Butcher’s Block: broaden your horizons

By easyFood

18 May 2018

Local butcher Michael Fleming encourages us to broaden our horizons

Why do you think people are becoming more interested in unusual types of meat?
There’s definitely more knowledge out there; people are better educated about food and cooking, thanks to the wealth of information available online and the popularity of cooking shows. High-profile TV chefs have made unusual cuts trendy, as well as showing that they don’t have to be intimidating, and people have become more adventurous and willing to experiment.

What are the advantages of trying a new type or cut of meat?
They say variety is the spice of life, and it is always worth trying something new and discovering new textures and flavours. Many of the less popular cuts are cheaper to buy but actually pack a flavour punch. 

What cuts of beef would you recommend that people try?
I’m a big fan of beef brisket, which is fantastic when slow-cooked and shredded. Try beef shin or oxtail for an amazing stew. Beef short ribs are a great dinner party option, as they are very easy to cook but truly delicious. Beef cheeks are often overlooked but, cooked slowly in red wine and served with creamy mash, they make some of the best comfort food around. In terms of steaks, don’t be afraid to try something new; I especially love flank steak for a summer barbecue as it’s perfect for feeding a crowd.

What cuts of pork would you recommend that people try?
The “neck-end” of pork, or part of the pig’s shoulder, is very popular in the States and is known as a “Boston butt”. It’s most often used for Southern States-style barbecue and makes delicious pulled pork. Ham hocks are delicious, too, and add amazing flavour to liquid-based dishes like braises, stews and soups. The meat releases its flavours while cooking slowly. Afterwards, pull off the bits of meat and add them to the finished dish.

What cuts of lamb would you recommend that people try?
Lamb neck can be purchased on or off the bone and is absolutely full of flavour — it’s great when barbecued. Lamb leg steaks make a delicious alternative to the traditional steak dinner, while lamb ribs are significantly cheaper than pork ribs and just as delicious.

Are unusual cuts always more suited to slow cooking?
Not necessarily, but many are. Leaner cuts suited to quick cooking (such as chicken fillets) became increasingly popular over the last few decades, while the cuts that took longer to cook fell out of favour, despite often having a vastly superior taste to their lean counterparts. These budget-friendly, slow-cooking cuts were once the mainstays of the average Irish household, and their fall from the spotlight has been relatively recent. As a butcher, I’m delighted to see them making a comeback.

Are there any unusual meats you would recommend?
Ireland has fantastic indigenous game, including venison, rabbit and a variety of wild birds including pigeon, pheasant and duck. Goat is rarely eaten in Ireland but is actually one of the most widely-consumed meats on the planet; if you can source it, it is very tasty. We’ve also seen a big influx of exotic meats from further afield, and it is not uncommon to see ostrich, kangaroo or even rattlesnake in Irish butchers’ shops these days.