Tag Archives: charcuterie

A Meat Feast – Le Charcutier Anglais

January seems the most appropriate time to review a cook book that teaches you how to make your own black pudding.

As I see the same usual miserable people around me, gloomily chewing on salad leaves in the belief that a few weeks observance before returning to GluttonyVille is somehow good for them, I am busy working out whether, sharing a house with other people, I can get away with making the kitchen look like an abattoir.

Vegetarians look away now

My inspiration for this gristly plan, which probably contravenes the contract I signed with the landlord, is Le Charcutier Anglais by Marc Frederic, a Northerner who swapped the gloom of the British Isles for years on the continent in France and Germany learning the secrets that allow them to make so many brilliant taste sensations from the humble pig.

They called (well the French anyway) him Le Charcutier Anglais and today he is based in Devon and travels the UK and mainland Europe teaching others his craft.

Me at work on my victim at Westaways

It was Marc, real name Mark Berry, who ran a butchery course I did around this time last year at Westaways HQ in Newton Abbot, where he impressed us all with his knowledge, skills and above all, patience. He showed us how to take half a pig and turn it into various hams, bacon, sausages, ribs etc.

It isn’t your typical cook book; the first section gives guidance on how to butcher a pig carcass along the same lines as the lesson we were given, complete with tips on tools needed (including a bone saw). While not all readers, few even, will have the time, money or inclination to get into butchery on this scale it is an interesting look at the art of the professional butcher.

Where the book comes into its own is where he goes into how to use the various parts of the beastie you might have just dismembered.

From blood, through offal to pate and other preserved meats, the book is atreasure trove of methods and recipes that show how easy – though occasionally time consuming and/or messy) creating your own charcuterie products can be. The main focus is on pigs and dishes derived therefrom. But there are other meaty recipes on show as well.

What they show is that there really is no reason you cannot have a crack at doing these things yourself. Like me with my coppa ham you might bugger it up, but practice makes perfect!

When I finally found time to flick through the book it was one of those ones where you read a recipe and think: “I can do that. And that. And that. And that.”

With one eye as always on my wallet (the raison d’etre for launching this blog in the first place), while Marc places emphasis on using quality meats, many of the recipes call for cheaper cuts of meat.

My favourite part is the pages devoted to making your own black pudding, be it the traditional British version, the French Boudin Noir or the German Blutwurst. I love black pudding, but how many people would consider making it themselves? Yet it is very easy, as the basic recipe shows, albeit with a possibility that those living with you might think you have become a serial killer – should you be able to find a butcher who can sell you blood in the first place.

Marc Frederic aka Mark Berry

Intermixed with the recipes are helpful times and tales from Marc’s childhood and time working both in the UK and abroad, shot through with ribald and self-deprecating humour, which make the book as much fun to just sit back and read through as it is to use it to make recipes.

Now, off to find someone who will sell me six litres of pigs’ blood. And then I shall paint the kitchen red.

Bon appetite.

You can find Marc Frederic on Twitter or on his blog or at his company website


Cutting edge skills from snout to tail… and beyond

Faced with the chilled carcass of half a pig, would you know what to do with it?

"Squeal like a pig"

Now, I consider myself to be fairly adept in the kitchen. After all, I love to cook and know most of the joints and cuts of meat. But as to where on the beast they are located and, more importantly, how you create them from a dead animal with a tail, ears and trotters… Well, I simply haven’t a clue.

So when Charles Baughan of Westaways, one of the South West’s largest sausage-making companies, asked me if I wanted to get all Hannibal Lecter on what had once been a sow (OK – that’s my paraphrase) I couldn’t refuse.

Continue reading Cutting edge skills from snout to tail… and beyond

French comfort food, made in Devon

Everyone has a taste that reminds them of their childhood. It probably says a lot about the middle-class nature of my upbringing that the taste that reminds me of my childhood the most is Rillettes du Mans.

What is it? Oh you wouldn’t like it. It is essentially salted pork meat cooked confit for so long that when it cools you can take it off the bone with a fork. It is then put into pots and the cooking fat is poured on top as a preservative and to add flavour.

As a child we spend almost every annual holiday in France (apart from 1996 when we went to Teignmouth, we don’t speak of that holiday any more). While us four siblings regularly made our parents hard-earned break a living hell, I have fond memories of the dinner table at whichever villa in the middle of nowhere mon parent had rented (basic principle was that on no account should there be an English speaker within 20 miles).

One of the reasons was the ever present French stick and a tub of Rillette du Mons, a meaty fatty mess that you spread onto a hunk of bread. Tres bien as the French (and Del Boy) might say.

Why do I share this pleasant reverie from my youth with you on an English food and drink blog? Well because I have just tried some Devonian rillettes and it was rather good. In the week, as those of you who pay attention will know, I went to Westaways at Newton Abbot to butcher a pig. This butchery was done under the guidance of one Marc Frederic, Lancastrian owner of an excellent moustache and a worryingly sharp selection of knives. Marc is a French trained charcutier and at the end of the day, which I will write about at length, he unveiled a little something of his own.

Marc runs Moorish Foods, which produces charcuterie from free-range beasties in a continental style. And he handed us a couple of pots of this rillettes (don’t pronounce the “ll” he said, sagely).

I tried it when I got home, with a bit of crusty bread and it took me right back to the early 1990s in France, eating lunch with the family before heading to the beach and trying to peek at the topless women without making it obvious (it was always obvious).

Since then I have had it for lunch most days (I found a couple more jars that “accidentally” fell in my bag as I left Westaways). It is great smeared over a hot buttered bagel, though not really kosher. It is the ultimate comfort food on a cold winter day, with a cuppa, as much as a great summer food with a glass of wine.


Making a coppa ham

A little video about the Italian coppa ham I made while at Westaways. Coppa is Italian for “nape”, which refers to the cut of pork used from the shoulder and neck of the beastie.

Training was provided by the excellent Marc Frederic of Moorish Foods, who as well as wielding a mean knife, has a bad-ass moustache.

Anyway, here’s the vid about my Italian coppa ham. Hopefully in six weeks’ time I’ll be tucking in!