A day for beef eaters at the Tower of London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th April 2013
EBLEX, the organisation for the English beef and lamb  industry, held an event at the Tower of London to unveil its own latest ‘crown jewels’ – the Excellence in Steak and Chop House ranges, designed to highlight a new range of modern, tasty and affordable steaks. The Staff Canteen was invited along to try them out. It would have been rude not to. Did you know that the famous Indian Koh-i-Noor diamond, set in the crown of Queen Elizabeth II, has a curse attached to it which affects only male owners? All the male rulers who have possessed the gem have lost their throne or had other misfortunes befall them. However the women rulers or consorts who have owned it have been blessed with long reigns and/or lifespans like Queen Victoria, the Queen mother and our very own queen Elizabeth. This is one of the interesting facts that I learned at EBLEX’s Excellence in Steak and Chop House launch event at the Tower of London, which, as you might have guessed, also involved a guided tour of the crown jewels. Here is another interesting fact I learned –the steak that Pierre Koffmann declared the best he had ever tasted was from the heel of the cow – a group of muscles containing a lot of gristle that are usually only used for braising. The steak that so impressed Koffmann was an individual muscle ‘seamed’ out of the heel by master butcher Dick van Leeuwen. Dick van Leeuwen also happens to be the Business Development Manager at EBLEX and the man who, along with fellow EBLEX master butcher, Martin Eccles, took us through the butchery demo showcasing the steak cuts in the new ranges. The Excellence in Steak and Chop House ranges – the first using boneless steaks, the latter using bone-in cuts – are a series of new or lesser-known steak cuts designed to increase profit potential across the retail and foodservice markets. The cuts included in the Excellence in Steak range are: flat iron, Denver steak, picanha steak, thick flank, tender top, bavette and a range of individual ‘seamed’ rump muscle steaks, and in the Chop House range: bone-in porterhouse, bone-in sirloin, fillet on the bone, shoulder racks, bone-in cannon and a range of T-bones. To prove that these cuts are as much about eating quality as profit margins, many of them were cooked and served at the event and I can confirm after two, or possibly even three (my memory gets a little hazy around this point) return visits to the buffet table that the eating experience really is good. As master butcher Dick van Leeuwen said, handing me yet another steak (this time to take home with me): “If you look at flat iron for example, it could really compete well as an alternative to sirloin or rump. If you taste them next to each other, I would personally prefer a flat iron to a rump.” The challenge to chefs however might not be from customer feedback but getting the customer to ‘feed’ in the first place, after all who’s going to choose an unknown and barely-pronounceable ‘picanha’ over the safety and comfort of a sirloin? The other challenge is acquiring the correct knowledge to utilise these cuts correctly and to maximise their potential. In response to the second challenge EBLEX has produced a guide on how to create and use each of the cuts and has even produced a book, ‘Excellence in Steak’, which will help caterers decide which cuts will add most value to their menus. It’s the first challenge that might, however, be the greater problem. Responding to this, EBLEX foodservice project manager, Hugh Judd, said: “I think it’s important that chefs brief their serving staff so they can really sell the product, at the end of the day a picanha is just a rump. Other than that why not use the product as a modern twist on a classic steak? For example Steve Titman recently cooked the under blade fillet as a kind of modern twist on the rossini and it was absolutely fantastic. He also did the goose skirt with a classic diane sauce, again a classic dish with a modern twist. “The other thing I would advise is to do a tasting of different steaks with something like a bistro rump against a flat iron, against a goose skirt or a bavette, and let the customers compare the different tastes and textures. As a chef you can deliver that en masse, keeping the cost down and adding some real excitement to it.” As a non-departmental public body (NDPB) under the aegis of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and funded by levies paid on slaughtered or exported English sheep and cows, EBLEX (a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, or AHDB), is trying hard to fulfil its remit of improving the profitability and sustainability of the English beef and lamb sector during a tough time of austerity and recession. Whether it will succeed and whether customers will ultimately go for the unfamiliar over the tried and tested, only time will tell. EBLEX will certainly, it seems, keep trying. They are already planning upcoming additions to the Chop House range using research from the American beef industry. There is also interesting talk of developing burgers using individual muscles. As Hugh Judd said: “We’ll be looking at things like whether a chuck burger made just of chuck beef tastes better than a brisket burger or a rump burger. We’ve done some research which will be coming out soon and we want to get the American side of that as well.” Individual muscle burgers? Sounds intriguing. I wonder which London landmark they will use to host that launch event?  It would be tempting to suggest the gherkin but that would be immature. You can find out more about EBLEX at their website http://www.eblextrade.co.uk/

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th April 2013

A day for beef eaters at the Tower of London