The design of a cow isn’t ideal for catering. The rear end is fine – that’s where you get the choice bits, such as the fillet, sirloin and rump. But the front end is basically rubbish – the fatty forequarters meat is only good for mince, which is turned into cheap dishes such as lasagne and burgers. This was always the biggest problem I had with the cattle from my farm – how was I going to dispose of half a ton of forequarters beef every fortnight?
The Japanese have a solution which is pure catering gold. They’ve devised a dish which uses up the cheap cuts in a stylish way, for which they charge a fortune – and the customers do their own cooking. The dish is shabu-shabu, and the way it works is that a cauldron of boiling water is placed in the centre of the table; the beef is sliced very thinly and the customer dips a slice into the water for a few seconds until it changes colour. To add flavour there are sweet sesame seed and savoury ponzu sauces to dip the meat into. A scum will form on the top of the boiling water and the customer is given a spoon to remove it. There’s also sliced cabbage, tofu, mushroom and assorted vegetables to make a broth from the remaining water. In very posh restaurants wagyu beef, which is naturally fatty anyway, is used, at double the expense. This is essentially a win win situation. The customer has great fun and enjoys a delicious meal. The restaurant owner sells his scraps for a fortune and can give the chef the night off.