A Unique Curation
An Interview with Sean Maher
Following on from last week’s discussion of cheese and wine, we’re continuing our celebration of yuletide gastronomy with another guest contributor. We spoke to Sean Maher, Head butcher at Flock & Herd in Beckenham, an award-winning free range butcher and home of ‘London’s Best Sausage’. Sean tells us a little about his career and offers us two meat-rich recipes for festive snacking.
You originally studied art didn’t you Sean, how did you end up as a butcher?
After art college I had a brief stint working in galleries and at the Venice biennale, but soon realised it wasn’t for me. I got a job at Neal’s Yard Dairy, a great company who taught me an ethos I still carry with me. I met some great people whilst working there including Charlie, now the owner of Flock & Herd. I’d often thought about being a chef, but butchery allowed me to work in food whilst still being able to visit pubs and restaurants in the evening!
Would you say there’s a creative element to the job?
It’s definitely creative – using different cuts, applying flavours, making all types of sausages (which we’re renowned for), recommending recipes to customers. However, I would consider it more of a craft than an art form. Much like tailoring, it’s something which you can constantly improve upon and learn new things.
Are there any trends occurring in butchery right now?
I would certainly say customers are more interested in provenance than ever before. This is a trend across the whole food and drink sector I think. If customers have chosen to go to a specialty shop they probably have a greater interest in where their food comes from and how it was reared or produced.
Are there any particular producers you like working with?
Otter Valley Farms in Devon supply us with a great hogget, and have done so for years. Also we get some fantastic pork from Alistair Butler in Essex.
Obviously heading into the festive season there’s a lot to choose from, what would you recommend from the shop?
Capons are a great alternative to turkeys if you’re feeding less people – full of flavour without the endless turkey curries. Personally, I’m having a piece of sirloin on the big day, followed by a monster cheeseboard.
What other products do you stock for festive cheer, or even gifts?
We sell lots of booze from independent breweries and interesting winemakers, which always makes for the perfect gift in my opinion!
In keeping with the festive spirit, Sean kindly gifted us two of his favourite recipes for indulgent yuletide snacking.
Sausage Rolls and Champagne
The breakfast of champions and perfect for Christmas Day.
500g pork mince or sausage meat
Handful of breadcrumbs
Shallots, finely chopped
Salt, pepper and nutmeg
Puff pastry (pre-made), or homemade rough puff
So for the sausage meat, if you have a good relationship with your butcher ask them for some plain sausage meat, alternatively ask for some pork mince with a decent ratio of fat to lean.
If using pork mince, you’ll need to season heavily with salt and pepper.
Then nutmeg, coarsely ground fennel seeds, rosemary and sage (both finely chopped).
I would then add a liberal handful of fine breadcrumbs, or stale bread soaked in milk.
Sweat your shallots with garlic and thyme until translucent, deglaze with white wine and brandy (optional). Once cooled add to the sausage mix.
You can use pre rolled puff pastry, however I would always suggest trying to make your own rough puff, it’s not as hard as it seems.
Roll the sausage mix into a long tube shape 1/3rd of a way down of the sheet of pastry, egg wash the bottom lip, and roll the top pastry over. Crimp the edge and cut to the desired size.
I would always egg wash once, refrigerate and then egg wash for a second time before cooking. Cook for roughly half an hour (at about 140ºC), or until wonderful and golden.
Duck Rillettes and Bordeaux
Rilettes is basically preserved meat butter, and ideal with a nice big glass of claret.
4 duck legs
600g duck fat
Splash of white wine
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
Thyme and rosemary
A day ahead season your duck legs liberally with salt and pepper and layer tightly with the chopped garlic and herbs, allow to rest in the fridge or cool place.
The next day, brush any excess salt off the duck and retain the herbs.
Place the duck legs, garlic and herbs into an oven proof pot and pour over the 600g of melted fat and generous splash of white wine.
Make sure the duck is covered, then on a low oven (120ºC) cook for three hours, or until the meat is so tender it falls off the bone.
Remove the duck from the fat and carefully take the skin off and discard, then with two forks shred the meat into a clean bowl. Strain the fat.
Gradually pour the strained fat back into the duck and simultaneously mix it in to the meat. At this point it’s tempting to not use enough fat, but that’s the point of this dish as it’s a confit*! Most of it can be absorbed back into the meat.
*Confit means to cook and preserve in fat
Once this is completed transfer to some storage jars or containers, if you want to keep it for a while cover with extra fat and ensure it’s well sealed. Allow to set in the fridge for at least a few hours.
Don’t eat it ice cold from the fridge, let it warm up a little as it’s easier to spread too. Serve with cornichons and some rustic bread, and your bottle of Bordeaux.
For more meat-led ideas and advice, get in touch with Flock & Herd at the links below.