Q&A: Michelin-starred chef Adam Handling MBE on how animal-first approach sets UK meats apart - SmartBrief

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Q&A: Michelin-starred chef Adam Handling MBE on how animal-first approach sets UK meats apart

The UK’s high standards for animal welfare make it a top source for high-quality, flavorful beef, lamb and pork, according to chef Adam Handling.

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FoodRestaurant and Foodservice

Q&A: Chef Adam Handling on how animal-first approach sets UK meats apart [Image: Plated lamb, asparagus and wild garlic dish with text 'Great Taste has no limits" on a red background over GREAT Britain & Northern Ireland logo]

GREAT Food and Drink

This post is sponsored by the UK’s GREAT Food and Drink Campaign.

Sourcing high-quality ingredients is the first step to creating delicious dishes, and the UK is a trusted source for many chefs when it comes to meat. Traceability and high animal welfare standards set UK meats apart, according to Michelin-starred chef Adam Handling MBE who operates several restaurants across England and was named Champion of Champions on the BBC’s “Great British Menu” in 2023. Handling discusses the benefits of UK meat production standards, calls out some of the producers leading the way and shares a recipe for one of his favorite ways to prepare lamb.

Q&A: Chef Adam Handling on how animal-first approach sets UK meats apart [Image: Adam Handling]
In your career as a chef, you’ve been all over the world and cooked with meats from all over the world – what is it that sets UK meat apart?

I would say that one of the main things that sets British meat apart is our animal welfare standards. We’re pretty strict on that, and it means the quality of our meat is amazing, from the flavor through to texture and composition. The British countryside is second-to-none and grass-rich, so perfect for rearing grass-fed animals, and it makes such a difference to the quality and flavor of our meats like beef, lamb and pork. Britain might have a bit of a reputation for bad weather, but actually, the rain (combined with the sun, when we get it!) makes for lush grass, and it’s the perfect environment for rearing superb quality livestock.

You work closely with British farmers to source the best meats for your restaurants.  Do you think that farming practices and animal welfare make a big difference to the quality of the meat?

Absolutely – here in the UK, we love our livestock to be naturally healthy, with no artificial additives or growth hormones. We do this in a number of ways – take Highland Wagyu in Scotland, for example, who are producing some of the best beef in the world, where the herds feed on fertile Perthshire grassland which ensures the flavor of the meat is exceptional. You’ve also got the likes of Homage to the Bovine in Cornwall, who specialize in grass-fed retired dairy cow beef. When the dairy cows are retired, they’re put out to pasture in Cornish fields and the animals are incredibly well taken care of, which results in incredible meat. Britain is really leading the way when it comes to sustainable, responsible initiatives that put the animals first and produce amazing quality meat without any growth hormones.

What tips do you have for chefs on showing off British lamb, beef or pork?

The advice I would give to any chef using meat that’s been responsibly sourced from animals that have been really well looked after is to keep it simple. That’s the beauty of quality British meat, the flavor really does speak for itself. The animals have had a great life, they’ve got good fat content and the meat is really tender. Whether it’s a Sunday roast or a beautiful braised leg of lamb or lamb shank, the trick is not to overcomplicate things. When British meat is that good, the work has already been done for you.

What are your favorite dishes to cook using lamb, beef or pork? 

My ‘All About The Lamb’ dish (included below) is one of my favorites. I love lamb and the sweetbreads, stuffed with wild garlic. I’ve also got a ‘Burnt Pork’ recipe, which is from my very first restaurant years ago – I change the ‘burnt’ garnishes with the season,  but the hero of the dish is always perfectly cooked British pork. I also love beef Wellington; I serve it at my pub, The Loch & the Tyne in Old Windsor, every Sunday, served with all the trimmings – roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire puddings and seasonal greens. It’s my take on the classic British Sunday pub roast tradition, made even tastier by using the finest quality British beef.

UK lamb, beef and pork are available in the US! For more information about buying and working with UK meats in your operation, fill out this form with your contact information.

Chef Adam Handling’s recipe for lamb with asparagus and wild garlic
Taken from “Frog” by Adam Handling MBE, published by A Way With Media
Serves 6

Lamb sweetbreads
Prep time: 24 hours

1kg sweetbreads
1lt whole milk
5lt water
50g table salt
100g eggs
100g plain flour, sieved
100g breadcrumbs

Soak the sweetbreads in milk, for 24 hours. Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil. When boiling, add the sweetbreads to the pan. Boil for 1 minute, then remove. Peel the skin off the sweetbreads. Chill down. Once cold, breadcrumb the nuggets in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Deep fry, at 180°C (356°F), for 3-4 minutes. Season with salt.

Chicken and wild garlic mousse
Prep time: 15 minutes

100g wild garlic puree 
300g chicken fillets
100ml single cream
100ml double cream
150g egg whites
30g black pepper
13g table salt

Make sure all ingredients are cold. Place the chicken, salt and egg whites into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the single cream and further blend. Pass through a drum sieve. Fold in the double cream, wild garlic puree and pepper. Refrigerate until needed. When ready to serve, pipe the mousse into extra large morels.

Prep time: 10 minutes

18 asparagus spears, trimmed
100ml wild garlic oil 
50ml lamb fat

Turn the asparagus, 2 inches from the bottom. Blanch them in boiling salted water, for 2 minutes. Plunge into ice-cold water. Warm, once more, in boiling water and dress in wild garlic oil and lamb fat.

Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes

1 long saddle salt-aged lamb
8 anchovies, salted
3 garlic cloves, peeled
80ml olive oil
3 juniper berries
35g pink salt
5 white peppercorns

Remove the bark (the inedible sinew from the top of the saddle). Running a knife down the backbone, remove the meat off the bone to prepare it, ready for roasting. Once removed from the bone, trim the rib by removing 2/3 of the meat – you will only need enough meat to roll around the loin. Cut the fat to 1cm thick. Lay the anchovies all over the lamb fillet. Pipe the chicken and garlic mousse inside part of what will become the lamb roll. Roll the lamb with butcher’s string, until it’s nice and tight. Place the remaining ingredients into a blender, blend to form a paste and brush the outside of the lamb with the paste. Preheat the oven to 220°C (428°F). Place the lamb on a baking rack in the oven. Ensure to have a tray underneath, to catch the juices. After 8 minutes, or when the fat is crispy, open the oven door and reduce the temperature to 60°C (140°F). Keep the oven door open for about 5 minutes, to dramatically reduce the heat. The meat will still keep cooking, as the outside is still really hot. Once the oven door is closed again, cook for a further 25-30 minutes. Check the temperature with a probe. Cook until the core temperature reaches 52°C (126°F). Once the desired temperature has been reached, take the meat out of the oven and rest on a baking tray, for 15 minutes. Slice when needed.

Broccoli and asparagus puree 
Prep time: 30 minutes

1kg broccoli, shaved (approx. 6 large heads)
600g asparagus, thinly sliced
45g dashi crystals
20g basil
50g wild garlic

Bring enough water to the boil to cover the asparagus and cook until soft. In a separate saucepan, place the broccoli and dashi crystals and cover with the boiling water. Cover with a lid and boil on a high heat. When the broccoli is completely soft, add in the asparagus, basil and wild garlic. Blend until smooth, incorporating the remaining cooking juices, so a wet, glossy puree consistency is achieved. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve and immediately chill over ice. Adjust the seasoning, if required.

Morels, stuffed with chicken and wild garlic mousse

Wild garlic
Wild garlic oil 
Garlic flowers
Lamb sauce 

For serving

Spoon the broccoli and asparagus puree onto the base of the plate. Place the three spears of asparagus on the plate. Add the sweetbread to the left of the plate. Slice the stuffed morels. Place the lamb onto the plate. Add the stuffed morels and fresh wild garlic, dressed in wild garlic oil. Finish with wild garlic flowers and lamb sauce.

Chef Adam Handling MBE is the Michelin-starred chef-owner of the Adam Handling Restaurant Group. He operates venues across England, including Frog by Adam Handling, London; The Loch & The Tyne, Old Windsor; Ugly Butterfly, Cornwall; and Eve Bar, London.

Handling is an ambassador for the GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland campaign and is passionate about British food, sustainability and fighting food waste. Using products from British suppliers, Adam’s beautifully-presented dishes start with careful sourcing of top-quality, seasonal ingredients, prepared in a number of different, creative ways to bring their true flavor to life.