|Mal Maison - Aberdeen|
I only ever buy free range chicken from a supermarket and always use my local butcher for meat. I am rather used to seeing them bring in carcasses and dissecting the required cuts for me. I remember when I was a child, London was filled with butchers and fish mongers but now, it is disappointing that they are so scarce because they have been out lived by big supermarkets who have taken over the monopoly board.
When I went into their offices, immediately I saw a poster of the Swiss supermarket, Migros, which brought back a ton of good memories as I was commuting in and out of Zurich for 7 years of my life in my twenties (due to a long distance relationship) and always loved the meat they had. I remember thinking, if only supermarkets in London would supply its customers with such good quality meat and spent many hours planning dinner parties over the meat counter.
I met the charming Hans over tea at the Donald Russell head quarters and he loved that I remembered the Swiss Centre and knew much about his native country and had unknowingly enjoyed and desired his produce way before I knew what Donald Russell was.
As a typical Swiss, Hans was all about quality. It was no wonder that he had turned Donald Russell into a brand with a Royal warrant. What does the Queen usually order I queried. "It is not for us to disclose", he chuckled.
"In Switzerland, we would cut everything according to the different parts of the cow", says Hans. "But when you came to Scotland, people could cut meat with a chain saw!" Hans Baumann then applied new rules of cutting meat, sending butchers to France and Switzerland to train. "We dare to cut and trim how it should be to bring out the best. We dare to charge more for it, make less profit for more quality. We dare to do what we believe to make the best steak."
So why are Donald Russell products so good, I asked? "We take two steps further than anyone else, we cut more off for more enjoyment. We take all the muscles off, the chain and silver skin. We were the first to go and say that we have to mature meat for 28 days and others follow our example."
The hanging room was haunting. Headless carcasses are left to mature in a refrigerated room, each with a label of which farm it came from, when it was slaughtered and by whom and who ordered it. Everything is traceable. The butchers buy cattle at a particular weight so that they can get more of a uniform cut. All in all, a remarkable insight to where this good quality meat comes from.
I tried the entire range, from the canape quiches to pork pies, beef wellington and curries and fell in love. I need to buy myself a bigger freezer so I can stock up on dinners. It is highly recommended.
Thank you to Liz Webb who looked after me for two days. My wonderful stay at Mal Maison. It was wonderful to meet Hans and Stefan and all those charming Scotsmen at the butchery. I will take what I have learned from Donald Russell to choose better cuts of meat. It is for sure that I will only shop at a supermarket as a last resort.
Donald Russell also kindly supplied beef, pork belly and prawns at my recent event at Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. (another post to follow).
The Food Urchin also went to visit Donald Russell - read more here