by Neon London0
Butchery Knife Skills at Leiths: A cut above the rest.
Leiths School of Food and Wine offer a range of short weekday, evening and weekend classes with everything from Peruvian, Patisserie, and Baking for Teenagers to Winter Meats and Knife Skills.
I was luckily enough to attend the Knife Skills – Butchery class, which I cannot recommend highly enough. As a keen and dare I say it capable home cook, I jumped at the opportunity to try something a bit different and learn some new skills. I find that I am relatively good at picking up techniques from a recipe, but when it comes to something that you’re not as confident with (for me, Butchery), then it is really useful to be shown exactly what to do.
After a warm welcome and refreshments on a cold Saturday morning, the class began with quick lesson about which knives are used for what, the importance of sharpening your knives and of buying the most expensive knives you can afford (if you didn’t have an excuse to invest in a new set of knives, you do now).
We then moved on to the fun part and began boning our chickens. Mark was an excellent tutor with a hands on approach, there were no lengthy demonstrations for us to forget the beginnings of the process, but rather Mark helped us (very patiently!) as we got on with it ourselves. After removing the carcass and a fair amount of tunnel boning which releases the thigh, leg and wing bones without breaking the skin, we stuffed our birds with a ricotta and herb stuffing. Stuffing the bird will keep the whole bird moist as it cooks and is a welcome alternative to serving uninspired skinless chicken breasts. Using the entire bird is also far more economical than buying separate parts of the bird, so being able to bone a whole bird is definitely a good skill to have up your sleeve.
Next we moved on to boning a leg of lamb. A fiddly task at first but another great skill to learn: once the bone has been removed a stuffing can be inserted where the bone was removed so that the meat can be easily carved across its width. Mark also advised us that this is a great technique to know come BBQ season, as the the meat can be butterflied, left to marinate and then cooked on the barbie for about 15 minutes – delish and perfect for those no fuss cooking summer evenings where that large glass of rosé means you don’t want to do much preparation last minute.
Lastly, we learnt how to prepare Best End of Neck (Rack of Lamb). An elegant cut, a rack of lamb is perfect for entertaining with its attractive and impressive presentation. Again Mark imparted his wisdom that cleaning the bones well is essential as it means that once cooked they remain a beautiful white colour rather than becoming charred.
Some other useful tips I came away with include:
Always store your knives upside down in a knife block to avoid dulling the cutting edge.
Release (but retain) the oysters in a chicken before cooking. The oysters are two small pieces of dark meat on the back of poultry near the thigh, and are often regarded as the most flavoursome and tender part of the bird.
When leaving meat to rest before carving only use a tea towel or greaseproof paper to cover it and not foil, as foil retains too much heat and can therefore result in overcooking the meat.
At the end of the class our group sat down to a well deserved glass of wine and light lunch of our stuffed chicken and a selection of bread and cheese. It was the perfect end to a great day which, despite a few inevitable small cuts along the way, we all thoroughly enjoyed.
If you have any kind of raw meat aversion or dislike anything thing skin/blood/sinew/cartilage related then the Butchery class isn’t one for you. But with such a vast list of classes to choose from, there is sure to be something which takes your fancy.
Find a full list of the courses on offer at Leiths here.
Leiths are celebrating their 40th birthday this year. Join their celebrations here.
Leiths School of Food and Wine Limited
16-20 Wendell Road,
Telephone: +44 (0)20 8749 6400