Cooking Meat

Mutton Dressed As Lamb

Lamb ChopsOne of the more shady practices of unscrupulous butchers, including those to be found in many supermarkets, is to label young mutton, also known as hoggett, as ‘prime lamb’.

It’s not just that there is a difference in flavor, succulence and tenderness, there is also a considerable price difference at market as any struggling sheep farmer will tell you. In other words, we are being ripped off by paying too much for what should be cheaper cuts of meat. As a class of meat, hoggett sits uncomfortably between true lamb and older mutton. I say ‘uncomfortably’ because its classification is not helped by the fact that there are different interpretations of the term, depending on where you live.

In Australia, ‘lamb’ is only lamb until the animal cuts its first two incisor teeth at the age of about 8 to 12 months. After that it becomes hoggett, and as the meat darkens and becomes tougher it is reclassified as mutton – or not, as the case may be. It is not unusual for the meat to be sold as either lamb or mutton, with the intermediate classification being ignored altogether.

This would be fine, if it didn’t tempt some butchers to continue calling the meat lamb, regardless of age, until it reaches the mutton stage.

In New Zealand, where much of the world’s best lamb comes from, the animal remains a lamb until about 18 months old, when it becomes mutton. Which means that there is a certain amount of pot luck as to the age of the meat you buy. Since the quality of the meat is likely to be high anyway, especially where it comes from the salt-soaked coastal plains, this may not be of great concern to most cooks. Certainly the flavor is second to none and rivals that of Australian ‘true’ lamb.

In the UK shoppers have another marketing ploy to contend with. There the meat is often referred to as ‘new season’s lamb’ and the word ‘hoggett’ is practically unknown, except among producers. But since the lambs there are born in the winter and will mature for slaughter the following spring, the expression is really no indication of either age or quality. If it indicates anything, it is that the animal was born any time in the preceding 20 months.

The way round this problem for the canny cook is to ignore any classification by the vendor and look instead at the meat itself. True lamb is light pink in color with white fat and marbling. It also feels ‘springy’ to the touch. If the fat is at all yellow, or the meat a darker shade of pink going on red, it may still be good to eat, but check the price per kilo or pound. You should not be paying a premium for it.

Equally, if a bargain price is being offered – as supermarkets tend to do with older cuts – check the quality of the meat carefully. You may well find that what appears at first sight to be irresistible is simply hoggett dressed up as lamb.

Michael Sheridan – The Cool Cook – is a former head chef and an acknowledged authority and published writer on cooking matters. His website atAll About Cooking, contains a wealth of information, hints, tips and recipes for busy home cooks, including video based how-to guides.

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Cooking Meat

Luke Mangan Spices Up Lilydale Chicken

Provencal Herb Chicken CasseroleCelebrity chef and restaurateur Luke Mangan is helping Australian families add a little bit of spice to their everyday cooking through an innovative new range of Lilydale free range chicken products. The gourmet Free Range Dining varieties combine premium cuts of chicken with a delicious spice sachet packed full of flavour.

Making dishes to impress quick and easy, even for kitchen novices, the new Lilydale range features African Spice Breast Escalopes and Tarragon and Mint Thigh Cutlets. Cooking is also made simple with no marinating needed – simply rub the spice onto the chicken and add a tablespoon of olive oil just prior to cooking.

Gourmand Mangan says combining the right spice with the right cut of chicken is a convenient way for Australian families to create mouth-watering meals.

“The spice sachet is all you need. You don’t have to buy a multitude of spices and herbs to create a unique flavour – it’s all done for you and it tastes delicious!” said Mangan.

The first of their kind in the Australian chicken meat industry, the Lilydale Free Range Dining rubs make cooking succulent meals at home both simple and affordable.

“The range is cost-effective while still maintaining Lilydale’s passion for fresh premium cuts of chicken with quality ingredients,” said Celia Camilleri-Pace, Marketing Manager for Lilydale.

“It takes the guess work out of finding the right spice in a convenient and affordable way for Australian families.”

The recipes use all natural ingredients and contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. For the health conscious, they are low in fat, low in sodium and gluten free.

Products are packaged in a beautifully presented tray with the spice sachets and chicken in separate compartments to ensure the highest quality product. Each pack also contains a recipe suggestion with easy to follow steps that make creating a meal the whole family will love even easier.

The new products come as Australians increasingly make the switch from regular to free range chicken. Recent Newspoll research indicates that one in five people are eating more free range meat now than they did two years ago, with one in ten eating it a lot more often.

“Our birds are naturally raised and are free from growth promoters. Once fully-feathered, chickens can roam during the day on chemical-free paddocks sheltering under trees and foraging amongst the natural vegetation,” said Ms Camilleri-Pace.

All Lilydale farms are accredited by Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia (FREPA) and are audited regularly.

The Luke Mangan Lilydale Free Range Dining Rub range will be available from March 9 in selected Coles, Thomas Dux, Harris Farm Market and David Jones Food Halls throughout New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and the ACT

Cooking Meat

How to Cook a Lobster

LobsterFrench chefs plunge them into boiling water; English ones, in an attempt to appear more humane, drive kitchen knives through their skulls before doing the same thing.

No wonder the miserable creatures go red. They’re mad as hell. What a way to treat the king of crustaceans.

Let’s make a pact. From now on let’s treat the lobster with the respect (and humanity) it deserves. Here’s how:

Use a pan deep enough to hold 6 liters of salted water to which you have added some shredded onion, a garlic clove or two and a bay leaf. Purists who live by the sea also like to add a pint of seawater. People like me, who’ve seen what gets washed up as a result of coastal run-off, don’t.

Put a trivet or round roasting rack in the bottom of the pan, on which you will place the lobster. You do this so that it is not touching the bottom of the pan and will not be burnt as the metal heats up.

Does this improve the flavor? No, it’s purely for the comfort of the lobster.

So, this is what you have – a pan of cold brine, seasoned, in which a lobster sits on a trivet as happy as a sand boy. How do I know this? Because lobsters have two states of being – they’re either happy or they’re dead.

Now, using a gentle heat, gradually raise the temperature of the water to around 90°F, at which point the lobster will be fast asleep and sweetly dreaming. It will never wake up.

You can now turn up the heat until the water reaches a gentle simmer and cook the lobster for around 8 minutes a pound.

Drain and plunge into iced water. Let it cool in there before draining again and transferring to the fridge until needed.

The lobster will reward you for this kindness by being succulent and tender. It won’t be stuffed with adrenalin and its meaty fibers will not have contracted into something resembling India rubber. The next step is to cut the lobster in half and to clean it.

Lay it on its back and use a strong, very sharp, knife to cut it in half from tail to head. You will easily see the stomach bag at the back of the head and the blackish gut running the length of the body. Remove these and discard.

You may also, if you wish, discard the greenish liver, although aficionados hold this to be a delicacy. It’s certainly edible, but personally I chuck it because I don’t like the color.

And that’s it. You can now serve your lobster cold with some freshly made mayonnaise, or indulge in one of the more fanciful hot dishes for which some restaurants have become famous.

Michael Sheridan is a former head chef at the Pierre Victoire restaurant in London’s West End, specializing in French cuisine. An Australian, he is a published author on cooking matters, and runs a free membership club and cooking course for busy home cooks at

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Cooking Meat

Cleaning And Filleting Fresh Fish

Fish FilletsFish is one of the most wholesome foods that man can eat. In fact, people have been eating fish throughout human history. These days, many cooks yearn to add fish to their repertoire, but the whole process of cleaning and filleting fresh fish is a little scary to them. The process of cleaning and filleting fresh fish is relatively simple once the steps are understood.

To begin, you must clean your fresh fish properly in order to maintain it’s quality during the remaining steps of processing. First, use a knife or fish scaling tool to remove all of the scales. Removing the scales early on is a key to easy fish cleaning. Next, remove the fish head by cutting just behind the first set of fins. Now, insert your sharp knife into the area where you just removed the head and make a slit in the belly of the fish. You will want to slit the fish belly all the way down to the vent next to the tail. This should open up the cavity of the fish and you can pull or cut away any viscera or organs from inside the fish. The next step is to cut away any additional fins that the fish may have. Do this by cutting into the fish in a circular motion around the fins and remove them. Finally, rinse the fish body and cavity under cold, running water. Now that the fish has been properly cleaned, you can move on to filleting.

Begin the fish filleting process by laying the fish on one side and inserting your knife into the fish body almost to the backbone. Guide your knife along the backbone, exposing the fillet as you cut. You will have to lift and separate the flesh from the bone as you cut. Next, repeat this process for the other side. Once you have created the two fish fillets, place them skin side down and cut through the flesh next to the tail. Do not cut through the skin next to the tail, as you will hold onto this skin as you separate the skin from the flesh. Insert your fillet knife between the flesh and the skin and use a back and forth motion to separate the two. Rinse the fillets with cold water and be sure to dry them before storing or using.

These simple and easy steps are all that it takes to make the most out of fresh fish. With these steps in mind you can prepare fresh fish for any meal.

About the Author: Find more great articles and seafood recipes at: Honz is chief creative talent at:


Cooking Meat Uncategorized

Roasting Meat – Temperatures and Times

Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, I still see recipes that insist you should cook meat at high temperature for the first twenty minutes or so to seal it and then lower the level for the rest of the cooking time. This has become the fashionable way and I’m not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with a lack of time in an age when both partners tend to work for a living.

What I am certain about is that this is not the best way to treat a prime roast. Nor does it ‘seal’ it. Let’s put this myth to bed once and for all. Cooking meat at high temperature, whether in the oven, on the barbecue or in a pan does not seal it! It burns it. That’s why it goes brown. And it introduces extra flavor, because the outside of the meat generally has a covering of fat. Fat is what gives meat it’s unique flavor. However adding this crust to the outside of the meat will also speed up the cooking of the rest of the joint, and reduce the amount that remains rare. It will not produce the even finish you see in hotel and restaurant carveries. To achieve that you need slow, low temperature cooking plus regular basting.

Basting is simply taking the juices from the bottom of the pan and pouring them back over the cooking meat from time to time. By doing this, and cooking at the right temperature, you will produce far more succulent results. Browning will still take place, but gently, as part of a process.

Let’s look at the basic method.
Do you use a roasting tin? Well don’t. It’s not a good idea to cook meat inside a roasting tin, because the bottom of it tends to be sitting in liquid, much of which is water. A much better way is to place the joint directly on the rungs of the oven with the roasting tin underneath it. In this way, you can pack vegetables in the roasting tin and they will cook nicely in the juices from the meat.

If you don’t like that idea, because it means you have to clean the rungs after use, put the meat on top of a rack in or on the roasting tin instead. You don’t need to buy a special tin for this, simply use a cake rack or something similar. I have even used two or three kebab skewers and rested the joint on those.

However the advantage of cooking directly on the rungs is that the air circulates freely round the joint, ensuring even cooking, and you can remove the roasting tin to make your gravy while leaving the meat where it is. Of course, if you do that, you will want to put some kind of drip tray under the joint, but any ovenproof dish will do for that.

Temperatures and cooking times

Using my method (actually it’s Graham Kerr’s method which I’ve adopted but what the heck) you don’t need to learn a lot of complicated temperature/time formulas. Cook your red meat at 350°F,180°c,gas mark 4. Cook poultry at 325°F,160°c,gas mark 3.

Calculate your cooking time as 30 minutes for every 500 grams (roughly 1lb) of meat. This will produce thoroughly cooked poultry, beef that is well cooked on the outside and rare inside, pink lamb and pork (yes you can safely eat ‘underdone’ pork providing the internal temperature reaches 145°F. The danger bug is trichinae, which dies at temperatures greater than 135°F). Remember to add an extra 30 minutes if you are using stuffing.

If you want to change anything – alter your cooking times accordingly but beware. There is a very thin line between meat that is well done and boot leather. If rare meat is more than you can handle, it’s a much better idea to use my cooking times but then turn the oven off and leave the meat in it for a further 30 minutes or so.

Which brings me to one more point; it’s very important to let the meat stand for at least 20 minutes before carving. Why? Because when you heat protein (which is what meat is) it shrinks and toughens. Allowing it to relax and cool a little restores some of its elasticity. However it will continue to cook for a while after leaving the oven and the internal temperature will increase by as much as a further 10 degrees. Which is why you need a good 20 minutes resting time. Just keep it in a warm place with a sheet of cooking foil over the top while you prepare the greens and gravy.

During the 1990s Michael Sheridan was head chef of the Pierre Victoire restaurant in London’s West End, specializing in French cuisine. An Australian, he is a published author on cooking matters, and runs a free membership club for busy home cooks at

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