ham is very tasty and can be served up with honey, mustard, brown sugar or marmalade,” says Tom. “Glazed ham covered in cloves with sugar and mustard is to die for.” Serve simply with salad or a selection of seasonal vegetables.

PorkFor the barbeque, Tom recommends opting for the more unusual cuts such as belly or shoulder. “Strips of pork belly and shoulder can be great on a BBQ, although I would recommend cooking them in the oven first before finishing them off on the BBQ.”

Pork ribs are another tasty and economical option for a BBQ. “Allow four to five ribs per person,” suggests Steven Creed. “Pork ribs taste even better if they are marinated for 24 hours before cooking.”

Of course, sausages are always a winner when it comes to barbecuing. “But rather than opting for the flavoured varieties, stick with traditional pork sausages or Cumberland rings, as they won’t be overpowered by the smoked barbecue taste,” advises Tony Goodger, BPEX foodservice trade manager.

If the weather turns colder, why not offer a nice warming casserole? “A casserole made of a tender loin cut is very lean and delicious; pork cheeks also work very well,” says Mitchell. “They are very flavoursome but can be slightly trickier to cook. Slow roasted shoulder is another fantastic meal. It’s a cheaper cut, but when cooked for long enough, can fall nicely off the bone and is lean and very flaky.”

Visit www.porkforcaterers.com for more advice on how to use pork on your menus

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