Sunday, 20 February 2011
The new cheap cuts: tips from The Ginger Pig
All of us I guess like to think of our meat coming from a farm where the animals graze freely and are well looked after but few can have such a good life as at the Ginger Pig. I visited one of their three farms up near Pickering in North Yorkshire the other day and it made me feel I never wanted to buy supermarket meat again.
The problem is good meat is pricey - too pricey for most families to afford you’d think but in actual fact so long as you avoid the prime cuts - and, ironically, the humble cuts that have become so fashionable like pork belly and lamb shanks there are bargains to be found.
Who would have thought that topside and silverside were among the best-priced joints on the butchers’ slab these days but according to farmer Tim Wilson everyone wants ribs. And pork legs are better value than belly. He also told me he can hardly give away lambs’ liver and hearts so reluctant are we to eat offal.
My own view is that we’d all be better off if we ate less meat and saved it, as our grandparents did, for a once a week treat - with leftovers if you were lucky. And if we took the advice of our local butcher rather than a telly chef and only decided what to make once we found out what was cheap that week. That means being more flexible about what we cook and eat - not easy in a generation of fussy eaters. (I’m not being holier than thou here. At least two of my children wouldn’t touch offal.)
Another problem is that not everyone lives close to a butcher these days but I reckon if you ring up one of the many online suppliers and tell them you’re looking for good value cuts they’ll respond. And if you band together with some neighbours on a delivery it shouldn’t cost too much. At the time of writing, for example, Sheepdrove has an offer on organic pork shoulder at £6.40 a kilo (though I’m amused to see they lump offal with ‘doggy bags’. Hardly encouraging . . .)
And if you’re lucky to live within striking distance of one of Tim’s Ginger Pig shops - in Borough Market, Marylebone and Hackney - you can drop by and see what he's got. He was telling me about a cut called lamb 'Henrys' which is a shoulder of lamb divided into about five or six big chunks, which he says is cheaper than buying lamb shanks and can be cooked exactly the same way. You’ll find more suggestions in his forthcoming book The Ginger Pig Meat Book which is written with a cookery writer friend of mine, Fran Warde. (Quick plug there for Tim and Fran.)
So what’s your attitude to buying meat and how often do you eat it? Do you buy direct from the farmer, from a butcher or do you mainly use the supermarket? (Incidentally Tim said that he thinks that Morrisons has the best meat of the big chains) What are your favourite cheap cuts?
I actually did call by the Ginger Pig's Borough Market shop the other day. Disappointingly they didn't have much in the way of cheap topside and silverside but there were some great pork bargains including pork ribs for £4.95 a kilo, hand of pork for £5.95 a kilo and pork hocks for £3.80 each. (I'm sure you could find them cheaper out of London that's fair for rare breed pork). They also - impressively - knew what Lamb Henrys were!