So this week I was lucky enough to be invited up to Asda House in Leeds for a meat masterclass just in time for Easter, with the amazing (and rather Sean Bean-like) Jim Viggars, 30 year Asda veteran and the supermarket’s Head of Meat Quality.
We started with drinks and nibbles (well, Laura and I actually started by trying to check in to the wrong hotel – turns out there are two Hiltons in Leeds city centre – but that’s another story). I was impressed by the red wines on offer, both from Asda’s Wine Selection: a rather delicious Argentinian Malbec and a beautiful, deep purple Marques del Norte Rioja, both full of fruit and perfect with roasted meat. Next, it was in to Asda House’s very impressive new demonstration kitchens for a full-on masterclass on lamb:
Jim talked us through Asda’s buying process – what they look for in lambs, how old they should be, their quality standards and how they support farmers, etc, before going on to demonstrate a fabulous recipe for a leg of lamb: criss crossed, spiked with shards of garlic, and – preferably – slow roasted with loads of rosemary. You can buy this leg of lamb in store this Easter for a tenner, which we thought was really good value. We had a little prep competition – here’s my (ahem) prize-winning leg:
Jim also taught us how to prepare a French cut rack of lamb. Asda trim the bones of these slightly as they add weight but nothing else of benefit, which I thought was a nice touch to keep costs down. Here’s Laura demonstrating how to cut between the bones, complete with her chainmail glove and EVIL boning knife (I managed to cut myself twice, even with the chainmail):
Jim also hefted a lump of beef the size of which you’ve never seen before in your life onto the demonstration area, and showed us how you would divide it into different cuts. I didn’t take any notes, being somewhat hindered by chainmail, a slab of lamb, and a very sharp knife, but you’ll have to take my word for the fact that Asda are thinking creatively and providing meat cut in different ways that prove better value AND quality. They’ve also removed a lot of their products which they thought weren’t giving good value and/or quality for whatever reason. We were impressed.
Next it was into the demo kitchen to visit Head Inspiration Chef, Mark Richmond, who talked us through cooking the ultimate Easter roast. Mark had some really clever ideas, including pre-prepping shallots and garlic in oil to make for a easy base for loads of different sauces. Mark used this base with chopped fresh green herbs and – interestingly – a sprinkle of lavender, which was surprisingly delicious. He also showed us some easy vegetable dishes to complement the roast lamb, including a luscious carrot and squash mash made with fresh carrot juice instead of water, really bringing out the sweet carrot flavour of the dish. He also showed us a delicious dauphinoise potato dish and a delicious roast cauliflower with a tomato sauce. After all this concentration, we were well ready to sit down and feast upon all the scrummy stuff that Mark had shown us.
Indeed, instead of hitting the town as planned, we ended up waddling back to the hotel and conking out. The sign of a good evening, I’d say.
Massive thanks to Asda for looking after us and for the ENORMOUS delivery of meat I received the next day! Click here for more information on Asda’s butcher’s selection.
Click here for my recipe for slow roasted garlicky leg of lamb with rosemary potatoes. Perfect for Easter!