Inspiration for new products can come from a wide range of different sources, but Durham butcher Harry Coates says one of the best ways to pick up some fresh ideas is by talking to other butchers.
Harry, who runs H Coates & Sons in Framwellgate Moor, Durham, is vice-chairman of the Guild of Q and is a keen proponent of butchers working together. And where better to get some fresh tips, he says: "One of the best inspirations anyone can get for new ideas is through shop visits. And of course, blowing the Q Guild trumpet, through Q Guild meetings! It's where you get the most and often best ideas from."
Harry, who grew up in the family trade and opened his first shop in 1984, has a long history of winning awards, with his innovative creations stretching back over the decades, but he does not rest on his laurels and continues to search for new and interesting products with which to tempt his customers.
As well as looking for inspiration externally, Harry says new ideas are often discussed within the team, which includes two other butchers and a couple of chefs as well as four serving staff. However, not everything proves a hit and he says you have to know when to pull the plug.
"We talk about things ourselves and come up with ideas products may come from one of those ideas or it may be something we've seen and we adapt it for ourselves. We'll usually try something for a couple of weeks and if it doesn't catch on by then, it's not going to work. You can only have so many products on display and, if it's not working, it's wasting space."
A current best-seller for Harry is a simple product that can be adapted in several different ways.
Effectively a burger meat wrap, different meats and different ingredients can be used to put a fresh spin on each product. Harry currently offers customers a choice of Mexican Melts, Beef Steak Wraps or Lamb Fillet Wraps and runs a range of mix-and-match offers to boost sales of all three products.
"The method to produce all three is fundamentally the same you just adapt the recipe," says Harry, who adds that the idea for creating the products just came into his head. Some of the core elements were already there.
The Mexican Melt, for example, uses his own award-winning Mexican steak burger as the base, while the other products can be made using any beef or lamb burger mix. Harry recommends producing the products the day before sale to allow them to form up in the fridge overnight. And the range has gone down well with customers: "We've been doing these for a while now and they sell really well," he says.
For the burgers:
Beef 85VL 2.25kg
Chopped red chilli peppers 2
Chopped green chilli peppers 2
Dalesman peppered steak burger mix 175g
Ground cumin 2 heaped tsp
Verstegen World Grill Mexican Madness 190g
For the filling:
Old El Paso Mexican-style grated cheese 400g
Whites of 3 eggs
1. Following the recipe for the Mexican steak burgers, use the mix to form 150g portions
2. Take a bag of the grated cheese and add your egg white, mix thoroughly
3. Flatten out your Mexican steak burger mix and add a dollop of cheese using a hand scoop
4. Form the burger mix around the cheese and ensure the cheese is totally encased
5. Cover the melts and then gently press into shape using a mould. Do not press too hard or you run the risk of leaking cheese.
6. Leave overnight to set before sale the following morning.
Beef Fillet Wraps
Any burger mix 110g per wrap
A portion of beef fillet end 30-35g
Dijon mustard or similar (Harry uses Verstegen World Grill Moutarde)
Cracked black pepper for garnish
Lamb Fillet Wraps
Lamb trim 7kg
Dalesman Pork and Country Herb Seasoning 1 packet
Cottage Delight Mint Jelly with Balsamic Vinegar 2 x 227g jars
Verstegen World Grill Greek Passion 150g
Chunks of lean lamb (neck fillet, leg etc) approx 80 x 35g
Rubbed mint (for garnish )