Meeting Laurent Vernet, master meat taster, at The Guinea Grill - Great British Chefs

By Rosana McPhee •


This week is National Butchers' Week. Set up five years ago by the Meat Trades Journal it aims to promote the craft, skills, knowledge and profile of butchers across the UK by leading a week of special focus & activities around  different cuts of meat.  Great British Chefs blogger, Rosana McPhee from Hot & Chilli was invited to a meat tasting by Quality Meat Scotland.  Find out how she learnt how tasting beef requires similar skills to those found in wine tasting:

Picanha cut of beef with cassava chips
Picanha cut of beef with cassava chips

Blog post by Rosana McPhee 

Laurent Vernet is Quality Meat Scotland's, Head of Marketing and a self taught meat master taster. He can tell the age, sex, maturity and breed of various cuts of meats by taste and look. I was very intrigued by the invitation to meet a meat master taster and have a private masterclass to learn in depth how to recognise thirteen different cuts of meat and to learn about Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), a public body responsible for helping the Scottish red meat sector improve its efficiency and profitability, and maximise its contribution to Scotland's economy.

We were told their assurance schemes cover more than 90% of livestock farmed for meat in Scotland. All farm animals must have been born, reared and slaughtered in Scotland and comply to a strict standards of traceability, animal welfare, production, fee, haulage and processing. 


Photo by Rosana McPhee

As part of the meat masterclass, first we learnt about taste: basic taste, taste and after taste. Protein tastes the same in all cuts of meat, what gives taste to a cut of meat is fat. The coriander test was an eye opener. It was interesting to hear Laurent telling us that even chefs can't recognise cuts of meat without fat by just tasting them. 

Scotch Beef is the genuine traditional beef protected by the PGI (equivalent to the protection of Champagne). In the first round were two pieces of meat - A & B, which we had to comment on taste alone. One was sirloin and the other was lamb. I was stunned! I am not a fan of lamb and I couldn't distinguish one flavour from the other.  Strip a piece of steak and lamb of its fat and they taste very similar.

The second round was about breed, maturity and sex.  Three cuts of meat were presented all sirloin. However, they were from different breeds  C - was sweet and very tender - a steer -castrated, it suffered no stress, had a flowery background taste, and pleasant mushroom after taste.  D was sour, this told us it was a stressed female, the stress can occur just before slaughter either by transportation or discomfort of any kind. Plate E was less sour that the previous piece of meat - it was an excitable male, a bull. All descriptions made by Laurent made me laugh a  lot. Laurent taught us a new vocabulary of descriptions that compares to wine tasting.



Laurent Vernet - photo by Rosana McPhee

Next we learnt about fat, marbling, drying and wet ageing or maturation. Tenderness is achieved within 10 days of slaughter.  Highlander cattle eat turnips and root vegetables. Cornfed breeds live outside and in the last six months prior to slaughter they are feed corn only, giving a very dark, with a slight green colour, extremely tender but not necessarily full flavoured meat. 

We then had picanha steak, a favourite cut of meat in South America, and Laurent told us that in the Nordic countries this cut is very popular too. We were presented with a platter containing different cuts of meat: heart, onglet and steaks.

The heart is quite dense and a bit rubbery, the onglet is praised for its flavour in France (steak & frites)  and steak which is a very tender, although not as tasty as it doesn't have much or almost no fat to give it more flavour. Laurent also, gave us a tip for the perfect steak sauce: marchand du vin, a rich, buttery sauce made with onions, brown gravy reduced, and red wine.  Or simply cook your steak and deep it in melted butter. Simple is best -  I agree with him. It was an entretaining  evening and Laurent was delightful.

The Scotch beef masterclass took place at The Guinea Grill in London Mayfair, a small inn located at Bruton Place. The venue is a founder member of Scotch Beef Club, and they specialise in dry aged, grassed fed meat from Aberdeenshire.  The service was impeccable,  unobtrusive and friendly.  We had a bottle of Museum Cigales D.O. 2008 from Spain, red wine to accompany the evening's proceedings.

Brian Turner has teamed up with internationally acclaimed duo Chris and Jeff Galvin to support the Quality Meat Scotland “Great Quality of Life, Great Quality of Taste” campaign highlighting the superb calibre of Scotch Beef.  The trio of chefs have created a host of Scotch Beef recipes, which showcase the quality assured product at its very best.  Here is one of the recipes: 

Rich Scotch Beef Stew with Tomatoes & Spring Onions

Rich Scotch Beef Stew with Tomatoes and Spring Onions

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2tbsp ground nut oil

500gr stewing steak

1 finely chopped onion

2 cloves minced garlic

1tbsp tomato puree

1 glass red wine

1ltr beef stock

100gr peeled diced carrots

100gr sliced celery

200gr chopped tinned tomatoes

1 sprig rosemary

1 bay leaf

8 tomatoes, concasse (roughly chopped)

200gr shredded spring onions

1tbsp chopped parsley

METHOD

1.    Heat the oil in large pan

2.    Cut the Scotch Beef into 1 ½ “ pieces then add the beef in batches and fry to a good colour

3.    Take out and keep to one side

4.    Add the onion and garlic to the oil to start to colour

5.    Add tomato puree and stir, then add wine and reduce by 2/3

6.    Put the beef back in and add the stock, carrots, celery and tinned tomatoes

7.    Add the herbs and bring up to the boil

8.    Simmer with a lid on approx. 1 ¼ hours until just cooked

9.    Carefully take out the meat and keep warm

10.  Pass the sauce through a liquidiser and then a strainer

11.  Return to the pan and add the meat, finish cooking

12.  Add the tomatoes and ¾ of the spring onions

13.  Cook for a further minute then serve sprinkled with parsley and the rest of the spring onions and mashed potato

Post for Great British Chefs by  Rosana McPhee from Hot & Chilli

What's your favourite cut of beef?  How do you like to cook it it?  Let us know your tips and secrets for success over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.

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Rosana McPhee

Rosana McPhee was born in Brazil and she has been living in London for the last 20 years.  She created a food blog at www.hotandchilli.com, where she writes about her adventures in food, including some ideas and recipes from her native Brazil. You can follow Rosana on Twitter: @Rosana_McPhee

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