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Aussie Meat Trends

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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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: