Rediscovering steaks with Scotch Beef

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th April 2013
The Scotch Beef Club, Quality Meat Scotland’s flagship foodservice activity, hosted ‘rediscovering steaks ‘, a butchery master class using the finest Scotch Beef, at The Butchers’ Hall in London with HRH The Princess Royal in attendance. The Staff Canteen was lucky enough to be invited. The Butchers’ Hall in the heart of the City of London is home to the Worshipful Company of Butchers, one of the oldest of London’s livery companies. To call it a grand setting would be flirting with understatement. Every inch of the place is ordained with mahogany, tapestries, chandeliers and oil paintings like some elaborately festooned joint of meat served up at a banquet for really quite rich people. Such grandeur might not feel like a suitable setting for, say, a Tupperware exhibition, but it seemed pretty apt as a showcase for one of the UK’s most venerable and world-renowned food products – Scotch Beef. Quality Meat Scotland is a public body with Scottish Government funding to promote and develop Scotland’s red meat sector and the Scotch Beef Club is a collection of restaurants, located throughout the UK ,who are committed to using  the finest Scotch Beef with the clearest provenance.   The club was formed in 2004 and Princess Anne is the Honorary President.  The aim on the day was to demonstrate modern butchery techniques that allow chefs to get more value from their cuts of meat, and to emphasise that every single piece of beef eligible to be called Scotch, comes fully assured for life. The day started with a talk from Robert Neill, a third generation Scottish beef farmer who, together with wife Jackie and family, runs Upper Nisbet Farm, winner of last year’s Scotch Beef Farm of the Year award. Upper Nisbet’s 300 Limousin cross cows are fed only on forage and cereals grown within the 1,000 acre farm on the Lothian Estate in the Scottish Borders, thus ensuring full traceability and quality.  As Robert said: “It’s exactly the same as feeding performance horses; you only get out of them what you put into them.” Next up was master butcher, Viv Harvey with a butchery demo using beef from Upper Nisbet. Viv used modern ‘continental’ butchery techniques to create steak cuts from joints that would otherwise be used for braising, such as feather blade and rump. The way this is done looks simple, perhaps deceptively so, as some people were to find out later. Viv took the feather blade – a traditionally cheap cut from the hardworking shoulder of the animal – and cut it so that the v-shaped seam of gristle running through the length of the muscle could be removed. By doing this, a cut that traditionally requires slow cooking is transformed into something with more versatility. Similarly Viv showed how the rump could be separated into its individual muscles, each of which provided a unique and high quality steak. Viv said to The Staff Canteen later: “What I do is show chefs what work goes into their product so they can talk to their suppliers more convincingly about what they want – for example getting a feather blade upgraded from a piece of braising meat to a piece of grilling or frying meat. In terms of using Scotch Beef it’s about using the best techniques to make the best product even better.” Her Royal Highness seemed impressed. As a keeper of cattle and a former Master of the butchery livery herself, she spoke to the gathering, saying: “Having a butcher that understands the value in the piece of meat you have is half the battle and I’m sure the producers feel considerably more appreciated by the better use of their beasts.” All this talk of beef had worked up quite an appetite so it was fortunate that lunch was next on the agenda, which was of course lamb. Only kidding, it was beef of course – roast Scotch Beef to be precise. To be even more precise it was the striploin of an Upper Nisbet Farm Limousin cross heifer – 630kg live weight, 405kg dead weight; bought at St Boswells market on Monday 25th February; slaughtered four weeks ago and prepared by Robert Neill’s local butcher, Forsyth of Peebles. All of which might be a slight case of information overload but just goes to demonstrate the rigorous assurances of provenance that go with Scotch Beef. Lunch was followed by what was called a “jam session”. This didn’t, contrary to how it sounds, involve a bunch of butchers and chefs sitting around riffing aimlessly on guitars. Instead it was a chance for the assembled chefs to practise the newly-demonstrated butchery skills on their own pieces of Upper Nisbet feather blade and rump which they got to take home with them. Among the great and good of the food world present was Jeff Galvin of Galvin Restaurants.  Jeff is an unabashed fan of Scotch Beef. He said: “We’ve been using Scotch Beef for 25 years now. We do look at other beef but in blind tastings it’s always been clear that there’s one comprehensive winner.” Carl Smith, who runs Mayfair’s Guinea Grill, was also there. As a renowned London steak house, good beef is of prime importance to the Guinea. Carl said: “At The Guinea Grill we’ve been using Scotch Beef from the word go, 1952. We’re founder members of the Scotch Beef Club and we stick to Scotch; the supply chain is so solidly good. We know it’s consistent. We virtually never, ever get a steak rejected and that’s what we stick to.” Contrary to what the setting might suggest, membership of the Scotch Beef Club is not an exclusive affair. It is open to any eating establishments that can clearly identify the beef they purchase and always have the required information available on request. This ensures full traceability from farm to plate and guarantees animal welfare through all the stages of its journey from farm to haulage to auction and finally to abattoir. With recent events concerning meat of somewhat less – ahem – traceability, it’s good to know that there are producers out there who are absolutely committed to quality, provenance and animal welfare. Hopefully this attitude will start to spread throughout the rest of Britain’s food industry. The Scotch Beef Club will be organising more courses during 2013.   For more information look on www.scotchbeefclub.org or www.qmscotland.co.uk
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th April 2013

Rediscovering steaks with Scotch Beef