22 February 2013

I just love my Butcher

It has been quite illuminating watching the 'Horsemeat/Donkey' scandal unfold in the UK, Ireland and Europe.  For the supermarkets it has become a very welcome look into their dubious practice of keeping prices low at any cost.  It also flags up the culture of blinding the shoppers with offers to save money - or so it appears until looked at in more detail.

Sky News happily shared with the world the revolting sight of a packaged lasagne being slithered onto a plate.  How an Italian 'Momma' would react to something that looked more like slurry to a traditonal Italian lasgne, does not bear thinking of.  All I could relate the vision to was the memorable occasion when Keith Floyd attempted an omelette in the kitchen of a fierce French lady and she ceremoniously binned it in front of him.  Wonderful moment.

When I was a child my mother instilled into me that cheap is not the best and that went for everything that she bought.  Cheap shoes last no time.  Spend what you can on a good pair and they last for years.  I, obviously, wanted to disprove this - a lot - and consequently when I was old enough to go out and buy my own shoes, quickly learnt the hard way that the cheap, fashionable shoes I pounced on, fell apart rapidly and soon went back to saving up and buying good, leather fashionable shoes from a wonderful family-run shop, Roses, in Macclesfield. 

She also hammered (verbally) into me that I should never, ever buy meat from a meat van market stall.  I always presumed this must have been due to her experiences during the war, when meat was a luxury and 'meat' might not have been what it was claimed to be on the vibrant Black Market.  She never made comment about other meat market stalls in indoor markets though, just the vans!  She may well have been wrong but it always stuck with me.

When we lived in Kettleshulme, our meat came from a lovely butcher in Whaley Bridge, all sourced locally and as fresh as anything.  When we moved to Macclesfield, our meat came from the butcher on Hurdsfield Road and was delivered by bicycle. 

Broadhursts of Hurdsfield Road, Macclesfield, which is sadly no longer there

When I lived in Kerridge, our butcher was in Bollington and again delivered.  In Edinburgh I had a wonderful butcher up in Davidsons Mains who taught me the differences between English and Scottish names for cuts of meat.  In Wiltshire I used a great butcher who made his own sausages and won awards.  Here in Portugal, I have used many different butchers and always been helped by the butcher to identify and name cuts of meat which are very different here to the UK. 

JJJ Heathcoate Butchers on Palmerston Street, Bollington

Here in the hills of Sintra I use a wonderful butcher in Almocageme (Talho Francisco Rosa) and I always enjoy my visits as I pick up local knowledge, jokes, occasional renditions of fado singing and recommendations or directions to other shops. 

The shop reminds me of English butchers of the old days in as much as everyone is served personally with a smile and a chat, there are chairs for people to sit on to wait.  Nothing is too much trouble.  I have even taken a photograph of a cut of meat I fancied for a dinner, and it was cut for me specially.  They also do a good line in dog bones which are much appreciated by our two friends on the estate.

I tend to do a monthly shop with perhaps the odd spur of the moment purchase mid month and I thought I would share with you the contents of yesterday's shop and show how cheaply you eat by using your local butcher, where you do not pay for packaging and know exactly where your meat comes from.
In the photograph below, you can see on the left a large piece of turkey.  You can have this sliced in thin escalopes if you wish, but yesterday I decided on having it cubed and minced (which they do for you).  This came in as just over a kilo and cost me 8.39 euros. That should do about four meals for the pair of us. I then went for four chicken breasts.  These are cut off chickens in front of you (dead, of course) and just one breast is large enough to feed the two of us.  These breasts weighed in at just over two kilos and cost me 7.25 euros (about four meals for the two of us).  I also bought two free range chicken legs which I think again, one will be sufficient for two of us, and they cost me 5.66 euros for two meals.

The Chicken and Turkey Section

I then wanted some mince, stewing steak and steaks. The meat for these appeared from the cold store and was cut in front of me.  Miniscule fat on them.  The steaks were then cut into four (two meals for two), the stewing steak cubed (probably three meals for two) and the meat - twice minced (about three meals for two) and coming in at over two kilos cost 19.46.

The Beef and Lamb Section

Finally, I got some lovely ox liver for my favourite portuguese dish, Figado. About half a kilo and that cost me 2.91 euros and this will easily make two meals for us.

All of my purchases will last a month - 20 meals for the two of us at approximately 2.19 euros for two - plus my seven euro a week veggie box, I think I do rather well and am incredibly fortunate to be able to live so well here.  In case you think we might starve the rest of the time, we eat a daily salad of either local cheese or fish with soup!

The butcher also sells large containers of potato crisps to die for.  So pure and natural.  Reminiscent of what Smiths Plain Crisps (with the old blue bag of salt), used to taste like before flavourings and nasties were added.  They also do a mean pork scratching which are marketed as 'fat free' as all the fat has been cooked out of them.  They certainly taste rather good.

Portuguese pork scratchings - no additives

The best crisps on the planet.  Potatoes, salt and vegetable oil. 

I know I am extremely lucky because I have time to shop in my local butcher, but I am sure that now people are more aware of what they 'might' be consuming, they may well return to their local butcher - that's if they still have one - and ask them for help and advice on what to buy and how to cook it.  Here it is normal for a butcher to advise on recipes as so many of them cook themselves.

The secret is buy fresh- be it in your local butcher or butcher's counter in the supermarket.  Cheap, packaged supermarket meat is not always best or cheapest.


  1. Too right! all that cheap and nasty food should not be allowed. We are also lucky to have good certified butchers in our town. I would always rather eat less meat and spend more on it.

    1. Great to know that. Sorry only just seen your comment.