Crusader for smoking & spicing our native meats
Theres no smoke without
added value in Todd Sadlers
life, as Tessa Gates found
when she visited this man
with a taste for Continental
specialities made from
SCRATCH the food traditions of most European countries and you can almost smell the smoke and spice of cured meats. Except, that is, in Britain.
We have our hams and bacon of course, but where are the specialities? Why dont we produce those mysterious and pungent great sausages, joints and rolls of meats which fill the delicatessens of the world and command extraordinary prices for very thin slices?
"I cant see why we cant produce them as well as any other country," says Todd Sadler, of The Dorset Smokery, Hurn. And whats more, he is determined to prove it.
He has commissioned research into old recipes for beef that could be updated to suit modern tastes and regulations. "A lot of the old processes used things you could be put in the Tower for using today. We will be working the modern way using natural flavours. We hope to get some new products underway in the spring."
He is determined these will be to the standard of the products he sells now such as the smoked pigeon breasts, smoked and marinated salmon, smoked air cured ham and smoked chorizo which won a clutch of gold Great Taste Awards at the Fine Food Fair in London last month.
Already he is making Bresoala -the creme de la creme of cured meats – pastrami and corned beef from English beef and feels that a beef, rather than pork, chorizo is a possibility.
"I am using English, not British beef. I am not knocking anyone else, but I am English and proud of it and feel we dont do enough to promote our products, especially abroad," says Todd who supplies chefs, delicatessens, pubs and other food outlets with his smoked meats, fish and cheese along with imported goods such as oils and spices.
* Spanish imports
"We import a lot from Spain and I see how that country has come on and look at its pristine little factories. The producers in villages and towns group together to send out a representative with their local products – they are coming over here all the time. I know farmers have a lot to think about but I feel we need more marketing from farmers here.
"In France – which has a wonderful road network – the mayors promote their local produce with pride, do our mayors? I take two deliveries a week from Rungis Market and the wagons have to go across to France empty. I would like to push something over there," he says.
One of the things he has to import is stripped chicken meat for the sandwich bar trade. This is simply cooked white chicken meat picked from the carcass and ready for the sandwich maker to add mayonnaise, or other garnishes. "I have to bring it in from Belgium because I cant find it here," he says.
* Bones unwanted
He can find the poultry for his smokery, however, where chickens are smoked whole before the breasts are removed and packed. "People only want breasts here, the British dont want to eat off bones. It means we are left with the smoked thighs and legs. My daughter makes a super coq au vin with these and we might market this as a ready made dish," says Todd, who ran a restaurant for 20 years before buying a smokery.
English lamb is another meat he wants to use more of – but the problem is finding the right recipes. When he finds them he wont give away any secrets for he is very cagey about products he is already trying out. Take his corned beef, a smooth dark meat quite unlike the red and white mottled fatty slab that drops from a tin imported from Argentina. "Ours is made from silverside which is cured and mixed with whatever and spices. I am not telling you what the whatever is. This is cooked, or cooked and smoked," says Todd. By taking the process on a step it gives two products and Todd is keen to do this with other things as every step adds value and interest.
"We cold smoke rib eye of beef. This is tender and the smoke imparts a lovely flavour of the barbecue but it is ready for cooking indoors. The public wants something that is different or good and traditional, and not expensive," he explains. "Cost is a driver and one of the problems of supplying chefs is that they want quality for low prices."
Todd became involved in smoking while still a restaurateur. He needed some venison smoked and eventually bought the smokehouse. "But that was on the wrong site – an industrial estate. It needed to be on an island site – you know, the Ovaltiny concept, somewhere wholesome and rural. We spent a couple of years looking for the right place and £180,000 later, here we are," he says.
The smokery is now in a country lane in a converted milking parlour. Another farm building is his showroom with his office above in the hayloft. He employs one full and three part-time chefs and puts on roadshows to promote the meat and game from The Dorset Smokery and the fish specialities from Bridfish, the smokery at Bridport, Dorset he merged with this summer to form The Good Food Lovers Emporium.
* Showroom display
In his showroom he is surrounded by all manner of foods from around the world. The price he pays for Serano ham, made from the flesh of a black pig which is fed on acorns, is enough to make our pig producers cry. "It costs £185 a leg," he confides.
He has smoked all the trendy meats that people like to try – camel, ostrich, kangaroo, alligator. "It is all rubbish, if it was any good we would be eating it in every way. It is like the emperors new clothes, everyone says how wonderful it is. I just keep waiting for someone to say no it isnt, its crap."
For himself, when he is rushing about all over the place without time for a proper meal, he likes nothing better than his own English corned beef. "Yes, I think that is my favourite, with some tomato and dill and lovely bread," he says.
If he has his way, a lot of other people will soon have the chance to enjoy it too.
Cold and hot smoking adds a distinctive flavour but hot smoking cooks the food too, as with these chickens Todd is removing from the kiln. Oak is the main wood used but hickory, cherry and apple, and even seaweed and peat can be used for some specialities at this traditional smokehouse.