At least once a week you’ll catch me dishing out my best John McEnroe outburst of ‘you cannot be serious’ alongside a sassy stare. A certain someone knows this combo all too well because he’s usually at the receiving end. That’s what he gets for not listening. I have no doubt he hears me; apparently I’ve really perfected the art of projection, my speech and drama teacher would be so proud, but whether or not he comprehends these sounds is a source of great debate at times.
What makes me wonder that? Oh just all those times he’s asked me about something… that I’ve just told him, or told me something that… yep, you guessed it, I’ve just told him. You get why my inner McEnroe escapes? But there are times when the sound bites surprisingly manage to align and it’s a win for me. Actually, a win for both of us because I can stop going on and on about it whatever is flavour of that month.
Let me present you with example A: “I’d love to go on a butchery course…” or “I should really learn how to do some proper butchery, maybe I should go to a class” or even, “do you think I should jazz up my knife skillzzz?”. Since I learnt how to portion up a chicken, these are all things said by moi at some point or another during last year. All of which clearly sunk in at some point in the year because come Christmas, what was waiting for me under our minuscule tinsel tree? A voucher for a butchery class at Provenance Butchers in Notting Hill. Hooray – time for my slicing and dicing skills to be honed to perfection!
Provenance Butchers are a neighbourhood butchery by day who run their classes twice a month in the evenings; they do lamb, beef and pork masterclasses – whoever books in first gets to choose which it’ll be for the evening. The classes are held at the shop itself so they’re quite intimate, there were only five of us budding butchers when I went and I can hardly imagine fitting more than one or two extras. Front row seats all round, thanks very much!
I chose do to pork masterclass because I cook with pork more often than beef or lamb, and find I’m more experimental with different cuts such as belly, tenderloin and even cheeks. But, as our teachers for evening explained, there isn’t much difference in structure between any of the three animals so once you get the gist of one, the others are the same. Handy to know should I decide to change careers.
At the start of the class we were introduced to a beautiful whole pig, soon after it was all portioned up – each of us taking a turn. Personally, I found the saw a little frightening and felt much more at ease when I’d sawn through the bone and could switch back to the knife, but some of the others took to it with ease. As we went along, we talked about the different parts of the pig, the cuts of meat we know them as, and why some parts are tougher, leaner, fatter, or just plain tastier. Learning about this stuff is what I love; I make no apologies for eating meat but I truly believe that if you do, you should do it responsibly and try to eat as much of the animal as possible.
We then got a little more hands on with our own piece of pork belly which turned into a rolled porchetta. For our own safety we donned the chain mail gloves but because my hands are so small, they didn’t fit very well despite the extra rubber band thing, and I found the whole thing a bit of a nuisance- think I quietly took it off about half way through and still have all my fingers in tact.
During the process, I not only learnt how to trim the ribs off the belly, open and stuff it properly then score and roll it, I found out that I am probably too pedantic and slow to ever be a real butcher. While the others jumped straight in there, I was so particular I probably would have measured the halfway point if there was a ruler to hand. Dreams dashed, but for now I did come home with a beautiful, albeit scored in the wrong direction, rolled porchetta to be saved for an epic Sunday roast with guests!
After all our hard work, we were rewarded with a nice glass of wine and a hearty pork and sausage stew on mash. Unsurprisingly, the meat was succulent and the sausages were full of flavour – we all went back for some seconds and wished there was a loaf of crusty bread to mop up the incredible sauce still left in pot. I know that space is a little tight and we are in a butcher’s shop but perhaps the team could invest in some stools so we didn’t have to eat standing up… That aside, sharing a meal and chatting with the others in the class was a lovely way to end the evening.
This class is a great introduction to butchery for those home cooks who want to expand their knowledge – it was hands on, there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions, and you get to take home a decent piece of meat which is always a bonus! So pleased that a certain someone heard all my random ranting and got me this fantastic gift – serious boyfriend brownie points earned!
Do you have to deal with a significant other who has selective hearing? Have you ever been to a butchery class before?