19 December 2016

A Cut Above – Andy Fenner on Festive Meat Cuts

image: Craig Kolesky

A purveyor of ethically farmed meats, Andy Fenner is the owner of Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants – a Cape Town butchery dedicated to free-range and grass-fed meat.

Sourcing from small, independent farmers who raise their animals humanely, FFMM has a different philosophy on how you should cook for Christmas – including trimming down on excess and the journey between farm and plate.

We asked trendsetting butcher Andy about his unique take on festive meat cuts and his top tips for preparing them…

How does the experience of buying meat from a butcher differ from that of the retail supermarket?
A real butcher will allow you to have a face-to-face conversation with someone who knows their craft. He/she will advise you on cuts and how to cook them. They can tell you about where the meat comes from and introduce you to cuts you’ve never heard of. In a supermarket…you’re taking something off a shelf.

Could you tell us more about FFMM’s philosophy of using ethically sourced meat?
We believe an animal can be loved and respected, but still provide meat for someone to eat, assuming that person does so responsibly. As strange as it sounds, we actually want people to eat less meat – but just eat the right kind of meat. If we eat responsibly, instead of simply out of habit, we can collectively start making changes. For us, ethically-sourced meat means animals that are reared outdoors with loads of room to roam around. They have a natural diet of grass and vegetables with no growth hormones or artificial feeds.

What are some of the most popular festive cuts?
Well, naturally gammon is a big seller. Ours is brined and cold smoked and simply needs to be roasted. We refuse to sell turkeys, as we cannot find anyone local doing it on the ethical level we want. As a result, we have been encouraging people to buy one of our ducks or chickens which has been going really well. Leg of lamb is always a winner for Christmas.

Which cut do you wish people would use more of at this time of year?
I can’t punt one specific cut really, but I do wish people would commit to doing one (or two) luxury cuts instead of purchasing many and cooking an obscene amount of food. I’ve seen too many Christmas parties that have crazy amounts of food. Buy something nice, cook it with care and serve it with pride.

Could you share some of your top tips for Christmas roasts with us?
You need to roast the meat hot and fast either at the beginning of the cooking process, or at the end – but a low, slow cooking temperature is the way to go. As a rule of thumb, I heat the oven to 240°C and stick the meat in for 20 minutes. I then turn it down to 160°C and cook until I’m happy. Also, don’t be shy of using a meat thermometer.

Imgae: Craig Kolesky

What is the best way to add flavour to meat from the inside out?
A stuffing is the most expected answer. Pork sausage taken out of the casing and mixed with some breadcrumbs and herbs will do wonders. Pine nuts and mushrooms will add earthiness. Brining is also an option, which involves soaking your roast in a mixture of water, salt and aromatics. For a simpler version, dry-brine by rubbing your roast with coarse salt and spices a day before you want to cook it.

How long should meat rest for once out of the oven?
Nothing less than 20 minutes. Resting the meat is as important as cooking it.

Most flavourful roast?
Honestly, a good roast chicken is hard to beat. Our chickens are slaughtered at 100 days, which is more than double the age of commercial chickens. The difference in flavour is incredible.

Most unexpected roast?
Goat. A shoulder or leg done the right way will beat the pants off lamb.

Most inexpensive roast?
Pig head.

Which Le Creuset products would you recommend for the meat-lover?
I’m a big fan of braising meat. Beef shin, lamb neck, pork trotters and hocks – these are the things that blow my hair back. Get any of the products with sufficient depth to allow you to get enough liquid in there.

BONUS QUESTION: How do you get the crispiest crackling on a pork roast?
Score the meat and rub it with coarse sea salt the day before you want to cook it. The salt draws moisture out of the skin and you’ll be left with crazy crackling. Nuke it at 240°C for 20 minutes before turning the heat way down to finish it off gently.

Frankie Fenner Meat
143 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7929

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