Sometimes you keep seeing a name – whether IRL or on social media (bloody algorithms) – and your brain has no choice but to make the connection.
Yorkshire-based butcher Swaledale is one such example: as a customer of Marmelo on Francis Road, I’ve often bought their meat from the chiller cabinet.
Then the other day I walked past Leytonstone Tavern, whose chalkboard sign proudly states that they use Swaledale meat. And finally – in what was a slightly spooky coincidence – I received an email from Swaledale’s PR bloke offering a steak box to try. Spooky.
Reading the press blurb, it turns out Marmelo and Leytonstone Tavern are just two East London stockists. There’s also The Duke Wanstead, Eat17 in Walthamstow Village, Barge East down at Hackney Wick (read our review here), and a ton of venues in Hackney, from Nest to the Duke of Richmond and The Empress in Vicky Park Village (as well as iconic London restaurants like St Johns, The Quality Chop House, Brat and Moro).
The Swaledale Classic Steak Meat Box celebrates traditional breeds of cattle, such as Dexter, Highland and Belted Galloway. Featuring three classic prime steaks – sirloin, ribeye and rump – it’s a carnivorous delight, especially if, like me, you mostly only order red meat as a treat when dining out (except perhaps the odd home-made ragu).
When it arrives, the packaging is filled with ice, the paired steaks generous in size (around 0.270-0.290 kg each). The animals grow slowly on limestone pasture and high-quality hay, before the meat is properly dry-aged on the bone in a Himalayan salt ageing room for 28 days. Complex, salivating flavours are therefore 100% expected.
The other Sunday lunchtime the boyf and I tried the ribeye first: the meat was beautifully marbled, and at 540g for two cuts, a decent size per portion. To avoid any errors, I always pull out my Hawksmoor At Home cookbook when preparing steak as its ten-step guide is faultless: tips include how essential it is to heat the griddle pan till it’s sizzling, not to use oil, not to ignore the fat, and – most importantly – not to move the steak for two minutes until the Maillard reaction kicks in and so it forms a crust.
Two minutes per side, a minute charring the fat – and five-ten minutes’ rest on a warm plate at around 60 degrees. The result? Perfectly chargrilled, tenderly medium-rare and butter-soft when sliced, with a terrific savoury, umami-packed thwack of flavour. I served them with nutty roasted red potatoes and a radish and avocado organic salad from Leytonstone Farmers Market. Homemade chirrichurri (coriander, flat-leaf parsley, chilli flakes, lemon juice, garlic and oil) added zing.
The following Sunday it was the turn of the sirloins, which were chunkier than rib-eyes at 290g each, and equally delicious. But it was the final test that excelled our expectations. The rumps – a tricky cut to perfect – proved a revelation: chargrilled for three minutes each side and then rested on a warm plate for six, both flavour and rosy texture were spot on. This was especially pleasing as cheaper cuts are so difficult to get right.
Established in 2008 by two brothers-in-law, Skipton-based family business Swaledale work with a network of 30 family-run farms dotted around the dales. And they only use small local abattoirs to maintain complete confidence in not just high animal welfare, but full traceability of all sustainable, local food products.
In short, if you want a high-quality meaty treat this festive season, these are totally recommended.
Thanks to Swaledale for providing the meat box.