If you’re a beef lover (and if you’re not, what are you doing here?), I have a few questions for you:
1. What’s the difference between a fore-rib and a wing rib?
2. What’s the difference between an onglet steak and a hanger steak?
3. Is 56-day aged beef better than 30?
4. In taste terms, is the breed of cow more or less important than the way it’s been raised?
5. Would you be able to French-trim a cote-de-boeuf and cook it to absolute perfection?
The answers to these questions – and many, many more – were answered for me by Perry and Borut – the fantastic butchers at the Ginger Pig butchery masterclass at their Marylebone shop.
The class was bought for me as a Christmas present by my wife and finally, after much planning, I got to go along. It was a superb, never-to-be-forgotten gift-that-keeps-on-giving experience.
In a nutshell: you turn up, put an overall on, feel a bit anxious about slicing your fingers off because the knives are so sharp, then watch in awe as Perry breaks half a middle section of a cow down into the familiar parts we all lust over in our butchers’ shops: the fore-rib, the wing rib, the rib-eye, the sirloin, the fillet, the T-bone, the rump, the Picanha.
It heaven had a meat lovers’ theme park, then this would be it.
Then you’re treated to thick, juicy tranches of mouth-water fillet steak, cooked by Borut.
But that’s just for starters.
The masterclass main course is when Perry hands over to you a magnificent joint of two-ribbed fore-rib to de-cartilage and tie – ready to take away to cook at home.
Then you’re treated to inch-thick slices from a cooked-to-perfection five-rib fore-rib joint (keep up at the back), served with garlicky Gratin Dauphinoise and dressed salad leaves (a token gesture and barely touched), washed down with a few glasses of full-bodied red wine, then followed by (if you have room – I didn’t) – vanilla-infused bread and butter pudding.
At £135, it was one of the best – and value-for-money – experiences I’ve ever enjoyed.
At the end of the three hour-plus evening, we each took home our hand-trimmed fore-ribs (or cote de boeufs) and then on Sunday, I treated my present-buying wife to the best roast beef dinner she’s ever tasted.
I’ve followed the Ginger Pig boys’ recipe to the letter. Here are the results…
1. Heat the oven as hot as it will go. Just before it goes in the oven, cover the beef with some salt and pepper.
2. Place the beef in a roasting tray so that it rests upright on the bone, put the tray in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, until the fat starts to sizzle.
3. Turn the temperature down to 160C/Gas 3 and roast for a further 20 minutes per 500g, depending on whether you like your beef rare or medium rare.
4. Remove the beef from the oven, cover with foil, drape a tea towel over the top and leave it to rest for 30-40 minutes before carving.
5. There are different ways to carve, but I prefer to separate the bones from the meat with a sharp knife and then to slice the beef across the grain. This is perfect if you have some people who like quite rare meat, and others who prefer it a little bit more well done, carve the entire joint as the middle will be rarer than the edges.
6. Serve with Yorkshire puddings, Dauphinoise potatoes, steamed greens, glazed carrots and very beefy gravy.
1. The forerib is the first five bones of the loin after the 3 wing ribs (nearest the head). It has bags of flavour and has become the firm favourite roast in recent years.
2. None. They’re different names for the same thing: a barrel-shaped muscle cut from along the spine. It has a strong, almost offally flavour and needs careful treatment in the kitchen, but brings rich reward whether served nice and pink or stewed until tender.
• Is 42-day aged beef better than 28? It’s up to you. Older beef has a more gamey flavour. The guys at Ginger Pig prefer theirs around the 28-day mark.
• Welfare is more important. Well-fed, stress-free cattle have sweeter, more tender meat. (Exception: Wagyu – a breed that has exceptional marbling).
• Would you be able to French-trim a cote-de-boeuf and cook it to absolute perfection? I can now!!