Ask the butcher: fresh take on Aussie beef

5th November 2020 | Alison Turner

Former chef Bonnie Ewan of Lucas Meats in Sydney’s Bronte, who recently won the title of Australia’s best apprentice butcher at the 2020 Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) awards, is one of a growing number of female butchers who are bringing a woman’s touch to the meat business. She chatted with Eativity about why you’re better off buying your meat from your local butcher, and why more women should consider butchery as a career path. Plus, she shares her super simple but extra tasty recipe for healthy beef rissoles.

Butchery used to be seen as a purely male domain, but recently more women have been joining the butcher ranks – to the benefit of their happy customers.

“Butchery is actually really creative, and I think people don’t know that side of it,” Ewan says. “Women have a good eye for being more particular, for being creative and even being delicate when it’s necessary. I think I’m really good at my job, sometimes better than the boys, because I take more care, I pay more attention and I care about the little details.”

Attention to detail: Ewan at the AMIC national competition, at which she won Apprentice of the Year.

When Ewan first started working as an apprentice at Lucas Meats, she says some customers were a little surprised to see a woman behind the counter.

“They’d maybe ask for a boneless leg of lamb, and I’d says, ‘Sure, no worries, I’ll do that for you’, and they look at me a little bit funny,” she says. “Some people couldn’t believe that I could do all the things that male butchers could do. They would say to me, ‘Oh, sweetheart, don’t you use the bandsaw – let the boys do it’.

“It used to get to me, but now I don’t take it to heart anymore. I just think that they don’t realise women are butchers these days – that we can do everything that men can do. We can heavy lift, we can use the saw, we can bone out legs of lamb.”

Ewan with (from left) Lucas Meats manager Chris Martin, owner David Lucas and founder Leo Lucas.

Ewan thinks that more Australian women should consider butchery as a career path, because it can be so very rewarding. After working as a chef for seven years, the aspiring apprentice now knows that she’s found her true path.

“It’s a really good workplace,” she says. “There’s a lot to learn and there’s a lot that you can do with your creativity and your skills. Being a chef was a little bit draining for me, but when I worked my first day in a butcher shop, close to three and a half years ago? I’ve never gone back to cheffing since. I love the vibe, and I love the work.”

Getting to know your local butcher – whether they be male, female or otherwise – is a great way to ensure that you’ll not only be getting the very best cuts of quality meat; you’ll also never lack for inspiration come dinner time again.

“The quality of the meat is much better than a supermarket – and it’s all locally sourced and skillfully prepared,” Ewan says. “And you get that extra customer service, the value of actually talking to the person who prepared your meat, and getting advice on how best to cook it. A lot of our customers are looking for inspiration.”

If you’re after a little inspiration yourself, try this recipe of Ewan’s for healthy beef mince rissoles. It’s quick, it’s easy and the end result will be a plate-load of delicious rissoles that you and your family will love. Just remember to buy your mince from your local butcher.

Bonnie Ewan’s healthy rissoles

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes

You’ll need:

500g lean beef mince
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, grated
½ zucchini, grated
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for cooking
Salt and pepper, to taste

To serve:

Mixed greens with cherry tomatoes and green beans
Tomato chutney

Method:

1. In a large bowl, combine the mince, onion, carrot, zucchini, 1 tbsp olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.
2. Divide the mixture into 8 pieces and form them into rissoles. Gently press the top of each rissole to flatten it slightly.
3. Drizzle a bit of extra oil into a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook your rissoles for 4-5 minutes per side, until they’re browned and cooked through. Transfer to a clean plate and cover loosely with foil to rest for 5 minutes.
4. Serve rissoles with salad, green beans and chutney for dipping.

Ewan’s tips:

• Rissoles can be made in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 4 hours.
• The mixture can also be formed into 4 burger patties or 12 meatballs.
• The best way to avoid a raw middle is to make a small indent in the centre of each rissole. This will prevent the meat from puffing up.
• To ensure they’re cooked all the way through, gently press down with a spatula. If the juices run clear, they’re ready.

The Greatest Butcher on Your Block campaign is currently sharing some of our greatest local butchers’ best meat tips and tricks to help you make the most of your summer lamb and beef. To find out more, head to greatestbutcher.com.au

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