Discovering horse DNA in your sausage sandwich is just one of the reasons not to buy meat at supermarkets
I’ve noticed the difference in taste since I made the same cottage pie twice, one with butcher minced beef and the other with Sainsbury’s minced beef. The meat in the first one had an incredibly rich flavour and the texture was really beautiful, melting and soft. The Sainsbury’s version was disappointing – bland and the meat slightly chewy.
Forgetting this important discovery for a few weeks, I continued to food shop as before, until I chanced upon some handsome minted lamb chops from the butcher in the Arndale. They were cheap, and I was hungry. After half an hour in the oven, I had before me some of the best lamb I have ever eaten. Being Welsh, I am very discerning about lamb.
So I stopped and thought about it. I decided never to buy supermarket meat again. Like ever. Not every butcher is likely to be great, but I think it’s worth finding a good one. Supermarket meat often just isn’t as good on the three most important counts – taste, value, source.
Arndale Food Market
I’ve been to a few, but certainly not all, butchers in Manchester now and I’d recommend the one in Arndale Food Market. The produce looks so much fatter and healthier than the miserably packaged meat on the supermarket shelf.
But let the price tempt – chicken legs, drumsticks, wings, breasts are all £5.70 per kilogram, whereas chicken breasts from Sainsbury’s typically are around £9 per kilo. Minced beef is £4.96 per kilo, whereas Sainsbury’s mid-range is around £8 per kilogram. Six free range eggs are £1.10 and six duck eggs are only £1.99.
Their sausages are also delicious, I tried their pork and apple. They were lean and stayed fat through cooking and were really packed full of meat, rather than pillowcasing or some such. The sausages are all £5.25 per kilo, whereas Sainbury’s mid-range are £4.38. I love both brands, but felt that the butcher ones were a little meatier.
It’s also worth mentioning the variety of produce, a great improvement on supermarket stock – cow and chicken feet, goat, rabbit, chicken frames for homemade stock, duck, quail and plenty more besides.
It’s nice to know where the meat is from – and their website tells us it is all sourced from local farms, under the company name Gabbots Farm.
Axon’s of East Didsbury
This butchers is expensive but justifiably so. Situated in this middle class self-contained suburban village you must expect to hear mummy shouting after baby Hugo who has nabbed a jar of hollandaise. Anyway, the establishment, though pricey, is very traditional and of the highest quality. The window and counter are continually resplendent with richly marbled joints of sirloin, the plumpest poussin, and luscious legs of lamb.
The selection of sausage is deservedly award-winning, containing experimental fillings as well as an ancient Didsbury recipe which is pure pork delight. Axon’s is a family-run operation with real love for butchery and high quality meat. It’s a real treat to shop here.
Robinson’s in Withington
This family butchers in Withington is pretty much the ultimate local butcher. They are incredibly friendly, always have brilliant suggestions on how to cook something new and can source you pretty much any meat you could want if you suddenly decide you just have to cook that recipe for ox cheek stew with dumplings. Try sourcing those in Sainsbury’s! Not only is their meat really tasty and good quality, lots of it is actually cheaper than Lidl, and that’s before they throw in a couple of bits of bacon or a piece of lamb’s liver for you to try for free. One of their best deals is a huge ham hock you can get for £2.30, which can be stretched to feed four with the recipe on the side.