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I spend as much time as possible eating. The title of this website assures you that even if you disagree with my opinions one thing is for certain, I bloody love food. The tastes, the smells, the textures, there is nothing I love more than an exceptional burger, a delectable steak, a wonderful chicken wing, or really anything else that is tantalisingly put in front of my nose. However there was something missing. I still craved knowledge about the processes that my food goes through before it gets to my plate. My birthday came around and on my list was The Ginger Pig Beef Butchery Course. For those of you who aren’t aware The Ginger Pig is one of London’s best butchers. Starting from a stall in Borough Market it has grown to take over London selling its wonderful free-range home-grown meat at all corners of the capital.
The day had finally arrived and my excitement was palpable. I met my friend Ben at Oxford Circus station and we took the short walk to Moxon Street arriving at exactly 7pm. To the uninitiated the The Ginger Pig looked closed for business, all the meat removed from the counters and the lights dim. One knock on the door and a burly man of a butcher appeared from around the corner and unlocked the door. Welcoming us in he introduced himself as Perry, he and his colleague Borut were going to be educating us today. We donned our butcher uniforms and gathered around the counter in anticipation.
Borut began by taking us through a short history of the butcher and the meat that we were preparing. The Ginger Pig are unique as they “dry age” their beef for periods of up to 60 days before selling allowing it to develop a delicious almost gamey flavour. This contrasts to beef you will find in a supermarket, which will have been “wet aged” meaning vacuum packed allowing it to retain all of its water and juices. The difference between the two are that the “wet aged” beef is not able to develop the intense flavour of the “dry aged”. After this brief lesson we were introduced to the small cut that we were going to be preparing, the Cote de Boeuf, a bone in rib eye from the fore rib, celebrated around the world for its flavour and decadence.
Now it was Perry’s turn. We all gathered around the large butchers block upon which lay an unprepared 30kg flank of beef running from the shoulder to the rump. For the next half an hour Perry knowledgeably and humourously took us through all the different cuts available from this section, diligently demonstrating how to prepare each one. By the end of it I had assisted in preparing Sirloin, getting stuck in with a saw and one of the sharpest knives I have seen. The other cuts available from this piece were the T-bone/Porterhouse, Prime Rib, Point-end of the Rump, Tri-Tip, Fillet, Wellington, Braising Skirt, Chateaubriand and of course the Cote de Boeuf. Our stomach’s were rumbling and so as we learnt from Perry, Borut prepared a piece of Chateaubriand slicing it up for all of us to taste during the lesson.
Borut had cooked the meat in a very hot pan using suet instead of butter or oil. The result was sensational. Chateaubriand is one of the most expensive and most tender pieces of beef you can buy and this did not disappoint. The dry aging process gave the meat a wonderfully beefy flavour, and the small amount of salt and pepper used in the cooking lifted it to another level. My taste buds were tingling, stomach crying out for more. Thankfully this was only an appetizer.
Once our lesson was over and we had prepared our own Cote De Boeuf Borut beckoned us over to introduce us to our dinner. For the 3 hours we had been learning a whole forerib had been roasting. A brief lesson in carving and cooking and we were away. Borut carved the slices of delicious beef as if it was butter, each one being set to rest on a warm white plate. I dived for the plate with the largest rib, took it over to the makeshift table formed from the large butcher’s block, and accompanied it with a hearty portion of Dauphinoise potatoes. The beef, a beautiful pink, tasted incredible. Again Borut had used nothing more than some salt and pepper for the seasoning and the beef shone through, Melting in the mouth with the dry aged taste lingering after each bite it was a triumph. The potatoes were a perfect accompaniment, creamy and garlicy accentuating the taste of the beef working hand in hand to make my taste buds sing.
The Ginger Pig Butchery course is not a cheap evening, it runs at around £135, but is a worthwhile pursuit. The Cote De Boef you take home at the end and the dinner that is served makes this absolutely worth every penny. I would encourage anyone to get down to The Ginger Pig and give it a go. Information is available at The Ginger Pig Website