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Tips From The Chef

Here is a selection of articles and information from 'The Point' as featured in Cuisine Magazine.


Garnishing & Presentation

• Modern garnish is often a visual tool. A carefully thought out and well presented dish needs little or no embellishment

• Use relevant or complementary ingredients or flavours

• Visualise how you want a dish to look before you start. Use garnishes, plates, cutlery,
glassware and table settings to enhance the effect

• The plate size and decoration should be in proportion to the amount of food, construction and colours in a dish

• Practice constructing a dish requiring height for visual effect. Build on a stable base - often the starch or vegetable component, and work upward with the hero ingredient at the top

• Arrangements in odd numbers can work more effectively than even numbers. For example, three cherry tomato halves around the edge of a large circular plate present better than four

• Garnishes should always be edible (with the exemption of a scampi claw or similar in a relevant dish)

• Use dish components to garnish a meal. The colours, shapes and textures, when artistically arranged, can negate the need for further decoration

• Simplify. Complicated constructions can often detract from the overall enjoyment of a dish - both visual effect and flavour can be compromised
Presentation is perhaps the most artistic element of a chef’s craft, and individual expression, flair and imagination are key ingredients. Like all art forms, there are ways and means to develop a personal style - a visual signature.

The way food is presented often determines the first impression of a meal. Colour, height, balance and portion size are equally important influences in our initial reaction to a dish.

The process of developing a dish and the ingredients or influences it contains, can offer a direction for presentation. Whilst the enormous white plate still holds pride of place, there is an increasing trend away from this format. The shapes and colours of plates are changing, as chefs seek to create that ‘point of difference’ in a very competitive marketplace. The use of garnish is also evolving away from the parsley sprig and twist of orange, to aesthetic constructions of deep-fried leek and lethal-looking shards of sugar or chocolate.

Increasingly, garnish is regarded as an integral part of a dish, and can be as simple as a perfectly placed piece of chervil or a drizzle of infused oil.



Barbecue Tips

• The grilling of any meat on a barbecue must be a controlled process

• To avoid excess charcoal flavour overpowering the natural flavours of the meat, don’t grill over actual flames, but just the glowing coals. This applies to gas-operated char-grills as well. If cooking on a gas-flame barbecue ensure that the grill bars are well-heated, then keep flames low and avoid flare-ups

• Work to achieve the lovely and unique flavours contributed by this method of cooking while avoiding the effects and tastes of excessive grilling. Too often the barbecue or grill is far too hot, thus everything happens in a panic; the meat is over-grilled on the outside and raw inside

• Extra care needs to be taken when barbecuing thick or large cuts of meat. In these cases good heat control is essential

• In a restaurant environment the steaks can be grilled (on both sides) to an advanced stage on the barbecue or char-grill thus achieving the desired flavour, then finished to the correct degree in a preheated oven for a couple of minutes. Turn them half-way through as you would normally. Excellent consistency in cooking can be achieved in this way

• If completing the cooking over the barbecue grill, be sure to cook the steak evenly on both sides. This requires correct timing, and looking for the signs: for example, with beef to be cooked rare, the steak must be turned before pools or spots of meaty juices begin to appear on the facing side of the meat

• Try to control the cooking process so the steaks are turned only once. This decreases the possibility of more juice loss through over handling.


Lamb Culinary Terms

Although lamb cookery may be changing with the times, many culinary and menu terms for lamb remain the same in cookbooks and on menus around the world. Here are some you may encounter.

Agneau: (French) lamb. Agneau de lait: milk-fed lamb. Agneau pascal: spring lamb. Agneau de pre-sale: lamb from salt meadows, particularly on French Atlantic coast.

Arni souvlakia: Greek, skewered lamb, often flavoured with garlic, marjoram, onion and bay leaves.

Baron d'agneau: a French lamb cut - top end of lamb for roasting.

Baron of lamb: double striploin, rump and leg area of a full carcass. Also known as saddle of lamb.

Best end (of neck): rack of lamb, 6 or 7 ribs of lamb, together, from between middle neck and loin.

Canon of lamb: boneless filled and rolled loin of lamb.

Carre: a French cut of lamb - rack or best end.

Chump: rump.

Cotelette: cutlet. Cotelettes premier are the 4 cutlets from nearest the mid-loin on a lamb rack.

Epaule: (French) shoulder, lamb roasting joint. Epaule d'agneau is a half shoulder, boned, rolled and tied.

Gigot: top end of hind leg of lamb or mutton.

Gigot d'agneau: shank end of leg for roasting.

Girella: Australian term for eye of lamb silverside.

Keema: Indian, minced meat, raw or coked. Keema pilau: minced lamb stew with rice.

Kofta: Indian-style meat balls.

Korma: Indian stew or rich, spicy simmered meat dish, often including garlic, onions, fresh ginger, yoghurt.

Paillard of lamb: Australian Trim Lamb cut; large, medium-to-thin slices of meat from topside, thick flank (knuckle, round) silverside, leg or loin.

Valentine of lamb: a butterflied cut from a well trimmed boneless lamb loin.


Butterflied Leg of Lamb

One of the most popular outdoor summer meals from the barbecue is butterflied leg of lamb, nicely browned and crusty on the outside, pink and juicy in the middle.

When the leg of lamb is ‘slash-boned’ (the opposite of tunnel-boned) and opened out, it cooks much more quickly than the full leg on the bone. But the leg with bones removed, and each sub-primal intact, is not even in thickness so it cooks a little unevenly; the thickest parts - the topside and thick flank - take longer to cook than the thinner parts.

This can be an advantage to the cook who wants to serve some meat rare, some medium or well done. But if the aim is to produce evenly rare or pink meat throughout, it is best to cut the lamb before cooking to make it as even in thickness as possible. This is done by further butterfly-cutting the topside and thick flank.


Butterflying a Leg of Lamb

Your butcher can do this for you, but it is simple to do yourself if you use a sharp boning knife. To slash-bone the leg, begin at the tail bone end (the tail bone has usually been removed by the butcher).


Remove the aitch bone - Your aim is to first free the meat around the irregular part A of the aitch bone, then around the hip joint. Use the tip of your knife to sever the ball and socket joint B so you can free and move the aitch bone slightly away from the femur. Work closely around the aitch bone, back to the tail bone end, being careful not to slash into the meat. Remove aitch bone.


Remove the femur bone - With the tip of your knife mark a straight line from knee cap C to the ball end of the femur B. Now cut down into the meat along this line, until you touch the femur bone. Open the meat up along the length of the bone to expose the femur, stroking your knife closely along the bone at all times. Free the meat from the knee cap C and knuckle joint.


Remove the shank bone - Continue cutting close to the shank bone down its length. Remove femur and shank bone together. You now have a slash-boned leg.


Then - Lay the slash-boned leg of lamb out flat, skin side down. Using a large knife, start from the inner side of the thickest part of the leg (the topside) and make a horizontal cut through the middle of it, taking your knife almost to the outer edge. Fold the top flap out flat (like opening a book). Do the same with the other thick part of the leg (the thick flank).


Trim away any fat pockets on the boned side, including the greyish popliteal gland in the silverside/shank region, but leave a thin fat cover on the skin side. Try to leave skin intact. Tidy up the shank end.



The Bone Structure of the Lamb Leg

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Cooking the Butterflied Leg

The flat boned leg can be roasted on a rack at a moderate or high temperature, or barbecued or grilled.

Suggested Flavourings

First marinate, season or flavour the lamb as you wish. Try the following:

• A combination of rosemary or garlic oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, pepper and pomegranate molasses or spicy apricot sauce

• Crushed garlic, grated fresh ginger, lemon rind and juice, teriyaki marinade or light soy sauce, pepper

• Crushed garlic, ground coriander, cumin, pepper, olive oil, honey, lemon juice, sweet chilli sauce

To roast - Place the leg, cut side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Fan-bake at 180° to 200°C for 15 minutes. Turn lamb skin side uppermost and fan-bake for approximately 15 more minutes, to the desired degree of pinkness. Allow at least 20 minutes resting before carving.

To barbeque - For ease of handling on the barbecue, run two or three lasrge metal skewers horizontally through the leg before cooking. Barbecue the lamb over steady, low heat, turning it every 10 minutes or so, basting if you wish. A small leg may need 30 to 35 minutes, a larger, thicker leg, up to 40 or 45 minutes. Do not overcook, and remember to allow plenty of resting time before carving.


The versatile rump of beef

When we think of rump, we probably tend to visualise large steaks sizzling on the barbecue or grill. Most often seen on steakhouse restaurant menus, rump is generally perceived as a "Man’s size steak", due to the very large portions it produces. The traditional slice of rump steak, cut across the whole primal, yields a cross section of several muscles with the grains running different ways. This results in varying degrees of tenderness across the meat. The fat border, which runs along the curved side, is easily removed if desired. It is perhaps because of these factors that this versatile beef primal cut is passed over for more expensive and tender prime cuts of beef by many chefs and restaurants.

• Beef rump is medium-tender, medium-fine grained and boneless

• There is variation in tenderness throughout the rump

• The meat is lean, with a fat cap on one side

• As a whole primal, it is 4-6kg in weight

It is difficult to carve neatly due to the grain of the whole rump running in different directions, and produces very large slices.

To remedy this last fact, we must look closely at the actual construction of this primal cut. The beef rump is made up of several muscle groups that can be further broken down into smaller pieces, called sub-primal cuts.

When you remove the connective tissue holding these sub-primals together, individual sub-primals can be sliced across the grain to produce smaller, neater, more uniformly tender steaks. These smaller cuts immediately create a much wider range of options for the beef rump, enhancing variety and enabling it to fulfil the needs of most restaurants in some form. From one primal cut, we now have several sub-primal cuts, suitable for a variety of cooking methods.

The underlying muscles (A & B) are generally used for mincing, stewing, or in the production of stocks, soups and sauces. The 'Eye of the Rump’, the ‘Centre Cut’ and the ‘Cap of Rump’ are the cuts that provide many excellent opportunities to create great beef dishes. Imagination, and the application of appropriate cooking techniques, will enable the full utilisation of these sub-primals in Haute Cuisine dishes, warm salads, bistro-style food and a large number of fusion inspirations. Alternatively, they work equally well as simple, tender steaks that are easier to carve and present.

Eye of Rump is a short, lean, log-shaped sub-primal (resembling the middle cut of the beef fillet) with the grain running lengthwise. The eye of the rump is ideally suited to cutting into very attractive medallions, perfect for pan-frying, char-grilling or the barbecue. Once portioned, this cut is easy to present and will suit a variety of preparations, supporting both simple and complicated accompaniments.

Eye of rump is the most tender of the sub-primal cuts and may be roasted whole. The meat should be seared in hot oil and well browned all over, then seasoned before roasting to enhance the meaty flavour. Before carving, remember to rest for 8-10 minutes. Eye of rump is best served rare. For a serving suggestion, place over roasted seasonal vegetables, drizzled with a tasty jus.

Centre Rump is a compact, chunky piece (about 1.4kg) and thicker than the rump eye. If there is a fat cover on it, trim this along with any silverskin. This sub-primal is suitable for roasting, but is less tender than the eye cut. Therefore it requires careful cooking (best served rare), and must be well rested for 10-15 minutes in a warm place, covered, before carving across the grain.

It may also be prepared as centre rump steaks, which, like the roast, are best cooked to rare after grilling or pan-frying over a high heat. Marinating centre rump in a flavoursome mixture containing an acid/enzyme element will further assist tenderness once cooked.
Rump Cap is a flat, almost triangular piece, thinner at one end (ranging from 2-4 cm thick) with a coarser grain, and is the least tender of all the sub-primal cuts. Always remove the fat cap and the underlying gristle from this piece of the rump.

Rump cap can be used as schnitzels, diced for stewing, or cut into braising pieces. It can also be marinated in an acid-based mixture to assist in tenderising, and served thinly sliced in warm salads. Best cooked to rare, rump cap should be well rested prior to slicing, and carved across the grain.

Tips

• Use aged rump

• If frozen, allow to thaw naturally in the fridge on a tray

• Do not leave the raw rump to sit in its own blood or juices for long periods as these may deteriorate at a faster rate than the meat, spoiling the flavour once cooked

• Always trim all sinew and silverskin where possible

• It is difficult to carve neatly due to the grain of the whole rump running in different directions, and produces very large slices

• While some fat is generally OK, remember it may be hiding some tough silverskin underneath

• All the rump sub-primals are best served rare

• Rest all meat before carving and serving

• By breaking up the whole rump into sub-primals, the chef is able to more effectively slice across the grain, enhancing tenderness and eatability
Breaking down the primal rump into sub-primals will produce meat 'trim'. This is excellent for boosting the flavour of meat sauces once the trim has been browned well in a hot pan, then simmered for some time in reduced stock. Be sure to remove the trim from the stock before it breaks up.


Perfect Partners for Lamb

Some accompaniments to add zing to simply grilled, barbecued or pan-cooked lamb steaks, or lamb roasts or salads:

Asian Dipping Sauce - Kikkoman soy and a dash of dry sherry spiked with sesame oil and seeds, ginger, garlic and chilli. Great with thinly sliced lamb.

Avocado and Coriander Cream - Puree of avocado and sour cream, lime juice, walnut oil and chilli, with chopped red capsicum, onion and fresh coriander. Serve with cold lamb salad.

Skordalia - Greek cold garlic sauce with a base of potato puree and/or soft breadcrumbs and ground almonds, olive oil and lemon juice.


The Evolution of New Zealand Cuisine

New Zealand has an extremely young culinary culture by international standards. Our culinary heritage has its foundation firmly rooted in the Anglo-Saxon Kitchen and was transported (along with ourselves) when the English first established colonies in the Antipodes. This youthful isolation has afforded us virtual immunity from the cross-cultural pollination that occurred over centuries around the world as a result of one nation invading another. The inevitable influence exerted by the invader over flavour pathways, cooking methods, produce grown and even the religious significance of food, dictated the gastronomic evolution of many cultures.

Those countries most effective in the preservation of their borders are today representative of the purest culinary cultures. Within many of these cuisines are signature dishes usually reflecting a product or speciality unique to that region - dishes such as Spaghetti Bolognaise and Beef Bourguignonne. Despite past protectionism, some of these culinary signatures have escaped their local boundaries and become international property, faithfully reproduced in kitchens around the world.

If New Zealand has a recognisable signature in its culinary repertoire, its origins can be found in our beloved ‘meat and three veg’. The edible Kiwi icon, in all its various manifestations, has evolved through the predominance of beef and lamb in our cooking.

As a young rural nation we required large, robust meals to provide energy to work the land (the culinary prowess of the resident matriarch responsible for delivering those succulent roasts and braises so fondly enshrined in our memories). The turn of the century began to accelerate out gastronomic evolution, with a new concentration of urban dwellers spared the rigours of predominantly manual labour. As our society became increasingly sophisticated, so too did the eating requirements of this developing population. Times were changing, reflecting a global readiness for modernisation in every arena, including and especially food.

The Nouvelle Cuisine Era

The Nouvelle Cuisine era that swept through professional kitchens in the 1980’s represents perhaps the greatest leap in our culinary development. Conceived in France in the mid 1970’s, Nouvelle Cuisine was a response to demand for a lighter, somewhat healthier style of cooking. This ‘new cuisine’ revolutionised the kitchen and the marketplace. Its emphasis on freshness and quality ingredients created markets for specialty and gourmet produce, whilst the attention to presentation elevated professional cookery to an art form. The true essence of Nouvelle Cuisine always assumed the application of classical principles. However, the rate at which this innovation was adopted, matched by an equally blistering abandonment of basic technique, caused the demise of the concept which arguably contributed more to our culinary evolution in 10-15 years, than anything past or present.

The Emergence of Fusion Cuisine

The last decade has seen the gradual emergence of Fusion cuisine; a fusing or blending of culinary cultures. First manifested here amidst our early Brasserie-style preoccupation with Italian foods, Fusion cuisine is a result of the accessibility of the ‘Global Village’. Increasing numbers of people are travelling, experimenting and experiencing. Many have settled permanently in new counties, introducing the cultures and traditions of their homelands.

‘Pacific Rim’ cuisine reflects our proximity to the kitchens of South East Asia, the pacific and Japan. It is a fusion of ethnic Pacific and Asian cultures with our own traditional Anglo-Saxon heritage, Chilli, wasabi, coriander, noodles and sushi are an intrinsic part of contemporary Kiwi culinary language and represent the advent of Global cuisine down under.

This integration or gastronomic osmosis will continue to drive the evolution of cuisine, as will the determination of those at the coal face whose dedication to the search for edible perfection, shapes our culinary future.

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Information supplied by the New Zealand Beef and Lamb Bureau.
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