Pork: What’s What and How Do We Do It

Pork is a meat that you don’t want to ever get wrong as you can make your dinner guests quite ill! Follow this guide to which part is which and how best to cook it.

Courtesy of Smithfield Market
Courtesy of Smithfield Market

Head:

Very rarely used in day to day life, except maybe in a hog roast. You can acquire the snout from specialised butchers and it can be used to add flavour to soup stocks.

Jowl:

Jowl bacon offers an alternative to back or belly bacon. Like back and belly bacon, it is cured and smoked but it’s fat ratio is different so it does cook faster. Also, since it comes from inside the cheek, it is offal.

Shoulder:

Hard-working shoulder = hardworking meat. You need to stew, dice or mince this meat as it is quite tough. If you have the patience though, you can slow roast this as a joint for hours and is the most delicious, melt in the mouth meat that is great for making pulled pork.

Loin:

Great for tasty chops and even better boned and rolled and used as full joint for roasting. Melt in the mouth good, accent with some roasted apple and crisp roast potatoes.

Belly:

Pork belly is as it sounds: incredibly fatty. However it is also incredibly tender, and when slow roasted and served with crackling, it can turn an ordinary dinner into fine dining.

Leg:

Also known as ham. Normally roasted whole, and quite naturally salty. Lovely cooked as a whole joint or cut into thinly sliced steaks called escalopes for grilling or frying.

Lamb: What’s What and What We Do With It

Lamb has always been a tricky meat for me to cook; it takes time and a confident chef or it can be a very tough meat. Those who want to break away from roasting tradition may wish to play around with flavours as it can be a very versatile meat. First though, which part is what and how do we cook it.

Courtesy of Smithfield Market
Courtesy of Smithfield Market

Neck:

The best way to cook the neck is to cut it into slices and slow cook. It has a very rich taste and can be quite tender once stewed.

Shoulder:

An Easter favourite! Usually sold halved or whole on the bone, this is a traditional cut of meat. If you imagine the shoulder of the sheep, it’s a joint that has been worked quite hard and therefore needs to be slow cooked to break down all those fibres and tissues. So versatile and worth the money, you can roast it, stew it, bone and roll it, cube it and put it in a curry. You can be absolutely sure to get your money’s worth out of this little lamb who went to market.

Breast:

Quite a fatty piece of the lamb so perhaps not the best for the health conscious. Personally, I like to bone and roll it, and slow cook it with some shallots and almonds for an hour or two. Very tasty piece of meat but as I said: quite fatty.

The Best End of the Neck:

Also called the rack of lamb, it’s the most tender area. Normally the eight ribs are sold as a rack of lamb for roasting but if you lightly fry them separately, cover in beaten egg and roll in breadcrumbs and roast these can be a great (and tasty) alternative.

The Loin:

Also known as Noisettes of Lamb. Very tender and dainty, off the bone but if roasted as a joint this can be a fabulously tasty alternative to a shoulder or leg and is typically called the “Saddle of Lamb.”

The Chump:

Where the leg meets the loin is what’s called the chump. Mostly used for chump chops, these are best grilled or barbecued as can become quite tough quite quickly.

The Leg:

Whole, half or boned! It doesn’t matter what way you serve this, it will always turn out a fabulous roast dinner. Often this meat is also used for kebabs as well but if you like tradition and roast it, accent it with some rosemary potatoes and fresh greens. This is a tasty piece of lamb and does not need to be over powered!

How Do We Buy Meat?

I asked a random selection of people in the EC1 to N1 area what dictated their meat buying habits – as expected the price and origin came out on top at 33% and 30% respectively, but perhaps we are becoming a health conscious nation as coming in third place was how lean the meat was at 19%. Less influencing factors were the cut of the meat at 14% and the type of meat at 4%.

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Beef: What’s What, and What We Do With It

Before this, I was a beef novice, and my knowledge barely went past steak and a Sunday roast. Now however, with the help of the Smithfield Market’s beef guide (image below), I can tell you what’s what and how to cook it.

Courtesy of Smithfield Market
Courtesy of Smithfield Market

Chuck and Blade:

Sometimes called a braising steak, it is very tender and we mostly use it in casseroles and stews where, when cooked slowly, beautifully falls apart and melts in the mouth.

Neck:

Otherwise known as a stewing steak, this must be cooked slowly and when it is, it releases a good flavour and can produce a good gravy too.

Clod:

A slightly cheaper piece of meat, it’s flavourful and a little less tender then its neighbours but best used in burgers.

Thick Rib:

Another good casserole meat, and once again, best cooked slowly.

Thin Rib:

Such a dense cut of meat that this is mostly sold as ground beef and is probably best used in a Bolognese.

Leg & Shin:

There are a lot of connective tissues and dense fibers in these areas and therefore both the leg and shin take long and slow cooking to break down and perhaps best used in thick sauces.

Fore Rib:

This is probably what your mother uses to make a good roast. Any butcher would tell you that it’s down to the excellent fat coverage on the outside of the meat that makes for the best roast. The versatility of this rib is that it can also be sliced up for Ribeye steaks for grilling or frying.

Sirloin:

Served boned and rolled, this is another classic for a Sunday Lunch. Sirloin steak also comes from this area of the cow, as does T-Bone, Porterhouse and Entrecoute steak. Very versatile piece of meat, this can be used for grilling, frying, stir frying, and barbequing. Beef aficionados will also know that this is where a beef fillet comes from. Classed as the best cut of beef, it is also the most expensive. Very lean and very tender, it can be cooked quickly under the grill or fried. Other names for a beef fillet include filet mignon, tenderloin and Chateaubriand.

Rump:

Also a prime cut but a cheaper cut of meat than a sirloin because it’s not as tender, but some say has more flavour. Best cook under the grill or fried.

Silverside:

Your parents will remember this as the part that was sold for salted beef. A cheap cut and an particular taste, this can be roasted with a roll of fat around it to keep it moist but unless you’re an experienced beef chef and fancy basting this joint every few hours, it’s probably best to find a cut more suitable to you.

Thick Flank:

Good for slow roasting as a joint or stir-fried in strips as it has a good amount of flavour and fat.

Thin Flank:

Sometimes referred to as the skirt of the beef, Interestingly, the marbling of fat surrounding this cut is almost always used in Mexican recipes as it is best for grilling and frying in strips!

Five Foodies Who Can Show You How…

So you’ve done your smart shopping at a food market and found yourself in possession of some deliciously fresh food – what do you make? Not to worry, I’ve rounded up five foodies with failsafe recipes that are too good not to do.

1. CookSister! South African born and raised and London-living, Jeanne Horak Druiff has a range of interests and a day job at a legal firm in the City, but still has time for some mouth-wateringly good recipes. Try her leg of lamb on the braai for an international alternative to a Summer favourite.

2. London Unattached‘s Fiona McLean couples travel and photography with food and it is exceedingly difficult not to want to book a holiday while browsing her blog. However, my new favourite from Fiona is her spicy roast lamb; I love trying something that has a twist on the traditional and this is a treat for the palette.

3. Kavey Eats is all things food: eat in, eat out, grow your own, international food… It’s all here. Navigate to the Mamta’s Kitchen tab and you’ll find an online cookbook of family recipes that are sure to last the ages. Something new to try with fresh tomatoes is the spicy tomato ketchup. 

4. Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary specialises in hearty meals that a good for the soul and good on a cold afternoon. Plenty of recipes here, but my favourite is the Spinach and Mozzarella stuffed meatloaf. So tasty and so simple.

5. Ren Behan Food is the perfect marriage between family friendly meals but still with a touch of something special. Something for everyone here but my favourite lamb dish from Ren at the moment is the whipped hummus with lamb – perfect midweek treat eats.

A Night In… Smithfield Market

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While most of us are usually finished our working day before dark, this is when Smithfield Market begins to stir.

Locals in the Farringdon area will be familiar with the sounds of heavy lorries pulling up to the market around 10 at night, and waiting to be unloaded by the staff from each trader. From there, the staff will take the carcasses through to their stores where the cutting staff begin their work.

To watch the cutting staff at work is to watch an intricate dance; as the knife nips and cuts, precision rules all as mindfulness and skill turns a carcass into the finest cuts of beef, lamb and pork. While for some of us, (namely, me) even handling raw meat can be a nausea-inducing experience. However these cutters have turned a professional requirement into an art form.

With orders coming in by fax, email, phone and in person, by 1am the traders are already selling. At Smithfield Market, customers range from restaurant buyers, fresh from closing time, to catering butchers who supply to hotels and clubs. One buyer I spoke to ensured me that he would only come to Smithfield to buy meat for his restaurant. “When you come here, you know where it’s come from and who has handled it, I wouldn’t trust going anywhere else. The price is right and the meat is right.”

With the numbers of early birds to the market between 1am and 6am, you would be forgiven for forgetting that this market doesn’t operate in the daylight hours, the numbers of people buying in the wee hours mimics those buying at a daytime market.

People buying for personal use are also welcome; however you don’t have to be there with the early birds. The market stays open until 7am, but you are welcome at anytime, especially at Christmas when the market comes alive with the public, opting to buy their meat at the oldest trading market in London.

Some of the traders here are generational traders; innately proud of their roots and their heritage, they have endeavoured to uphold tradition and remain in the family business. While the competition may be fierce between all traders, the craic and camaraderie reigns through here; for these traders spend nearly twelve hours a day together, five days a week, and for all the goal is the same: ensure the best quality for the best price.

Smithfield Market is open Monday to Friday from 2am to after 7am, and is closed bank holidays and weekends.

Know Before You Go: Smithfield Market

Grand_Avenue_Smithfield_market

Buying from a market as opposed to buying from a supermarket is a new experience, and can be intimidating for the first time shopper. Here are some tips to get you through.

  1. Get Familiar! Unlike other markets, Smithfield is not open at regular opening times. If you’re using public transport, better take the first tube or bus you can get – the market welcomes members of the public but beware their opening hours of 2am to past 7am may restrict some people. The closest tube is Barbican or Farringdon and the 4, 56 and 153 bus pass right by Aldersgate St., which is a short walk from the market.
  2. Know your meat! If you’ve got a special meal in mind or you’re not sure which is the best cut or meat for you, ask your trader – nobody knows meat better than them and bonus: they’ll also know the best way to cook it.
  3. Get Friendly! The beauty of shopping at a market vs. supermarket is getting to know whom you’re buying from. If you’re going to buy meat (or any other food!) longterm from anyone, it’s always good to get to know them, and build a friendship of some sort. They’ll know what you’re looking for, and keep you in mind when ordering in and you’ll know that you’re getting the best value for money.
  4. Prices: there are no prices on display in Smithfield Market – so do your homework. Shop around on the day and see what suits you best. Compare prices for the same cuts from different traders and shop smart. There’s always room for a bargain, but don’t try and swindle anyone! Unless you’re buying a substantial amount of meat, you don’t need a substantial discount.
  5. Money! Always bring cash. Cards are accepted at all stalls, as are credit accounts, but to prevent yourself being caught short – just bring some notes with you.

Bottom line: go early, shop around, buy something different.