Life is one long education. I love learning new things, and picking up a new skill if I have a chance. I have been to a number of classes in the last few months, all fun things, and great experiences, starting with a Ham Class at Brindisa and most recently a Pig Masterclass at Trinity. An opportunity to explore hands on butchery at one of Londons oldest butchers recently arrived in my inbox. How could I resist? It was a fantastic experience, and I suspect we will all be writing about it, so, bear with me if you have read about this before.
A small group of food bloggers were in attendance when I arrived, gathered around a large and quite fantastic octagonal table. Slabs of meat were waiting to be butchered. A quick finger count revealed that I have 10, a complete set, and I was advised to listen to the health and safety chat and endeavour to hold on to them. When complete, I donned a white butchers coat and an apron and a Michael Jackson-esque glittering metal glove to shield my hand from the sharp knive. I was ready to go.
I am no stranger to knives and the chopping of flesh, from my earlier and brief physiological dabbling at unieversity, to recent forays in my own kitchen. I was keen to glean some tips and tricks from Allen’s that would help me improve my adventures at home. Led by one of the owners, David, we started by jointing a chicken, a feat I have performed many times at home. It was still really helpful to be shown how to do it quickly, and to preserve the yearned for nugget, the precious oyster meat.
The chicken jointed, we proceeded to the oxtail. A whole tail each, we sought out the break between individual verterbrae and the knife glided through. I was getting the hang of this and found it really satisfying. Next piece of meat please!
A rack of lamb proved tricky. I feared the hacksaw being clumsy as hell, but managed it, and had a fantasically frenched rack of lamb to be proud of at the end.
Finally, large slabs of sirloin beef were presented, and we prepared a roast each, removing the bone (it was a 3 rib piece), extra fat and gristle, then tying with butchers twine. Learning the knot felt like learning to tie shoelaces, but once cracked, I whizzed through and gazed tenderly at my handiwork at the end.
An hour and a half course whizzed by, and we were presented with bags of the cuts that we prepared. Heavy, I struggled home, fingers stinging, but brain whirring, running through virtual receipe rolodecks. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
David was a charming and helpful teacher, and there was lots of hands on guidance, with other butchers there ready to help. At £100 it is at the pricey end, but you get to bring all of that lovely meat home, so it really is worth it. They also give you a recipe for each cut you take home.
The meat changes depending on the time of year, so should you choose to go you may have a slightly different course, but I would highly recommend it regardless. It’s fun, educational, and you get to do some of your weekly shopping too. Allen’s supply some of Londons finest restaurants, including Le Gavroche, so you can’t really go wrong learning from them then, now can you?