Halal food no longer a minority taste

Top chefs and food producers discover big appetite for halal meat among young, middle class Muslims.

It has always been seen as a
minority taste, dominated by specialist companies and independent
retailers and largely neglected by gourmet restaurants.

But now
the halal food market is seeing a surge of interest from mainstream
producers and top chefs who are discovering a new market among young,
middle class Muslims.

Sales of organic halal meat are up during the holy month of Ramadan, as Muslims prepare to mark the end of fasting with the festival of Eid al-Fitr this weekend.

“festivity” in Arabic, is typically celebrated with friends, family and
good food, with many Muslims cooking a feast to mark the end of a month
of abstinence from food and drink during daylight hours.

restaurants have begun offering banquets complete with non-alcoholic
cocktails to celebrate the end of abstinence and Harrods has introduced
a range of halal gift confectionery to coincide with Eid.

are an estimated 2.6 million Muslims in Britain, representing just over
3% of the population, but their appetite for meat outstrips that of the
general population.

The market for halal fresh meat is estimated at £400m, equivalent to 11% of meat sales, according to Mintel.

food chains such as KFC, McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza are all working
on trials offering halal meat, but options for upmarket dining have
traditionally been more limited. That has now begun to change.

a stylish Indian restaurant in Kensington, central London, frequented
by well-known names including Formula One racing driver Jenson Button
and comedian Ruby Wax, has launched a range of alcohol-free cocktails
and has a wide variety of halal dishes on its menu.

Head chef
Sanjay Dwivedi said: “It’s been really busy during Ramadan and we’ve
had so many young British Muslims coming in, some of them breaking
their fast here or coming in later on to eat.

“They’re all young,
professional and moneyed and all quite trendy – they’ve got disposable
incomes to go out and have really great food, and they know they can
get halal meat here.”

Awana, a Malaysian restaurant in Chelsea,
has been running a Ramadan feast menu all month, catering for the
evening meal when the daily fast is broken.

And Benares, a
Michelin-starred restaurant in Mayfair headed by chef Atul Kochhar,
serves several halal dishes, including pan-fried chicken breast, fennel
infused Kentish lamb chops and marinated free range spring chicken.

Bord’Eaux, a French restaurant at the five-star Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane, also offers halal chicken and lamb dishes.

don’t advertise our menu as halal because some of our sauces contain
wine, but if a customer wanted us to amend a dish and have a halal
meal, we would happily accommodate them,” said restaurant manager Raoul
de Souza.

The trend extends to home cooking too. At Abraham
Natural Produce, a mail order halal meat business, orders have
increased by 40% during Ramadan as families have been planning ahead
for their Eid menus.

Duck, beef and guinea fowl have been particularly popular for customers who want a British-style roast dinner.

Sarah Carr and her husband Ali run the business, which is based in Devon.

She said: “There’s a growing awareness about animal welfare and ethical produce among all consumers, including Muslims.

lot of our clients tend to be younger Muslim professionals who have got
into organic food either because they’re foodies who watch Jamie Oliver
and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, or because they feel strongly about
the ethical organic movement.

“These guys want to be able to sit
down to a nice organic Sunday roast, and get cuts of meat they can’t
normally get in your average halal butcher.”

Abraham Natural
Produce has also supplied Fearnley-Whittingstall’s restaurant, River
Cottage, in Axminster, Devon, with halal organic cuts.

A spokesman for River Cottage said: “We’ve used their halal goat meat because of the fantastic quality.

believe everyone should have access to free range and organic produce
and [it’s important] that it comes from as local a producer as possible
in season.”

Harrods’ gift confectionery, made by the Chocolate
Factory, includes boxes of sugar coated fruit pastilles and raspberry
and blackberry fruit-flavoured gums, made using halal gelatin.

Last year, the emporium launched a range of halal Belgian chocolates for Ramadan.