So there’re been quite a furore lately about the sale of horse meat in Australia. As it happens, the butcher who has been authorised to do so is a good friend of mine, so on a recent trip back to WA, we dropped in to see Vince Garreffa who kindly gifted us 2 kg of shoulder and 2 kg of mince.
I think the controversy around horse has been blown way out of proportion. That the butcher and restaurants selling it have been picketed seems ridiculous considering there is a long established industry of horse meat exportation in Australia. As long as the horses are slaughtered in as humane a fashion as possible, as with any animal, I see no problem. I believe most people’s repugnance comes from the perceived ‘cute’ factor of the animal, that we have a ‘bond’ with horses that we don’t have with cows or sheep or chickens. Try looking into a cow’s misty eyes and tell me you feel no bond. How about a baby chicken or a duckling? And what the hell do we think lamb is? It’s a lamb! It’s unbelievably adorable! But I suppose that’s hard to tell once it’s stamped and packaged on the shelves of the supermarket. That being said, I have no problem with those who avoid eating a product because of supposed mental hurdles, as long as they don’t attempt to hinder me, and those like me, who like to try new and interesting things. Besides, the more controversy over the product, the more popular it becomes – I believe it’s now completely sold out.
Anyway, rant over; we braised the shoulder in amber ale in the wood-fired oven for about six hours. We ate it for lunch the next day with roast cauliflower and quinoa salad, a few Dubbels and raging hangovers. And it was ridiculously tasty. To be honest I wasn’t expecting all that much, but it was incredibly delicious – a bit like venison, a bit like veal, and a lot like horse. The best part was of course all the horrific puns we were able to make, “I’m feeling a little horse”, “I’m champing at the bit to get into it”, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” and constant singing of the Mr Ed theme song were just the tip of the terrible, terrible iceberg.
The recipe for the horse shoulder can be found here.
But what to do with the horse mince? I don’t buy a lot of mince, preferring to make my own if the need arises, so I was at a little bit of a loose end as to what to do with it. After some discussion about “flavour profiles” and “fat content” we narrowed the choices down to ragu, burgers and sausages. Sausage demonstration now over, we were lunch-hungry and went with burgers.
I caramelised some sliced onions in butter and brown sugar, and fried off some chopped onion and garlic for the burger. The mince was combined with the fried onion and garlic, chopped parsley, a large dollop of German mustard, an egg, plenty of salt and pepper and, after finding the mixture far too wet, some dried breadcrumbs, before letting them sit in the fridge for about half an hour to get the “meat proteins” and “flavours” going. Usually I go by the rule of thumb to add some fat to the mince, as with any sausage type mixture, but we discovered last minute we had no pancetta, so none went in.
Cheap burger buns were lightly toasted, slathered with caramelised onions and more mustard while the burgers were cooked, covered with slices of smoked provolone (more on this soon), then topped with a little butter lettuce. A little lightly spiced relish would have lifted it into the stratosphere, but it was near perfect as is (and turns out it didn’t need that pancetta after all).
If you’re in Perth, I’d highly recommend a visit to Mondos to give horse a try, if for nothing else than a new experience. For the rest of the country – you’re missing out, suckers!