Getting an Edge

Today I went on a butchery course* at Edge and Son Butchers in New Ferry, getting amazing tuition from Callum Edge on how to joint a chicken, cut a lamb shank and remove the bone from the leg, prepare bacon for curing and boning a shin of beef. Callum was patient with my ‘ahem’ butchery skills (I ‘may’ have left a bit much meat on the chicken carcass – but it’s going to make fabulous stock) and I’ve learnt a great deal.

Do you know about Edge and Son Butchers? They won Best Retailer of the Year at the 2014 BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards and have been established since 1844. Not only that, Edge and Sons specialise – they only buy local rare breed free range grass fed stock (sourced within a 25 mile radius); have their own small slaughterhouse behind the shop where the animals are treated with respect in a calm environment to minimise stress; and advocate a head to tail use-every-bit-of-the-animal ethos that gladdened my heart.

Callum showing how to joint lamb

Callum showing how to joint lamb

I’m a firm believer that if you eat meat, you must try your hardest to use every part of the carcass, it’s an insult to the animal and the people who raised it not to. Ask questions about where your meat comes from and how it is handled. Welfare is crucial. I’d rather spend a bit more and eat a bit less meat than accept intensive farming processes designed to create maximum profit for the retailer rather than considering the impact that has on the animals, the workers who must manage the process and of course, the planet that must sustain it.

First part of the workshop involved a visit to the slaughterhouse. Small but spankingly clean, with cleverly designed two way gates to enable the animals to move at their own pace and in the direction they choose. Animals brought here are given time to calm down and reduce their stress levels rather than being shunted straight in to see the slaughterman.

We are then taken to see the cold storage –

Cold storage

Cold storage

where the meat is hung to tenderise in cold dry conditions, allowing it to age beautifully. For those of a squeamish disposition, I must just point out that there is no scent of raw meat, such as you get when unwrapping meat from supermarket cellophane packs – it all smells fresh and clean with a hint of smoke from the charcuterie that shares the fridge space. Callum tells us that the fridges in supermarkets are not the best for meat – they are too “wet” and so make the meat sweat, creating that unpleasant metallic tang of blood.

And so to the actual butchery. We began with the basics – how to sharpen knives correctly and advice on knives in general.

Knives to use

Knives to use

Handed aprons we are then inducted into the mysteries of deboning a chicken. The key is properly sharp knife, gentle and slow work around the bones and decisive cuts through the joints once you’ve found them. Wasn’t my best round – I left far too much meat on the breastbone BUT and this is important, Callum simply explained where I went wrong and offered encouragement, which means I am now determined to have another go and do it better next time. We moved onto lamb, then pork and beef. Each time shown the basic technique of slow steady knife work and using your hands to “feel” round the joints as you go.

We stopped for tea and rather delicious snacks of black pudding, haggis and the renowned 1844 sausages before attempting to learn a butcher’s knotting technique for tying up joints. Having slightly incapacitated myself and sporting plasters on fingers, I found this a bit challenging, so shall be practising those knots later this evening. Boy scouts will find it a doddle.

We finished after 4 hours of truly interesting discussion, learning and activity that haven’t turned me into a master butcher – I need another 30 years of practice to do that – but have given me the confidence to tackle whole joints and a new understanding of the different cuts of meat that can be obtained. We were packed off home with a glorious goody bag – our aprons, a certificate of participation and, most importantly, our very own deboned chicken and lamb joints.

As Edge and Son make clear – “We’ve done our bit, now you do yours. Treat meat with the respect it deserves. Eat more of the animal and respect its entirety. Don’t just buy the expensive ‘choice’. Experiment with cheaper cuts that, with the right love and attention, can be sensational.”

*I wear several food “hats” – one of which is the lead for Slow Food Liverpool and it was as such that Callum and Debbie Edge very kindly invited me to attend this workshop. Edge and Son are a fine example of the Slow Food ethos in action- promoting true enjoyment of good food, and a food production system that provides good, clean and fair food for everyone.

More info:
Edge and Son have two shops: 61 New Chester Road
New Ferry, Wirral CH62 1AB & Church Farm, Church Lane
Thurstaston, Wirral CH61 0HW
Their website is:

Find out about Slow Food via:

Summer Sunday Lunch

Just need guests

It’s too hot to cook. I’m looking longingly at pictures of summer kitchens from the US and wishing I had one. Next best thing is to get up stupidly early to take advantage of the cooler mornings. I’ve invited my sister and her family for lunch, so my cunning plan is to get as much of the prep done in advance so I can spend Sunday morning wafting round the garden picking flowers and setting a table rather than slaving over a hot stove. So with that in mind I’ve planned a slow roast lamb, to be done overnight in a cool oven, accompanied by a selection of salads.  Strawberry jelly and home made ice-cream for pud.

Trawling round Sainsbury’s – it’s air conditioned, don’t judge me – I found a pack of Albert Bartlett’s Purple Majesty potatoes. Potato salad beckons. Off to the butchers for the lamb – a lovely Welsh lamb shoulder that will feed us and leave plenty of leftovers.  I do love leftovers. Super satisfying to make more than one meal from an ingredient.

Home to prep. I’m making my grandmother’s potato salad – a Hungarian recipe that uses a vinaigrette dressing with sour cream. First boil the potatoes whole, until knife tender. Drain and rinse quickly under cold water, then remove the skins. It’s a bit of a faff, but the flavour is so much better. Thickly slice the potatoes  and toss, while still warm in the dressing. This is made with a tablespoon of smooth dijon mustard, mixed with 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and season with salt and pepper. Whisk well and then add 150ml of sour cream. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit – it should be sweet/ sour & creamy.  Add chopped parsley, and half a red onion, chopped finely. Mix well with the potatoes and set aside to cool.

perfectly purple potato salad

Onto the next item – strawberry jelly. I’ve totally cheated and used a jelly packet, but I  added masses of local strawberries. I have in my possession a gloriously retro piece of tupperware – a jelly mould with interchangeable lids to create patterns.  This was the final result – fab isn’t it?! I served it with homemade strawberry ice cream.

Retro jelly

Onto the lamb. It’s still super hot here, hitting 30C by lunch so I’m cooking the lamb overnight using Nigella Lawson’s recipe from Nigella Bites. Super simple, and super delicious.  Get a heavy based roasting tin and heat it on the hob. Put the lamb shoulder, fat side down and let it brown – about 5 minutes. Remove lamb and add 6 cloves of garlic, peeled; 6 shallots, halved; and 2 carrots, halved. Cook for 5 minutes on a high heat, then put lamb back, meat side down this time. Season with salt and pepper. Add 500ml of boiling water and bring to a simmer. Cover loosely with foil and put in a slow oven – 140C (120C fan/ GM1) as you go to bed. In the morning, the lamb will be beautifully tender and as an added bonus, there will be an amazing lamb stock to put aside for another day. Remove lamb from roasting tin – and place on a plate and shred with two forks. At this point, you can recover with foil and leave in the still warm oven. It’s a dish that benefits from being served warm, so that the fat remains juicy and not solidifying.  When ready to serve, arrange a plate with baby spinach/ watercress/ green leaf of your choice; pile on the shredded meat and then add a handful of torn fresh mint leaves and the juice and seeds from a pomegranate. Easiest way to deal with the pomegranate is to halve it, then hold it over the meat and bash the back of it with a spoon. The seeds will rain down, leaving the pith behind.

To add to the rainbow lunch I seemed to be creating, I made a shredded carrot salad – using a recipe I was given in the Ivory Coast. It’s very simple. Crush a clove of garlic into a paste with a pinch of coarse salt. Add the zest and juice of a lemon, and olive oil to form a dressing. Grate 6 carrots, season with salt and pepper and toss with the dressing. Add chopped mint and set aside for an hour before serving to let the flavours develop.

Rainbow Lunch

Lunch is served!!