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Wednesday 6 June 2012

Sluttery by Post: Donald Russell

Now it won't come as much of a surprise to learn that I am more than a little bit obsessed with food and can totally geek out for hours about what makes a great steak or perfect pie (mmmm pie). So when mail order meat specialists Donald Russell invited me up to Aberdeen to find out more about their products I was, well, quite frankly dancing with joy at the prospect of a meaty road trip. I mean come on, not only do they supply fab hotels such as Malmaison and Hotel du Vin but they are the butchers of choice for none other than Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche, Marco Pierre White and the Queen, yes THE QUEEN!

Donald Russell are hardcore meat geeks and have perfected their craft to ensure that they are able to offer a 100% money back guarantee if you have tasted better meat. Quite a promise I thought skeptically, but then I tasted their chargrilled ribeye steak on the bone, and I'm not ashamed to say, I actually welled up. It was, and remains, the best steak I've ever eaten (and I used to work in a butchers!).

The 700g ribeye that made me weep with joy!

I could go on for ages about how they carefully source, mature and butcher their meat in order to make it taste so amazing (the temperature and humidity controlled maturation chamber was a thing of beauty for a meat fiend like me) but I won't bore you with all that geekery. Trust me when I say that their meat seriously rocks - I still catch myself daydreaming about that ribeye! Producing consistently great meat is what Donald Russell pride themselves upon, their meat isn't cheap but you really are paying for quality.
Their Swiss chef Stefan cooked up some lamb cutlets for me to try, they were meltingly tender and packed full of deep flavour, I really was in Meat Heaven. Their website is full of recipes and really great tips on how to cook their meaty treats, plus you get sent a guide (somewhat cheesily named "How to Meat Perfection") with your order too which is actually brilliant, I still keep mine next to my cooker and use it all the time. They even have their own You Tube channel where you can learn even more about meat and butchery (plus you can learn how to cook the perfect steak and how to tell if its ready which quite frankly, every meat eater should watch!).
Head Chef Stefan Kölsch cooked up a selection of amazing goodies to try

The best thing about cooking with really good meat is that you don't need to do much to it, all the hard work has been done for you - keep it simple and let the flavour of the meat shine through. Two top tips from Donald Russell to get the most from your meat:
  • Make sure that your meat is at room temperature before you cook it - this helps it cook evenly and prevents it from drying out. 
  • Once cooked allow your meat to rest - the meat will relax, the juices will move about and the meat will be all the more tasty and juicy as a result. You can rest a steak for up to 10 minutes quite happily, always opt for too long than too short a resting time (you can relax too and have a glass of wine).
Meat Heaven

When I got home they sent me some meat to cook in my own kitchen. I used their whole chicken to make my Sherry Soaked Roast Chicken and it was really tasty, it sounds strange but it was just extra... "chickeny"!  They also sent some beef fillet, the quality was so good though that I decided to make my first ever Steak Tartare:

So pretty and SO tasty!

I may have cheated a bit by not actually cooking it and I know raw beef isn't for everyone but trust me it was fantastic and only something I would make using amazing beef fillet. The 160g fillet costs about £12 but it was turned into 2 generous individual servings so it's a good way to make something luxurious for a special occasion. If you fancy giving it a go:
  • 160 g chopped beef fillet
  • 1 finely chopped banana shallot
  • 4 cornichons,  roughly chopped
  • 1 tblsp capers, roughly chopped
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 fresh free range egg yolk
  • salt and pepper
  • drizzle of mild olive oil
Simply mix everything except the egg in a bowl, shape and top with the yolk. Dead easy.

Donald Russell don't just do raw meat though my friends, theres a whole range of ready meals, desserts and breads too which they also kindly sent me to road test in my kitchen (hurray!).

I will totally be passing these bad boys off as my own!

Now I'm a lady who loves a good sausage roll but shop bought ones are generally pretty mushy, bland and boring, well not if you buy them from Donald Russell. You do have to put a quick egg wash over the frozen rolls before cooking them but 30 minutes later you have a tray full of awesome. They are so good I would happily tell people that I slaved away over making them from scratch myself (and I never do that!). I really can't recommend these enough, you definitely need these in your life!

Little food doesn't count on diets right?

I'm a big fan of canapés, I basically convince myself that because of their tiny size then they don't really count as a naughty item in my diet (likewise anything liquid, bought from Waitrose or post 2am from a cabin on wheels). These went down an absolute treat when friends unexpectedly dropped round bearing gifts of wine and good news. I just managed to try one of each flavour before they were all snaffled up when I popped to the loo (I'm still upset by this). Our Frances managed to eat a lot more canapés though.
Don't throw these at ducks

Oh and I must mention the bread. A good loaf of bread makes me all kinds of happy and I bake quite a bit myself so I was pretty wary about a frozen loaf that you reheat in the oven. Once again I was surprised by just how great it was - really dense (in a good way) and packed full of seeds. Remember that scene in About a Boy when Marcus kills a duck with a loaf of bread? Well, you could definitely do some damage with these, they may be small but they are solid! They're not cheap mind at £19 for 6 loaves but I think they would be perfect for really special occasions, particularly ones that involve smoked salmon, cream cheese and something bubbly to drink.

Donald Russell do quality products and while that quality isn't cheap they do have something for everyone, they even do a weekly meal planner box to take any stress out of choosing what to cook! I definitely recommend that you give them a go if you fancy something a bit special (or want to impress someone with your amazing "homemade" *ahem* sausage rolls) and with their 100% money back guarantee then you really don't have anything to lose by trying!


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