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Aussie Meat Trends

A soupçon of wisdom: Soups and stews with Aussie Lamb

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lamb miso ramen soupFresh off our culinary immersion in San Francisco, Chef Andrew Hunter dishes up his thoughts on cooking soups and stews with Aussie lamb: 

“When it comes to Aussie lamb soups and stews, lamb shoulder is my number one go-to. Shoulder really benefits from long and slow cooking, and it pays you back with fantastic flavor that permeates your dish. Even after long cook-times, it will hold integrity and bite. It browns nicely, with a good fat/lean ratio. You can treat it simply, and Aussie lamb will speak for itself in the best way!” 

“Always start by searing and caramelizing the lamb with a fat that fits your soup. So for something Italian or Mediterranean like minestrone, use olive oil. Then brighten it with a bit of lemon zest, and let it cook to tender in a little tomato broth. For presentation, build your bowl with the lamb, white beans, chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs. Pour your soup broth over the top for a dramatic effect. For broth, I recommend using chicken stock for a nice neutral savoriness; you can cook it with the lamb bone to add some depth and richness without overwhelming it.”

Soups on!

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burnt soupTis the season for #Aussome soups and stews, taking the chill off of whatever weather Mother Nature can dish out. One of our favorites right now is what our mates Chef Josh Balague and Chef Sophina Uong developed on a culinary training day with us. They call it “Burnt Winter Soup with Garlic Lamb,” and in addition to the Aussie lamb, charred and roasted veggies, it has a jasmine tea brodo that gets poured tableside for extra show points. We’ll let Josh tell you about it!

“The backbone of it is the broth. We made a lamb broth and steeped the tea in it, then deepened the flavors even more by adding charred vegetables. The lamb is ground Aussie lamb, stewed in the broth with lots of garlic and then sautéed to brown it. We grilled Chinese mustard along with the onions, carrots and shiitakes. All that goes in the bowl with a little hit of gochujang vinaigrette — just for fun, and to add a bit of heat and acid. Then the broth gets poured over tableside; I like to involve the guest in the “show” where it makes sense.”

It’s the kind of dish that would make sense at Nuri, the concept Chef Balague is co-developing with Ethan Speizer. A casual wine bar targeting a younger crowd, with food inspired by the Far East and Southeast Asia. Let us know when you’re open Josh, and save us a seat!

Meet the farmer: Jim Gaylard

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Jim Gaylard This week we share a chat with Jim Gaylard, a family lamb rancher who recently hosted Evandro Caregnato from the Texas de Brazil restaurant chain on a visit Down Under. Here’s what he had to say about the visit, and about life on Trawalla Pastoral, his mixed operation of lamb, cattle and crop farming about 100 miles west of Melbourne.

I loved meeting Evandro and his family. It was great to see a man equally passionate about the product he uses as I am about producing it. We are always really proud to show chefs who use our product what we do here at Trawalla, and for them to see the environment we raise our lambs in, which gives them the quantity and consistent quality for their restaurants.

Q: 4000 hectares is a very large property — especially for our city dweller American readers! That’s over twice the size of the entire city of San Francisco. As a family farm, how do you manage that, and how many sheep are you raising?

It’s a team effort for sure, between my family and an experienced team of Jackeroos*, we’re like a huge family all working together running 12,000 ewes and producing 14-16,000 lambs per year.

Q: What are some of the sustainability initiatives you have in place or planned at Trawalla Pastoral?

One of the most impactful and yet simple programs we implemented was a series of tree plantations. The shelter provides help with erosion, pasture drying and animal welfare for exposure and shade in the hot summer months.

Q: What’s your philosophy when it comes to animal welfare — what’s the role of the rancher in giving sheep the “good life” under your care?

Animal welfare is always front of mind. Clean water, good shelter and adequate feed are the keys to a successful livestock business, and we pride ourselves on making sure we provide them. We also work hard to reduce stress on the animals, moving and monitoring them with minimal intervention. In the end, if our animals are happy then that makes us happy. If I could take the sheep home on a cold winter’s night, I would, although my wife probably wouldn't like to share the house with a mob of bleating lambs!!

*Aussie slang for a young ranch-hand

The best bisteeya

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We’re loving this recipe for Bisteeya from Chef Kwame Unwuachi of The Shaw Bijou in Washington DC, and not just because it features Aussie lamb! First off, it’s kind of a riff on meat pie, and there’s not much we Aussies love in this world more than that. Second, he’s using a technique we love. First, he sears and then slow-braises Aussie lamb shoulder in a flavorful broth, then shreds and presses it in a hotel pan overnight. Next, it’s cut in portions and seared again to crisp it up for service. This technique is what Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis do at Root & Bone in NYC for their “meatloaf ,” and how you make scrumpets . All delicious, every time, and super-simple to execute in a restaurant kitchen.

Bisteeya1But we digress. Back to Chef Kwame’s Bisteeya. Traditionally, the bisteeya was a pigeon pie made with braised pigeon, lots of cinnamon and spices, and a kind of phyllo dough. Switching to Aussie lamb was an obvious upgrade, but he keeps the signature flavors intact with plenty of ras el hanout , the king of Moroccan spices. French feuilles de brik is his chosen pastry, rolled around a cylinder and fried, then filled with some of the braised lamb. The juices from the braise are sweetened with a little coconut sugar, and reduced to a syrupy sauce. To take it over the top, powdered sugar and mushroom powder are the final garnishes for a sweet-savory masterpiece.

Bravo Chef!

The Ivy League goes Down Under

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martin trip 1
You may have seen from our Facebook feed or on YouTube that a group of chefs recently went Down Under with us on a tour of Aussie beef and lamb farms. One of the talented chefs in our group was Martin Breslin, Executive Chef and Director for Culinary Operations at Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS). We caught up with Chef Breslin after his return to see what impressions from the trip had stayed with him, and what Harvard students and faculty are thinking about grassfed beef and lamb.

martin trip 4What’s stuck with you after seeing Aussie beef and lamb farms firsthand?
It was amazing to see what "pasture raised" really means with my own eyes… to watch the cattle and lambs feeding on natural grasses and clovers, outside and unconfined. It reminded me of what I saw growing up in Ireland. The people we met were amazing too. They are totally devoted to what they do, and enjoyed teaching us about it, obviously taking great pride in their craft and what they do for the animals and the land. And you really can taste the difference that this kind of practice has on the meat; it’s hard to describe, but there’s a distinct natural flavor in grassfed beef that’s frankly delicious.

What’s next for Aussie beef and lamb on campus at Harvard?
Thanks to this experience, I have a richer understanding of the good animal welfare and husbandry practices in Australia. It’s a topic that matters to some of our students, and one we’d really like to address in our purchasing with the right solution, which may well mean featuring something like Aussie proteins.

How are you using Aussie meats today?
We currently serve Australian Lamb in our catering department, but are looking into Aussie grassfed beef now as well. At our size and scale, the economics matter a lot. We hold sustainability as a core value and love local, and supporting small farmers, but we also have to find solutions that translate to scale and still embody those values. We’re hopeful that grassfed beef from Australia can be part of that solution.

If you’re ready to step up your game to the Ivy League, here’s a delicious dish that Chef Breslin cooked up with us: an Aussie Lamb Noodle Bowl. As you’d expect, it’s smartly done — a fair amount of prep, but with the lamb braised and mix-ins made ahead, it comes together in a flash. Cheers Chef! You’re welcome back Down Under anytime…

Ingredients that love our lamb: Ras el Hanout

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If you’re reading this, you probably already love Aussie lamb. In which case, there’s someone you really must meet — our Moroccan friend Ras el Hanout! OK, fair dinkum, it’s not a person, it’s a spice blend. But anything that loves our lamb, you should get to know! Ras el Hanout translates to “head of the shop” or “top class” as we’d say it. It’s a complex mix of as many as 30 spices, depending on who makes it. There’s sure to be some paprika, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, and sometimes grains of paradise, rose petals, cloves and mace. All those warm spices combine for pure deliciousness with lamb — something those Arab cooks were on to centuries ago. Flash forward to today, and we’ve been noticing it popping up a lot lately. In conversation with Chef Aaron Brooks, who loves to use it in grilling season on a boneless lamb leg, pounded thin and liberally seasoned with Ras el Hanout, “All those spices are just awesome when they combine with the juices from the lamb and the smoke from the grill — the flavors just bloom.” And there it was again, in Flavor & The Menu’s article this summer about Middle Eastern Momentum.

And then there’s Chef Kwame Onwuachi of DC’s The Shaw Bijou’s Aussie Lamb Bisteeya. A love song to Ras el Hanout, Chef Kwame uses it in the braise that becomes a kind of scrumpet alongside his take on the traditional Bisteeya, a centuries-old Moroccan meat pie.

Ask your spice provider about Ras el Hanout, make your own, or check out these recommended sources:

Soil regeneration in Oz ─ Dung beetles have it down pat

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 Dung Beetle

G’day readers! Today we’d like you to meet one of the smallest and yet most helpful soil regeneration specialists in the world — the dung beetle. On Australia’s grassfed cattle and sheep properties, these plucky little guys break down an impressive quantity of “cow” pies — one adult cow will drop 12 in a day! Dung beetles roll them into tiny balls, dig tunnels into the soil, and actually bury them in the ground, where they lay eggs that hatch into larvae and then use the balls for food. This simple and natural action has a sh*t-ton of benefits. Aerating the soil helps retain moisture and rainfall, reducing runoff, and literally carrying nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil. As a nice side benefit, it also dramatically reduces fly populations, which is a serious plus as fly larvae can cause diseases in sheep and other livestock.

Cindy and Steven Scott use dung beetles on their property in New South Wales, Australia. Cindy knew the power of the beetle first-hand from growing up in South Africa, where beetles adapted to large animals and their dung to thrive. Her husband was not so sure. “But the visibility of beetle activity – with dung pads broken down in 24 hours – quickly convinced him,” says Cindy.

soil regeneration 2Today, “It is rewarding to drive around our paddocks and see how quickly the beetles are breaking down and burying dung, transferring nutrients underground, and how their tunneling aerates the soil and reduces run-off — not to mention lessens flies,” she adds.

The work of the beetle is particularly important in Australia, where 70% of our beef production and about 95% of our lamb production is entirely grassfed. That means a lot of grazing, and a lot of natural and improved pastures for farmers to manage. In fact, a lot of our farmers think of themselves as “grass farmers” first, and no they don’t mean that funny kind you Yanks out there are growing in Washington and Colorado! Being a grass farmer means actively managing your land and natural resources to keep grasses growing and providing nutritious feed for your animals year after year.

It’s a big job, but one that’s just right for a humble little bug that lives, eats and breeds in piles of… well…poop.