Monday, 21 April 2014

The new butcher of Broadway Market

A brand new butcher
Broadway Market has seen a change or two over recent weeks. Henry Tidiman’s has finally closed after a year of seeing reduced hours.

Hopefully, Henry can now enjoy a long and relaxing retirement.

But just as I was lamenting the loss of a butcher on the street – the premises will, from what I’ve heard, be turned into another eatery of some variety – something unexpected happened.

Another butcher opened, on almost the opposite side of the street.

The shop has been through various incarnations since the street started to revive, but it had, many, many years ago, been a butcher.

It’s quite possible that it had even been the shop that Henry’s father had run, giving us a rather pleasing sense of synchronicity.

Anyway, Hill & Szrok, master butcher, is now with us – and most welcome.

By day, it is a traditional butcher – very traditional, as the design reveals. Tom Richardson Hill is most certainly a butcher who combines a serious commitment to traditional butchery with an understanding of what a modern clientele in an area such as ours needs.

In the evening, an hour after closing, Alex Szrok takes over and operates it as a cookshop, taking a fresh look at that aspect of our culinary heritage.

There are a couple of important things worth noting. The shop will open to 6pm – pretty much essential these days for any new, independent food outlet that wants to catch people on their way home from work and offer a real alternative to supermarkets.

It helps to allow a Paris-style of shopping for food: being able to buy fresh, from independents, after work.

Since Broadway Market now has a fishmonger with a similar approach – Fin & Founder – and two organic greengrocers that open late (plus a range of very good Turkish general grocers) and La Bouche, which doesn’t close early, I can travel home and still shop for that evening’s meal.

The next thing to note is that Hill & Szrok is an organic butcher.

Forget the plastic
The area has changed – it doesn’t matter if some think that’s good and some think it’s bad – but it’s simply a fact that we’ve become the next stop on the eastwards-moving trendification of London’s East End.

That causes issues – not least in terms of the prices of housing in the area – but also in terms of prices on Broadway Market.

However, it’s also important to be realistic.

Broadway Market was all but dead little more than a decade ago.

The myriad shops that Henry described to me had, apart from his own, been consigned to history – in part because local people had decided that shopping at a big box Tesco was what they wanted.

Anything opening now has to ride the wave of the revival of interest in food.

However it’s characterised by some, that isn’t just ‘foodieism’, but reflects a number of trends – particularly among more middle-class people who can afford not to have to shop as cheaply as possible.

Lovely burgers
Last year’s horse meat farce is one such reason – people care increasingly about provenance for a very good reason. They’re also increasingly concerned about GM, about the use of antibiotics and hormones in their meat, about the sustainability of fish and about seasonality.

What’s happening on Broadway Market merely reflects that.

There is, as I’ve mentioned previously and touched on a few paragraphs ago, a question of money.

The UK has long seen households spend a lower percentage of their income on food than households on the Continent. And in the last few years, that gap has widened further.

While there are myriad issues with a wide cultural attitude of seeing food as fuel, and nursing a deep-seated suspicion of anyone who spends ‘too much’ time and money on it, it remains almost certainly the case that the recent further decline is down to stagnating and declining wages.

We know that incomes for everyone apart from those at the very top have fallen steadily for the last 30-odd years, while the cost of living has risen – not least in areas that are not even counted for the sake of inflation figures, such as housing and domestic fuel bills.

This is what I call a butcher
But since the 2008 crash – and even more so since 2010 – that decline has increased for many. The rise of foodbanks is an indicator of that.

And when many of our fellow citizens are having to make choices about whether to pay the gas bill or to cut back on what they spend on food, then this is not the best time to finger wag about how they should all eat better.

Mind, even with all the ‘added value’ at Hill & Szrok, it’s not as pricy as I expected.

But let’s go back to our new butcher: we’ve had a few things from there now – I admit to an almost giddy delight in being handed a package that is not bagged in plastic with a sticky red tie at the top, but wrapped carefully in proper paper, tied neatly and then handed to me in a simple paper bag.

When you walk in, there’s usually some serious butchery going on in the centre of the shop, often involving some huge pieces of meat – Tom also ages his own beef. This is the antithesis of the supermarket, with its pristinely-packed cuts sweating under plastic.

Beautiful pork
And Tom does not believe in all the nonsense about low fat being vital for continued good health either.

Oh my goodness – proper layers of creamy fat on meat, the like of which you suspected you’d never again see in a UK butcher.

A week ago, it was time for a piece of pork. I don’t often cook pork, because I’m terrified of that entire business of drying it out too much, but this was far too tempting.

It was a 2kg piece of boned, rolled leg – not done as a perfect tube, but, Tom explained to me, more like a bloomer in shape, because there are three types of muscle in that cut and, unless you butcher it the way he does, it will not cook evenly.

So, the oven was heated to its maximum and the meat brought out of the fridge to come to room temperature before having good salt rubbed into the scored skin.

It was given 20 minutes at the high temperature and then 20 minutes per 450g at 160˚C (fan), before being rested for 15 minutes.

Real gravy, reheating. Eat your heart out, Knorr
Gravy was made not from some pre-bought pot, but by first sweating shallot, carrot and celery, then adding dry cider and chopped apple, and simmering gently to reduce.

When the meat came out of the oven, the roasting dish was deglazed with that cidery mix, before having the fat separated off (my Lidl fat separator has proved a great bargain) and decanted into a small, copper pan, where it was reheated and then thickened carefully with beurre manié. Good enough to keep what was left over and reheat during the week.

Indeed, the pork did us a number of meals: how old-fashioned – buying a joint for the weekend and having plenty left for the days that follow.

And the pork itself was wonderful.

A wonderful leg of lamb
We’ve also had some of Tom’s burgers. Dense and lightly spiced, they produce actual blood when grilled – in other words, these are the real deal.

And a piece of boned, rolled lamb was excellent too.

This Easter weekend, being a traditionalist, it was back there for a leg of lamb. Longwood has had so little fat on its lamb in recent weeks I wanted to make sure I got some with a decent coat.

It was 2.1kg, so was started at 190˚C (fan) for half an hour, before being given a further 30 minutes per 450g. So three hours in total, give or take a minute or so, and followed with 15 minutes resting.

Served with English asparagus and the first Jersey Royals of the year – you know winter is really behind us when these appear – with a lovely jus from the meat juices, it was an absolute, melt-in-the-mouth joy.

Broadway Market has a new butcher – and it is most welcome. 

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