Meat Club Manchester

10 Mar

If you happen to be a bit squeamish, I suggest you look away now, though bizarrely not on account of the evening of live butchery, greedily devoured food or speedily imbibed wines that I’m about to recount. No, that’s the good part. What may be altogether harder to stomach is the unashamed (for want of a better word) bumming that’s about to take place over events which support food provenance, shopping locally and developing new food skills, all of which were laid out – much to my evident delight – during this latest foodie foray.

Bringing together local butchers with an ever experience hungry food-loving public, the newly established Meat Club Manchester moves around each month to showcase the skills of a new North West meat maven breaking down a different beast. The brainchild of Deanna Thomas of North Star Deli fame, the simple pleasure of watching your dinner cut, cooked and served up with a expertly matched glass of wine makes the £25 a head charge a killer deal, especially in light of the recent horsemeat scandal.*

The most recent do took place at Deanna’s deli in Chorlton, with local shrinking violet Lee Frost (of the feted W.H. Frost butchers) cleaving out our path to enlightenment by explaining the farming, hunting and butchery methods involved in bringing deer or, for those who like to pretend their meat never lived, venison to our tables. This rich, lean and gamey meat is one of my all time favourite sources of protein, so missing out on such an event was never an option, though I never truly expected to be the one wielding the knife.

Lee Frost seeing to a carcass of deer

Lee Frost seeing to a carcass of deer

Presenting the group with a young buck from Yorkshire – the majority of Cheshire venison is farmed making it fattier on account of its limited movement – we were shown step by step how the carcass is broken down. Clean of skin, head and entrails – which are usually left at the shoot for the foxes to enjoy – Lee’s experience (Q Guild don’t cha know) was both instructive and highly entertaining, in no small part down to seasoning the experience with some seriously choice language and a healthy anti-supermarket sentiment.

Lee and Deanna preparing the fillt for the venison tartare

Lee and Deanna preparing the fillt for the venison tartare

Just within the game season, Frosty worked through the neck, forequarters, saddle and haunch of our two year-old fallow deer and with a little help from the audience (hello!) produced the fillet for the tartare appetiser and the saddle and haunch for the main event. As well as cutting meat off the bone, I had the very important task of removing the remaining gristle and silver skin – which makes your meat impossibly tough to cut if not removed – all whilst rocking a nifty chain mail butchers glove. (I couldn’t touch the saw).

Me helping out with the haunch (courtesy of Joby from North South Food)

Me helping out with the haunch (courtesy of the talented Mr North from North South Food’s twitter feed)

Whilst Lee explained the different cuts and how to cook them, Deanna whisked bits off to work her magic, whipping up the most tender and delicately flavoured tartare from the fillet, served to the group on spoons and working up a sufficient hunger for the dish of roast saddle, celeriac mash, red cabbage and chocolate sauce served later that evening. Whilst Deanna busied herself in the kitchen, Charlie the Wine took centre stage to have us sample two carefully selected wines to pair with the plate of food we were about to enjoy.

Venison Tartare which was so delicious we later just spooned the leftovers out of the bowl

Venison Tartare – so delicious we later just spooned the leftovers out of the bowl

A deep, plummy 2010 Primitivo Luccarelli with herby aromas (as Italian reds are wont to do) was pitched against a brighter 2010 Cotes Du Rhone Noble Dame des Treilles, boasting cherry and raspberry notes. Both were wonderful, and though the Primitivo would have better suited the meat heavy tone of the evening, the grenache and syrah base of the Cote du Rhone beautifully offset the rich flavours served, and having let the wine breathe for a good while on account of Charlie’s expert advice, beautifully washed down my tea.

Roast saddle of venison, celeriac mash, red cabbage and a savoury chocolate sauce

Roast saddle of venison, celeriac mash, red cabbage and a savoury chocolate sauce

As far as nights out go, learning new food skills and seeing first hand the benefits of knowing your local butcher is hard to beat. The whole animal was broken down, and understanding how best to use each part off the back of Lee’s advice, quickly sold out on account of the guest’s eagerness to take the lesser used cuts home and try new dishes. We knew exactly where the animal had come from and watched it be cooked right in front of us, making for the most informed and tasty meal I’ve enjoyed in a long time.

There aren’t enough events like this, though the evening’s sponsors Food Link North West – a not-for profit organisation which supports local food producers and the initiatives and establishments that promote them – is connecting people with passion for all things local, like Lee and Deanna, and giving them the funds and the platform to realise the benefits that come from supporting local food producers. Bringing people together and celebrating our incredible regional produce is just one of them.

* Who knows what balls (literally) you might have been eating! No such surpises at Meat Club Manchester.

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One Response to “Meat Club Manchester”

  1. maureenblair March 10, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    hi love just read your blog very interesting i wouldnt know were to start,bet your glad you decidedto keep at it x

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