Food News

Which meats do Australia’s best butchers cook in winter?

From dry-aged mutton to whole pheasant – when it comes time to warm the cockles, what do the country’s best butchers like to slow-cook, roast and confit?

Anthony Puharich, Victor Churchill and Vic's Meat


Winter dish of choice? Corned beef silverside.

Recipe for corned beef with soubise sauce

Why? It’s awesome how many people are way more confident buying and cooking with secondary cuts like brisket, cheeks, tails and short-rib, but for some reason, corned beef still remains off people’s radar when they think comfort food and winter. It’s inexpensive, quick to prepare and utterly delicious. Beyond this, I also have very fond memories of my grandmother’s corned beef growing up as a kid. She made a wicked traditional white sauce flavoured with mustard and parsley.

You might not know this, but… Silverside is situated in the back leg of a cow. It’s one of the five major muscles that makes up a cow’s back leg – along with rump, topside, knuckle and shin.

It’s best… Boiled until it’s fork tender. Too easy.

I love it with… A traditional béchamel sauce. Flavour the sauce with a mustard of your choice (seeded is my personal favourite) and some parsley for colour. Peas, carrots, beans, Brussels sprouts or any hearty wintery veg goes well with it, too, along with some roasted spuds and a nice glass of merlot or cabernet sauvignon.

Hot tip If you want to upgrade your corned beef to the next level, ask your butcher to pick some wagyu silverside for you. You might pay a little bit more for it, but it’s still super inexpensive. You’ll never look at regular corned beef the same way again.

Victor Churchill, 132 Queen St, Woollahra, NSW, (02) 9328 0402,; Vic’s Meat Market, Sydney Fish Markets, Bank St, Pyrmont, NSW, (02) 8570 8570,




Winter dish of choice? Mature beef and mutton. Look for braising cuts like brisket of beef and shoulder of mutton.

Recipe for mutton jumbuck****[


Why? It’s hearty, filling food and brisket is very versatile in the winter months.

You might not know this, but… There are two types of brisket: point end (from the front) and navel end (the middle of the animal). These two cuts together are what pork belly is to a pig. There’s a justifiably huge buzz over point end brisket for “low and slow” barbecue, but the navel end brisket is stellar in broths and braises.

It’s best… The beauty of these cuts is that they work so many ways and they’re all suited to cold winter nights and days, but I’m a wood fire fanatic so I would likely do it that way.

I love it with… A nice glass of red or a full-flavoured beer.

Hot tip When it comes to secondary cuts, there’s just as much difference between top quality product and lower grade as you’d see in steaks (and the price differences are often a lot smaller). Also, it might seem simple, but always ask your butcher where the beef comes from and how it was grown.

Feast Fine Foods, Unley Shopping Centre, 21/204 Unley Rd, Unley, SA; Norwood Place, 161-169 The Parade, Norwood, SA; Victor Harbor, 77 Torrens St, Victor Harbor, SA ; (08) 8188 4666,


Winter dish of choice? Beef short rib.

Recipe for Cape Grim short rib, mustard leaf, gentleman’s relish

Why? I love the marbling. It has the perfect balance of meat and intra-muscular fat, which gives it a rich taste and a very tender texture when slow cooked.

You might not know this, but… Korean barbecue restaurants butterfly the short rib into a single long piece still attached to the bone. It’s then marinated and grilled over coals. Prepared this way, it’s known as galbi.

It’s best… I love to braise short rib. I’m particularly fond of Paul Bertolli’s agrodolce recipe in his book Cooking by Hand. It uses a combination of vincotto and balsamic vinegar to tame the richness of the meat. Because short rib is a rich cut, it’s also good with sweet and sour Asian flavours. You could slow cook it to form a stock, say, then add fish sauce, chilli and lime juice for a soup with rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint and coriander leaves.

I love it with… A rich short-rib braise can do no better than a glass of Barolo. If there’s an open fire at hand, too, then the atmosphere is set.

Hot tip Ask your butcher to cut the short ribs across the bone so they’re no deeper than four to five centimetres. They can then be cut into better portion sizes at home. We use Cape Grim short rib. Visit their website at for a full list of retailers for each state.

The Agrarian Kitchen, 650 Lachlan Rd, Lachlan, Tas, (03) 6261 1099.


Winter dish of choice? A slow braised forequarter chop of dry-aged mutton or hogget (meat from sheep one to two years old). Often you’ll be tempted to substitute lamb, but please don’t. In the same way veal isn’t the same as beef, lamb shouldn’t be used instead of hogget or mutton.

Recipe for five-hour shoulder of mutton

Why? The forequarter contains the most flavoursome meat with the most connective tissue. These muscles do the most work so they tend to have a higher flavour profile than the more static “prime” cuts. It’s your job to dissolve all of that collagen into an unctuous, deeply flavoured triumph.

You might not know this, but… Because growers are so poorly paid for mutton, they have little incentive to sell it to the commercial market. Unfortunately, modern meat market economics have resulted in a reduction in the diversity of meats and cuts that are available and popular. It’s a real shame; both producers and consumers are the poorer for having less choice. Be adventurous in your tastes and seek out products like goat or dry-aged mutton.

It’s best… The forequarter is best braised with plenty of wine, fresh herbs and bay leaves. But mutton doesn’t need to be slow cooked. The so called “prime” cuts lend themselves to quick cooking as well. I would highly recommend carpaccio of dry-aged mutton backstrap, very thinly sliced and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and a little sea salt. Alternatively, mutton arrosticini are delicious, cheap and simple. Cut dry-aged mutton breast and fat into small cubes, thread them on a skewer, sprinkle with sea salt and barbecue over coals. All the connective tissue and the fat melt down and the combination of the flavoursome fat and smoke is delicious. Fantastic snack food.

I love it with… Seasonal greens and root vegetables. It’s good to have something fresh and crisp to complement the richness of the mutton.

Hot tip Ask for your mutton to be dry-aged, if possible. Like beef, it’s improved by hanging for three to four weeks or more.

Feather and Bone, 8/10-24 Lilian Fowler Pl, Marrickville, NSW, (02) 9818 2717,


Winter dish of choice? I go straight for game birds. This season, I’m loving the pheasants we’re getting from Swan Hill in Victoria.

Recipe for red wine braised pheasant with polenta

Why? Pheasant is the perfect dish for sharing with friends and family. I’m all about working with produce when it’s at its peak, so, given it’s a chilly winter in Melbourne right now, it’s the perfect protein to be working with. The flavour is so bold and rich with a brilliant savouriness. It’s also a pretty impressive celebratory centrepiece. I love going through the whole process of breaking it down and preparing it respectfully for a special occasion.

You might not know this, but… There are so many different types of game birds that are available only in winter. Pheasants are at the height of their season from June through to the end of August.

It’s best… I like to take my time in preparing the pheasant to ensure I get the best out of each component of the bird. First I would break it down and age the crown for a few days in the fridge to help develop flavour. I also dry the skin so it’s perfectly crisp, and confit the legs and keep them aside. On the day, pan-roast the crown with fresh thyme, garlic and butter, then finish it in the oven to roast through, adding the legs (from a few days before). Make sure you baste every now and then, too.

I love it with… I’d keep it simple and roast some parsnips from the garden as a side, finished with toasted almonds. We have a beautiful and lush garden at home and I enjoy spending my days off using all the different herbs and veggies that might be growing at the time. Serve the bird with all the pan juice spooned over the top and make sure there’s a great bottle of pinot (or several) on standby.

Hot tip A little tip when buying whole game birds or chickens is to ask your butcher to remove the wish bone. This will make your carving job a lot easier.

Meatsmith, 273 Smith Street, Fitzroy, Vic, (03) 9419 8558,

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