As a whole, New Zealanders aren’t too adventurous when it comes to meat. Local meat is of such high quality and in such abundance that there’s no real need to venture beyond the premium cuts of an animal – a reason why the offal-laden recipes of Europe never made it this far south. But there are plenty of cuts of meat which can please customers and potentially offer a much higher profit margin. The resurgence of craft butchery has also seen a broader range of meats become available, and heritage cuts are now experiencing a renaissance.
The beef tri-tip is one of the most undervalued cuts of the animal. Cut from the bottom of the sirloin, the tri-tip was originally ground up for mince until the 1950s when a supermarket butcher, faced with an excess of mince, put a tri-tip steak in a rotisserie oven. This cheap, lean cut of meat stands up well to flavourful marinades, so chefs can experiment with flavours without overpowering the beef flavour.
An exceptionally tender cut of beef, despite coming from the chuck. Due to its awkward position and high skill level required to extract it, the shoulder tender is often overlooked and ends up in mince or thrown in with stew meat. Arguably equal quality to filet mignon, but at a fraction of a price. The tender is neither heavy nor fatty, and stands on its own without heavy marinating or seasonings – coat with a few fresh herbs and salt.
The spider steak, also known in New Zealand as the oyster blade steak, is a traditional butcher’s cut, meaning that the butcher would reserve this particular cut for themselves. It is best to marinade or brine this cut first to tenderise it, and also lend an extra element of flavour. A good marinade is olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, thyme, rosemary and garlic.
It’s best to think of lamb breast as the ovine equivalent of pork belly. While it is considered a cheap cut, the lamb breast is full of flavour but needs to be cooked slowly. While it is quite fatty, a lot of the fat melts away during cooking and can simply be poured off. The resulting meat is tender with a crispy skin. Works well slow cooked with fresh dill, lemon zest and lemon juice.
It might not look pretty to begin with, but there is a surprisingly large amount of meat on lamb neck – again, underrated and inexpensive. Long and slow cooking is the only way, either braised or stewed, and will yield a lot of meat once every part is tender. Cook in red wine, then stir in olives and cherry tomatoes for an appealing winter special.
Nose-to-tail dining options are becoming more and more widespread as the sustainability movement gains traction. Cult food truck the Lucky Taco celebrated their birthday a few years ago by offering free lambs brain tacos, which flew out the door. Lambs brains are smooth and creamy and, when crusted in dukkah and served with cucumber and lemon, will appeal to even less adventurous eaters.