Friday, 10 April 2015

A Meaty visit to Donald Russell Butchers

This definitely isn't a post for any of my vegetarian followers so probably best to click away now if that applies to you. However, if you're a carnivore that loves good quality meat you will undoubtedly already have heard of Aberdeenshire based, award winning and royal warrant holding mail order butcher Donald Russell. Order online, by phone or even by snail mail and your parcel of frozen products will arrive at your door in a sturdy polystyrene box packed with dry ice. Everything is vacuum packed and ready to transfer into your own freezer. You can choose the date for your delivery and leave instructions of where it should be left if you are out, the insulated coolbox will ensure that the contents remain frozen. 


As an existing customer and fan of their quality produce I was delighted to be invited for a tour of the Inverurie based butchery including the opportunity to cut my own steak and enjoy a tasting lunch. Clearly there are stringent health and safety rules to follow when entering a food production facility. Luckily I had been nowhere exotic or contracted any infectious diseases. My no jewellery, make up or perfume look was complimented by a ravishing pair of white shoes, body warmer, overcoat, hairnet and hard hat. The chainmail would come later.


My butchery tour was led by Iain Matthew who has many years of experience and a wealth of knowledge which he was happy to share. As both a farmer's daughter and a foodie I found the tour fascinating - but very cold! There is a real skill to the process of butchering, turning a side of meat into a huge assortment of finished products for the domestic and trade market in both the UK and abroad. It was very clear to see that the staff take great pride in their work and that the craft of butchery is highly valued. Their ability to cut a steak to an exact weight was astounding. Quality control and attention to detail was at an extremely high level across the whole range of product from traditional cuts to contemporary classics. I saw everything from well matured carcuses right through to an assortment of beef, lamb and pork joints for roasting, the big 4 steaks, (sirlion, fillet, ribeye and rump) sausages, meatballs and sausage rolls. 


Having had the full tour it was time for Iain to show off his skills and butcher a 5 Bone Rib. Chainmail apron and gauntlet were duly donned. All Donald Russell beef is 100% British, grass-fed, naturally reared with the vast majority of it Scottish. You need a seriously sharp knife, a fair bit of force and great skill to turn an enormous piece of beef into rib eye steaks and beef rib trim. Iain made it all look very easy and talked me through the whole process. The four fat fingers of meat tucked in between the rib bones used to end up in beef mince or sausages. That was until Albert Roux visited and was shocked that they were being treated as spare parts as in his eyes they were highly prized rich , fatty and tasty chunks perfect for slow cooking. 


Then it was my turn. The chainmail is surprisingly heavy and bulky, not a particularly flattering look over my layers of bodywarmer - to keep out the cold - and white coat. More pressure than I would have imagined is required to cut a steak and as for getting the weight of it spot on. Lets just say that I think the set of scales I was using was rather dodgy. But all said and done I did manage to cut what to me looked like a pretty awesome selection of jumbo sized steaks.


Carrying my very own limited edition Foodie Quine rib eye steak it was time to head out of the cold and into the heat of the Donald Russell development kitchen and meet chef Matthias Schmitt. He had been busy prepping our tasting lunch and the smells coming from the oven were amazing. He explained how important it was to let my steak come up to room temperature before cooking and if it had been previously frozen and vacuum packed to reshape it and give it time to bloom.


We dined on a amazing feast comprising of Rack of Lamb, Carnivores’ Rib Steak, Large Classic Steak Burger and my very own Ribeye Steak. Donald Russel have recently launched a new range of vegetable accompaniments so we sampled them all. Buttery Mashed Potato, Spinach in B├ęchamel, Cauliflower Cheese, Broad Beans, Petits Pois & Bacon in B├ęchamel. The spinach was particularly amazing. There was even room for one of their delicious ready made deserts - Chocolate & Pecan Brownie served with caramel cream.  


Matthias concocted an amazing sauce whilst my steak was resting. Not sure if I should admit that my usual accompaniment is a packet mix of peppercorn sauce. This beats it hands down. Recipe below straight from the mouth of its creator. When he says butter he means a LOT of butter! 

“While steak is resting: add a teaspoon wholegrain mustard, pinch of brown sugar, caramelise, dash of red port wine, reduce, dash of white wine, reduce, pinch of salt, fresh ground black pepper, dash of beef stock and of course a knob of butter to thicken the sauce. Reduce to your liking, coat the steak in it and get ready to get your forks out…”


I was very intrigued to see what Matthias did with the rested steak before serving. Adding even more butter to the pan he warmed it through again. This is definitely something worth trying at home. I've often found my steak has gone a wee bit colder than I'd like after resting. This seems like an obvious but overlooked solution. With a full tummy there was just enough time for a quick tour around the call centre before it was time to head for home following a fascinating and tasty day. My host for the day Corrie presented me with a Butchery Masterclass certificate of attendance and a goody bag of branded products. 


Back home and time to try out my own cooking skills on the beef rib trim that I'd watched Iain so expertly butcher. This cut is traditionally used in slow cooking due to its wonderful marbling however the Donald Russell chefs recommended that I try them exactly as I would a ribeye steak. I was slightly sceptical as to how well this unorthodox approach would work but the taste was fantastic. Following my visit I've now got a wishlist of new products that I'd like to try which include Barnsley Lamb Chops, Salt Beef and Jacobs Ladder. Definitely time to place an order. 




Disclosure: I received a tour and dined as a guest of Donald Russell. As always, all views expressed are my own.
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8 comments :

  1. We don't eat meat very often, but getting good quality meat is something that is really important for us.

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    1. Absolutely. Much better to eat it less often and be assured of its quality and provenance.

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  2. Fascinating! BIC

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    1. Indeed it was. Glad to hear that you have made use of the discount code.

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  3. Seems like you had an amazing time.

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    1. Might not be everyone's idea of an amazing time but it definitely was for me!

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  4. Oh we LOVE Donald Russell and did a commissioned recipe using the beef rib trim a couple of months back. It's was so delicious I ordered a lot more to put in the freezer. I love it in carbonnades and it also makes a mean chilli. Fascinating to see around the place, looks like a fabulous tour.

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    1. It was a thoroughly interesting day from start to finish. I bet the beef rib trim works really well in chilli. Remember to use the code for 10% off your next order.

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