One Pot Wonders

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

chicken-kormaPossibly the most glorious thing about having an interest in food and cooking is that you will never exhaust the endless combinations of ingredients and methods available to you. The only limitation is your own imagination. We create our own mental boundaries by allowing our preconceived notions to direct us. We inherited many of these ideas from the cooks we grew up with and while many are right, some were folly at the time and have just served to build a fence around our own thoughts on a subject.   I guarantee that most people reading the title of this article will have conjured up thoughts of stews and soups. While both are important to one pot cooking, and there are many variations, we tend to forget that the one pot genre covers other single vessels such as woks and frying pans, roasting tins, casseroles and pie dishes. Once you start expanding the idea of the vessel itself a whole new world opens up to you. Now we can also eliminate the idea that all OP (one pot) efforts have to be slow cooked. I love slow cooking for a number of reasons, but particularly for the build up of wonderful aromas throughout the house as the meal draws closer. I love it when my taste buds are literally going wild with anticipation and, sure enough, that first mouthful inevitably produces a pleasure explosion that is hard to beat. But of course not everything done OP style needs to be slow cooked. Stir fry’s and risottos are very quick and tasty.

Beef & Vegetable CasseroleThere are many great benefits to OP cooking. Obviously the washing up is at a minimum and that’s a huge plus factor. It is the perfect style for people with limited kitchen space. It is a great way of retaining all the vitamins and minerals from the food you are cooking as they all mingle with the juices in the pot and you will also find that you tend not to need a lot of fat or oil. You only have to keep an eye on one pot and therefore you avoid the crazy mental arithmetic of working out the order in which to cook separate ingredients for a meal. That certainly reduces the anxiety when you are having people around to eat. Equally it is easy to transport should you be the one cooking a dish and bringing it with you. If you are time pressed you can usually prepare a hearty OP meal in advance and either leave it to slow cook for hours or reheat as necessary. Finally it is a very flexible idea where most recipes can be adjusted to the ingredients you have available. Every country in the world has its own variations on OP cooking. We are known for our stews, the French have wonderful rustic Chicken versions, the Italians are known for Osso Bucco or vats of meat sauce, the Germans love Pork varieties and of course, the Asian nations are known for their spicy stir fries and flavoursome curries; all One Pot wonders.

Obviously any single vessel can be used and considered. A particular favourite of mine would have to be Italian Style Roast chicken done in a plain old roasting tin. Along with roasting the bird and a few spuds, the Italians also cook all the other vegetables in the same dish at the same time. Peppers, thinly sliced courgettes, rosemary and garlic bulbs keep the feta cheese and sun dried tomato crumbed chicken and sliced new potatoes company, as they all bake together. When it comes from the oven it is a sight to behold and the aromas and flavours are even better. However, if you haven’t already done it, I would encourage you to invest in one decent cast iron pot or, as they are commonly known, a Dutch oven. Yes they are without a doubt expensive to buy but the good ones are a lifetime job. A friend of mine is still using one that her mother received as a wedding present! They are called Dutch ovens because heavy cast iron pots were manufactured in the Netherlands as early as the 1600s where braising had been discovered as a good way to cook tougher meats. Wild boar and moose would be slow cooked for hours as the tough fibres were rendered tender and full of flavor. With the Dutch oven Europeans then began adding vegetables, spices and herbs from their own regions and so distinctive national signature dishes emerged.   These pots have good tight fitting lids that retain the moisture in a dish, but the main advantage is that cast iron conducts and retains heat exceptionally well so food cooks evenly either on the hob or in the oven. These days they also come in so many great colors that they can be taken straight to the dining table and still look good. It is definitely an investment that you won’t regret. Do not foolishly buy a cheap imitation as it is false economy. Just save up for the real thing and it will save you money in the long run.

Braised Beef and Guinness CasseroleThis time of year is ideal for one pot cooking. We are all busy with little time for fancy cooking and the weather usually demands comfort food on these darker evenings; beef in beer with herb dumplings, steaming risottos or hearty goulashes. Fish also works really well in one pot, from fish stews, tagines and chowders, prawns with coconut rice or how about a big pot of tasty mussels served simply with some garlic bread. The combinations are endless.

Finally I cannot talk about one pot cooking without mentioning dessert. (You see, you hadn’t even considered it!) Cobblers, crumbles, chocolate fondues, rice pudding, bread and butter pudding are all cooked in just one vessel. Imagine a triumphant family meal with main course and dessert and just two cooking dishes to wash up afterwards? It’s a very attractive proposition. We live in a world that likes to complicate things and convince us that simple is lazy or perhaps boring. Not true I tell you, there are fabulous taste experiences to be thoroughly enjoyed in the simplicity of just one pot. Try it for yourself this week.

I welcome your feedback to pat@jwb.ie

Chicken Tonight

Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

Just before the downturn there were many column inches and much media air time devoted to the great chicken debate. Chefs, producers, organic specialists, commentators, all suddenly had an Roast Chicken with Lemon, Thyme and Garlicopinion. The general public was left dazed, bamboozled with information and more confused than ever. The various labels, organic, corn fed, hand reared, free range, farm produced, left the shopper with plenty of choice but little real knowledge on which to base it. Were they implying that some were more nutritious than others and therefore had greater health benefits perhaps? Were they saying that the more money you spent on a chicken the better the taste maybe? Or were we being set up for the higher spend because of the animal welfare and the sort of trauma free life the bird had led? When the questions weren’t properly asked we were then told repeatedly “buy the best chicken you can afford”. Just how condescending is that and what the hell does it actually mean?   The whole thing was just a foul trick played on the consumer. (I too am groaning at such an obvious pun, but I couldn’t resist it, forgive me.) Then the downturn set in, the chicken debate wasn’t sexy anymore and suddenly we didn’t have a chicken leg to stand on when it came to making a decision.chickens

So this is how I see it. If you choose to buy a chicken that has been imported from some far flung land and is on offer at 2 for a Euro, then this article is of no use to you whatsoever! Be it on your own head if it is tasteless and shrinks to half its size on cooking, once the injected water drains off. I’m not being xenophobic, it’s just that I do not have first hand knowledge and experience of overseas breeders and processes and sadly I’ve seen the ‘plumped’ up sort that are just a great big con. However, I can give you an opinion on Irish chicken. The chicken breeding industry in Ireland is highly regulated and has an international reputation for being of a very high standard with all registered breeders processes carefully monitored. While not all chickens from registered breeders are considered ‘free range’ because they do not have access to an outdoor run, the birds are well fed and well cared for in clean, warm sheds, which is what chickens tend to like anyway. For this reason I will happily stand over the fact that if you buy a good quality Irish chicken, it will be nutritious and tasty. Look for key factors in the product that determine taste, ie the breed, how long the chicken is grown for and perhaps the diet, after all great food in my opinion is determined by great taste.

If you are concerned with the animal husbandry of it all then by all means purchase the bottle fed, had a story read to it every night and its feathers stroked before it was tucked into a little bed kind of chicken.   Yes it will cost a few quid but you are paying for the fact the chicken stayed at the Hilton with access to a pool, gym, wi fi and satellite TV, rather than a Jurys Inn on a room only rate. If you think it will taste that much better then you are just deluding yourself! So do indeed buy the “best chicken you can afford”, but buy it for the right reasons.

Chicken is perhaps one of the most versatile foods on the planet and the whole world seems to know it. Chicken is as popular in the east as it is in the west, be it found in a curry in India, covered with plum sauce in China, deep fried in breadcrumbs in America or casseroled in Europe. It is sold in as many ways as there are ways to cook it. It is very popular with those watching their weight as it is lean (I think that’s all of us in January) and those watching their pockets (again isn’t that universal at this time of year?) While portions are certainly convenient, possibly the best value is a whole chicken that you take home and conjure several different ways until you get to the end of it; roasted, cold with salad, sandwiched, souped and finally turned into stock for the freezer. Okay, the last is possibly aspirational, as few of us have the time to make our own stock these days, but do try it sometime as there is nothing quite as delicious as homemade stock for future dishes. I find the best thing to do is store it in ice cube trays in the freezer and then you can use it as you wish. The weather, however, often dictates the dish and there is something superbly warming about a hearty chicken casserole with loads of large, roughly chopped veg and creamy mash when the frost covers the ground.

Finally one can source the best product on the market but if you can’t cook properly all the good work of the producer is lost. Roast chicken is perhaps one of the most traditional favourite Sunday dinners in many Irish households and personally I love the stuffing. One of the simplest seasoning’s, I have discovered, by mixing sea salt, cracked black pepper, ground bayleaf and crushed garlic, simply rubbed all over the chicken delivers a superb taste.

I welcome your feedback to pat@jwb.ie

A Butcher’s Life for Me

Posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

There’s a tremendous beauty in the English language. We, unlike some of our European neighbours, have been blessed with an abundant tongue based on rich, ancient foundations. We have an instrument of expression that when used correctly can work incredible magic. Words can make us fall in love, do things we don’t want to do, create mental pictures or even stir up emotions we didn’t even know existed. There is power in words and yet we are often lazy, assuming that some subjects don’t deserve a richer word currency. Sad to say, recent recruitment advertising that I have seen for butchers is a perfect example. It looks like there are openings for apprentice butchers in many parts of Ireland which is great news, including my own business, exposing the fact that there is not a lack of jobs in the industry, but a lack of skills. However looking at the distinctly dull and lifeless call to arms, I can see many approaching just because there’s a paying job at the end of it. I caution that a paying job is never a good driving factor for a life in this world.

733A6850While the word ‘passion’ is often bandied about and overused these days it should be fully applied to butchers. I want people with an ardent interest in the area to come forward to fill any positions I may have or take up any training programmes we create. I want those bordering on the obsessive because then and only then will we have a chance at creating a healthy legacy. On that note, I am often asked if “I minded taking over the family business”! It always amazes me that anyone would think I was obligated or forced in some way to follow in my father’s footsteps. I genuinely loved every part of the business. I had butchery in my blood and for me it was a natural step. I was simply fulfilling my purpose and calling and while I’m thankful that I have such a strong ancestral link to raising stock for food and this noble craft, I firmly believe that it would have been my perfect job had I been the very first in my line to become a butcher.

Many people miss the fundamental reasons someone might want to take up this trade. I often find myself standing at a fence in the dew drenched, quiet early mornings, marvelling at the wonder of the animals I rear and the link they provide between us and the land. While I take great care in raising them and enjoy their inherent, melancholic majesty, I am also starkly aware of their ultimate upcoming sacrifice. These gracious, primal mammals provide us with food that keeps us healthy and makes us strong. I fully acknowledge the responsibility of ensuring that we make the most of such selfless surrender. As a butcher it is up to me to find out everything I can about the animal and the nourishment it can provide. I am responsible for making sure that every part of the animal that is a source of nourishment can be used as such. It is up to me to know how to cook any cut of meat, nose to tail including the bones, and to have personal experience of that so I can pass it on – that is a calling, a purpose and so much more than just a job. It is in this kind of thinking that one finds the joy.

733A7162Besides the cerebral there is also the physical. Part of the work of a butcher is not pretty. It is bloody, heavy and serious work. That neatly tied, attractive little package or the coquettish, dark red fillet of steak that makes eyes at you from behind the gleaming glass of a butcher’s counter was once part of a large and wieldy carcass that required a deft combination of skill and art to bring it to such an aesthetic end.   I can recall many days in the slaughterhouse where I emerged after ridiculously long hours of carrying, carving and cutting spent and exhausted. I often imagined a crowd outside that steel door just waiting to celebrate and applaud my wondrous achievements of turning the gory and slightly macabre into things of beauty that people enjoyed bringing to their kitchens. Of course the brass band and the cheering crowds only existed in my head as few people picking up a Sunday roast truly appreciate where it has come from. It is worth remarking that we are particularly unaware of this in Ireland. In France you will notice that a skilled butcher or baker is something to be celebrated and indeed treasured by the community. In Ireland sometimes the job of butcher or baker don’t have the craft recognition they deserve. Hence the dull recruitment ads that include uninspiring sentences such as “Trimming excess fat off meat and finishing to customer specifications will be required”. Where is the art and the craft, the nourishment, the acknowledgement of the ability to butcher an animal and provide real nutritious food that promotes life? Where is the fun? Where is the joy?

We must also remember that many of our human rituals are based around and linked to food. The food providers in our lives are vital. Being a butcher is more than just a job. There has to be an appreciation of the intrinsic nature of the work and what you are really doing rather than the soul less single minded goal of a pay packet. This is the only way to happiness and a fulfilling career in any walk of life.

At James Whelan Butchers we do provide an 18 month programme with an accredited FETAC qualification on completion. We only create the very best butchers that will carry our signature of excellence into the industry. We want the passionate and enthusiastic so if you or someone you know is interested they can contact us via the website or pat@jwb.ie.

Covet the Cranberry

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

If there is one berry we associate with Christmas it has to be cranberries. Maybe it’s because they have been on my mind that I am suddenly coming across so many recipes, sweet and savoury that call for the little fleshy fruit in all its various forms; fresh, dried and frozen. For some reason I believe cranberries to be a very adult fruit as they were never on my radar as a child. The gravy with the turkey on Christmas day always interested me more than the obligatory little silver bowl of jewel coloured cranberry sauce that sat in the middle of the table. With its dainty little spoon jauntily sticking out, my child’s brain was suspicious of putting ‘jam’ on my meat! Irish children of the 1970s were still largely unschooled in the pleasures of sweet and sour or sweet and savoury as food partners. Our love affair with all things Asian, Eastern and European means today’s children are much more open to such things.

The old English name for the cranberry is ‘fenberry’. I came across the word ‘fenberry’ in a very old cook book some time ago and hadn’t a clue what it was. ‘Fen’ is another word for marsh and cranberries were commonly found in marsh lands, hence the name. Being a winter berry, cranberries have been eaten by Arctic populations for thousands of years and are still a very popular fruit for wild harvesting in the Nordic countries and Russia. Native Americans are believed to have been the first people to use cranberries as a source of food. Legend has it that they introduced the cranberry to European settlers in the 1600s and they incorporated the berry into their traditional Thanksgiving feast – hence the popularity of cranberry sauce with turkey.

Unlike the blueberry, blackberry or raspberry, cranberries are tart to the taste and so are rarely eaten raw yet they are wonderful when combined in baked treats such as scones, cakes and muffins. Indeed I have perfected a walnut and cranberry biscuit (I just find it hard to use the word cookie although my children seem to have no issue with it at all!) I use dried cranberries readily available in most supermarkets these days. They add a lovely chewy dimension and, of course, the lovely red colouring has an added appeal. They are simple to make and earn me serious brownie points with everyone when a batch is whipped up. The kids adore making them with me and it’s a glorious way to spend some time with them. cranberry-sauce_new

Moving away from baked goods I would also encourage you to use dried cranberries in winter stews and casseroles. Dried cranberries have more sugar than fresh and so when added to a red wine based chicken casserole they add a really lovely fruity dimension. They serve to take that edginess off the alcohol. A little chef-y tip: if you are using alcohol such as stout, ale or wine in a stew or casserole and on the final tasting you feel it’s a little sharp just add a teaspoon of cranberry sauce and it will smooth out those edges very quickly. Dried cranberries also offer a nice change for kids who enjoy raisins in their lunchbox. The texture is the same but the taste is enjoyably different. Admittedly they are more expensive than raisins but nice for a change the odd time.

While traditionally we know that cranberries work with turkey and chicken I also think they go very well with pork. Pork, cranberry and herb stuffing is a favourite.

I try and use fresh and dried cranberries for mine.   You would use 2 – 3 ounces of fresh cranberries along with half the amount of dried cranberries for every pound of pork sausage meat. Just combine them with breadcrumbs, a little parsley, sage and thyme, a finely chopped onion and 2 finely chopped celery sticks. A large egg will bind the whole lot together and rather than stuffing it into anything you could just roll them into balls and cook them in a hot oven for about 25 minutes. Alternatively you could ask your butcher to de bone a chicken and lay this stuffing down the centre, then stitch the chicken up again and roast. It really makes the chicken go a little further and it feels so much richer. You could make a cranberry, red wine and mushroom jus to pour over it just to finish it off. This dish has a rich feel to it and yet is very economical when you think it is just chicken and sausage meat. This would also work as a pork stuffing.

Traditional cranberry sauce is also a great store cupboard item particularly over Christmas. It makes great emergency gifts and works really well with cold turkey and leftovers. After Christmas day make a sauce with a little crème fraiche and chicken stock. Add in some chopped leftover turkey and ham. Line a bun tin (or a large pie dish) with some pastry, fill with the cream filling and top with cranberry sauce before putting on a pastry lid and baking. If you make little ones they are a great canapé, lunch or starter. I find frozen cranberries are the easiest to get and the most convenient for cranberry sauce. Just make sure to thaw them before making it.

Finally if you want to really impress Smoked Turkey Cigars create a wow factor every time. All you need are some sliced smoked turkey breast, pork cranberry and herb stuffing, cranberry sauce and some filo pastry. Simply spread a slice of smoked turkey with some cranberry sauce, then line the centre with some stuffing and roll up the turkey slice like a cigar. Next lay out a filo sheet and brush with some melted butter, then lay another sheet on the top add your turkey cigar and roll the whole lot together, tucking the pastry neatly at the ends. You should make about 12 cigars from 24 sheets of shop bought filo pastry. Line them up on a baking sheet, brush them all with melted butter and bake them in the oven at 190°C for about 25 minutes. Serve them hot.

Don’t overlook the cranberry this year and just know that it really can elevate a dish to something very special.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Food Market Monkstown and Avoca Rathcoole. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers

Christmas Opening Times 2015

Posted on Friday, December 11th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

 

Our Christmas week opening times for our butcher shop in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary are as follows:

Day Opening Times
Saturday 19th Dec 8AM – 6.00PM
Sunday 20th Dec 8AM – 7PM
Monday 21st Dec 8AM – 7PM
Tuesday 22nd Dec 8AM – 7PM
Wednesday 23rd Dec 8AM – 8PM
Christmas Eve 24th Dec 8AM – 5PM
Christmas Day 25th Dec CLOSED
St. Stephen’s Day 26th Dec CLOSED
Sunday 27th Dec CLOSED
Monday 28th Dec 8AM – 6PM
Tuesday 29th Dec 8AM – 6PM
Wednesday 30th Dec 8AM – 6PM
New Year’s Eve 31st Dec 8AM – 6PM
Friday 1st Jan CLOSED
Saturday 2nd Jan 8AM – 6.00PM

 

Our Christmas week opening times for our butcher shop in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin are as follows:

Day Opening Times
Friday 18th Dec 9AM – 8PM
Saturday 19th Dec 9AM – 7PM
Sunday 20th Dec 10AM – 7PM
Monday 21st Dec 9AM – 8PM
Tuesday 22nd Dec 9AM – 8PM
Wednesday 23rd Dec 8AM – 8PM
Christmas Eve 24th Dec 8AM – 5PM
Christmas Day 25th Dec CLOSED
St. Stephen’s Day 26th Dec CLOSED
Sunday 27th Dec 10AM-6PM
Monday 28th Dec 9AM – 6PM
Tuesday 29th Dec 9AM – 6PM
Wednesday 30th Dec 9AM – 6PM
New Year’s Eve 31st Dec 9AM – 5PM
Friday 1st Jan 11AM – 6PM
Saturday 2nd Jan 9AM – 6PM

 

Our Christmas week opening times for our butcher shop in Monkstown, Co. Dublin are as follows:

Day Opening Times
Saturday 19th Dec 8.30AM – 8PM
Sunday 20th Dec 9AM – 6PM
Monday 21st Dec 8.30AM – 6PM
Tuesday 22nd Dec 8.30AM – 7PM
Wednesday 23rd Dec 7AM – 8PM
Christmas Eve 24th Dec 7AM – 5PM
Christmas Day 25th Dec CLOSED
St. Stephen’s Day 26th Dec CLOSED
Sunday 27th Dec 9AM – 6PM
Monday 28th Dec 8.30AM – 6PM
Tuesday 29th Dec 8.30AM – 6PM
Wednesday 30th Dec 8.30AM – 6PM
New Year’s Eve 31st Dec 8.30AM – 6PM
Friday 1st Jan 9AM – 8PM
Saturday 2nd Jan 9AM – 8PM

 

Our Christmas week opening times for our butcher shop in Kilmacanogue, Bray, Co. Wicklow are as follows:

Day Opening Times
Saturday 19th Dec 9.30AM – 6PM
Sunday 20th Dec 9.30AM – 6PM
Monday 21st Dec 9AM – 6PM
Tuesday 22nd Dec 9AM – 6PM
Wednesday 23rd Dec 9AM – 6PM
Christmas Eve 24th Dec 8AM – 5PM
Christmas Day 25th Dec CLOSED
St. Stephen’s Day 26th Dec CLOSED
Sunday 27th Dec 10AM – 6PM
Monday 28th Dec 9AM – 6PM
Tuesday 29th Dec 9AM – 6PM
Wednesday 30th Dec 9AM – 6PM
New Year’s Eve 31st Dec 9AM – 6PM
Friday 1st Jan 10AM – 6PM
Saturday 2nd Jan 9.30AM – 6PM

 

 

The Humble Spud

Posted on Tuesday, December 8th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

I have a friend who is in the fruit and vegetable business both growing and selling on a significant scale and so he knows his spuds. He is always astounded when people don’t store their spuds in the fridge and then wonder why they spoil so quickly.

Forget your fancy storage bags, baskets and pots; he is adamant that the only place to store fruit and vegetables at home is in the fridge. (Barring the fact you are one of the few who may have a cold room, cold dark pantry or a cold cellar in the house.)  The average home these days is far too well heated for fresh produce to endure. So if you want your carrots and spuds to last a little while longer then take his advice. I did and I haven’t looked back.

My fridge is never without some variety of potato rumbling around in the vegetable drawer.   Of course my peers from the Looney Low Carb Left and those from the Fanatical Fat Free Brotherhood would no doubt like to take my spuds and my butter from my fridge and have me tarred and feathered for giving them any room at all. Well here it is, I am taking up my metaphorical megaphone and declaring that the humble spud is good for you, full of vitamin C, is relatively inexpensive and should be put firmly back on the family shopping list of food lovers and healthy eaters. There is little as natural as an Irish potato, grown and sold locally.

Potatoes

In the past decade spuds seem to have been cast aside for pasta, rice and all manner of grains from cous cous to bulghur wheat. Now I have no problem with any or all of the above, but life is about moderation and variety and something as Irish and home grown as the spud must not be overlooked. Indeed I think our new over dependence on pasta and rice could be part of the current obesity problem we are attempting to tackle; but that’s another day’s work.

There also seems to be a lack of knowledge around spuds. Old, new, and the myriad of varieties have caused confusion for the urban population. In the spring and summer potatoes sold soon after they have been taken from the ground are called ‘new’ potatoes; in other words freshly harvested. These are often, although not exclusively, small and have a light, feathery skin that can be rubbed off in the hand. New potatoes tend to cook quickly and have a slightly sweeter taste than the more mature. Old potatoes are harvested and then kept for anything up to 12 months before being sent to market. The skins are thicker and more robust and all the natural sugar will have converted into starch by the time they get to the kitchen.

But let’s park for a second on the versatility of this little tuber. Can you recall the last time you had a proper chip, (not synthetic French fries) a hand cut, thick and crispy baton of potato? When expertly cooked there is little to rival it for simplicity and taste. I had a recent late night indulgence at a traditional chip shop; one that buys potatoes by the sack load and peels and chops them by hand before cooking them to perfection. Given the rarity of this, I found myself enjoying a bag of chips in a darkened car after midnight with all the enjoyment of an extravagant experience at a swanky restaurant. What about a fluffy baked potato, a great roast spud or a plate of creamy mash? The potato can be twice cooked; boiled and mashed and then turned into potato cakes or fried in slices to use up leftovers at breakfast. It can be shredded and squeezed to within an inch of its life and made into rosti, it can be used as a topping, as a base, as an addition and thickener and it can also be eaten cold. There are many ways to cut and slice it and it combines so well with so many other foods from meat to vegetables, plus it can be eaten at any time of the day; breakfast, lunch and dinner. When we take an overview we wonder why the spud is humble at all, it has so much to boast about.Individual Potato-Topped Steak and Chorizo Pies thumbnail

Potatoes are a great source of vitamin C, however vitamin C is water soluble so if you can, it’s best to steam or bake potatoes to retain the value. There are also great nutrients to be found in potato skins. If you are making homemade chips try and chop them with the skins on and I urge you to experiment with oven cooking hand cut chips rather than always deep frying them. I tend to sprinkle them with a little olive oil and, if I have any to hand, I throw in some sprigs of fresh rosemary for extra flavour, and bake them.

I’m not suggesting you stop using rice and pasta, but I would urge you to revisit the potato. It is a very economical way of stretching a meal while being full of comfort and great memories for many. Just don’t forget, to store your spuds in the fridge, there is no better way.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Food Market Monkstown and Avoca Rathcoole. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers

Thrift in the Kitchen

Posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

“During the war years and beyond culinary skills were tested to the limit. Housewives were proud to play their part in helping with the war effort. Many, self taught, embraced the art of cooking enthusiastically. They used limited resources ingeniously, respecting the available ingredients and avoiding waste. Above all, they were prepared to put the time in to get a good meal out. “

The above is a quote written by Jane Fearnley Whittingstall for the foreword of a new book called The Thrifty Kitchen; Wartime Lessons for the Modern Cook. Of course vintage everything is all the rage right now and so 70 years on from the start of the Second World War we are looking back to its kitchens for inspiration. Perhaps our vintage passion is also driven by the economy and the fact that we are all looking for ways to make cuts to the household budget.

Wartime strategies are not a bad place to start. In Ireland it wasn’t a war situation but historically known as, “the emergency”. It often surprises school children to find out that even though the Republic wasn’t directly involved in fighting the war we still had rationing, although it wasn’t as severe as the UK. Some of the more important food stuffs that were rationed during and after the war in Ireland were tea, sugar, butter and flour. Bread was rationed in 1942. Tobacco, soap and clothing as well as shoes were other items. Ration books not only noted what was bought but when it was bought and in which shop. Fortunately though, unlike the UK, eggs and meat were not rationed in Ireland.

allotmentWere we to follow a full wartime cook’s strategy, particularly of the British kind, we might find ourselves knee deep in tins of spam, powdered eggs and very odd cuts of meat! I think the nostalgia trip we are on now calls for the timeless principles of the wartime cook rather than actual replication of what he or she did. Despite the fact that we are constantly being told that the world is regressing to poorer times, I think the media message is gloomy and inaccurate. Yes we are in a recession but to even attempt to compare ourselves to the hardships endured by ordinary people during wartime is an insult. Wouldn’t the wartime cook have loved a freezer? Wouldn’t the wartime cook have enjoyed freely available ingredients without rationing? Wouldn’t the wartime cook have enjoyed today’s cooking gadgets and ovens that have both reduced the effort and the time taken to cook meals? Wouldn’t the wartime cook have enjoyed the knowledge (recipes and skills) that is freely available to anyone who cares to find it these days?

While I very much enjoyed the foreword for the book by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, her assertion that “Above all, they were prepared to put the time in to get a good meal out” could be perceived as accusatory.   Many people today would be happy to put the time in if they had it to spare. In this modern world it is a priceless commodity and many people with full time jobs, children to rear and houses to run find themselves constantly battling with the time issue as well as money.   These days we sometimes have to trade one for the other. For example we often decide to pay a little more for a pre prepared cut ready for the oven rather than prepare it fully at home. They are today’s choices and they have to be made regularly and should be made guilt free.

The principles of wartime cookery though, coupled with all our modern advantages, certainly have the potential to help us during these tough times. One of the first things a wartime cook would have done was to shop sensibly and seasonally. Obviously things available out of season will have a premium price. Shopping sensibly is also quite easy today. If you have a freezer you can take advantage of special offers on meat. Wartime cooks also knew how to deal with cheaper cuts of meat. Usually in a quality butchers the cheaper cuts of meat are not inferior in taste but just require a particular cooking method which is usually a slow method. For example stews, pot roasts, shins and shanks are all wonderfully tasty but require several hours cooking time. Usually the preparation time is quite short and so these are great ‘make ahead’ dishes or maybe it is time to invest in a slow cooker. Wartime cooks avoided waste and so leftovers were always seen as ingredients for another dish or the making of a new meal. Even meat carcasses and bones were used to make stock and soups. Free fruit and vegetables were welcomed by the wartime cook. Bramble fruit such as blackberries would be turned into jam, crumbles and other sweet treats. An abundance of wild nettles made great soup and allotments that yielded carrots and other veg were always popular. It would have been the original GIY movement. Indeed even in Ireland during the Emergency parts of the Phoenix Park were given over to allotments. And finally one of the other notable differences between our wartime cousins and us is that they would rarely turn the oven on for just one dish. They knew that if the gas was on cooking one pot, as long as there was room, it could cook or heat two or make enough for several meals.

You don’t have to return to the old fashioned, labourious time intensive methods of the kitchen staff of Downton Abbey to save a few quid. All we need is some old fashioned common sense. Let’s capitalise on our freezers, the great offers from retailers, our time saving gadgets and our faster ovens. With a little bit of thought and forward planning I reckon we’d have the wartime cooks drawing big breaths of admiration for our money saving savvy without any compromise on taste.

At James Whelan Butchers we are acutely aware of the current financial climate and so each week we endeavour to help with a range of special offers. Drop by any time and we challenge you not to be amazed by the value and the quality that is attached to our name. I welcome your feedback to pat@jwb.ie

Early Birds Catch the Turkeys

Posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

I’m on the brink of believing that someone or something has increased the speed at which time passes. Is it just me or are we all failing to get the same value out of a year that we once did?   It seems like I took the children out picking blackberries on the cusp of autumn and when we got home we were deep into November and on the precipice of the Christmas rush.

Once it starts there is no coming back. From here on in, for me anyway, I will be like a downhill skier with little time to stop and take in the scenery until the end of the festive period. Why so early I hear you ask? Well this week, today in fact, we start our annual Christmas turkey and ham sale which has become almost as traditional as the fowl itself. What started out as a way to give my customers the same quality turkey for a discount in order to beat the downturn, has become a much anticipated annual event and heralds the start of the silly season. This year we’re just in time for Thanksgiving which is Thursday November 26th so Happy Thanksgiving to any readers from the USA.

turkey-calculator

While nobody likes to think of Christmas too early, have no doubt about it there are substantial savings to be made by getting in early. As long as you have access to a freezer you can have a very ‘financially’ happy and peaceful Christmas without anyone noticing that savings have been made.   There is always a fear that saving on cost will compromise the quality but that need not be the case at all.

Everyone is keen to cut costs these days and there are many ways to do it. You can of course look for cheaper alternatives that just don’t taste the same, but in the long run this is bad for our mental health. Wanting one thing for the family feast and providing something of a lower standard will inevitably leave us feeling even poorer and more deprived than ever, increasing our focus on the recession and what we can no longer afford.

I realised this at the beginning of the downturn, almost four years ago now, and I immediately sought ways to achieve the same savings without compromising on quality or losing sales By thinking creatively the producer and I found a way that was a win win for all of us and particularly the customer. We found the solution in the freezer.

turkeys foragingSo here’s how it works. There is no doubt that artisan producers are up against it these days with labour and utility costs and, in order to produce the highest quality food, short shelf life offerings. With the festive season approaching this can be particularly difficult as increased demand inevitably leads to increased labour costs. There is the people/money/time triangle at work. You need at least two of these components for any venture to succeed. If you are short of money, but have enough people and time, you will get the orders out. However for artisan food producers at Christmas there is always an increased demand, creating a rush and therefore a time shortage. When time isn’t available the only route is to employ more people which hikes up the costs (money). It can be a perplexing situation.

I realised that if we made a large early order for turkeys the producer didn’t have to employ extra staff, immediately reducing the cost at which we could purchase. This meant that we could pass on the discount directly to our customers. That’s exactly what we did the first year. We offered the same quality turkey and ham as the previous year at an incredible €41.50 discount! The customer then popped the turkey and ham into the freezer for the short time between the end of November and Christmas, which didn’t affect the quality in any way. The customer was buying early, avoiding the rush and making a substantial saving on the same quality local turkey that they had always enjoyed. It was a win, win situation for everyone and there was no compromise on excellence. By encouraging people to buy early we were also stimulating the market, still keeping it local and retaining a superior product.

Small producers need and deserve to be supported, but as consumers we need to get the best value for our euro in the current climate. However when you are shopping this festive season always keep in mind that the best value doesn’t always equate to the cheapest product. We are very fortunate in Tipperary to enjoy high quality, locally produced exclusive foods and I urge everyone to support them as best you can in the current climate. We all have a social responsibility to our locality and by pulling together we can escape the harsher casualties of this recession. The sale is for everyone. There are savings to be made and you’d be mad to miss out on them. If you have a freezer, then avail of the €41.50 discount (only available in our Clonmel shop or online) and get ahead. If nothing else, knowing that the turkey and ham are sitting in the freezer will make you feel that one of the major Christmas expenses is out of the way. This offer is only available until Black Friday (November 27th) in our Clonmel shop or available online.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Food Market Monkstown and Avoca Rathcoole. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers

Mince Pies

Posted on Friday, November 20th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Dripping Recipes, Christmas Recipes, Recipes | No Comments »

mince-piesBeef dripping makes the best tasting pastry. Try it yourself with this great recipe for mince pies.

Mince Pies – Printer Friendly Download

Ingredients for pastry:

To Cook:

To make the pastry: Place butter, cold lard (beef dripping) and sugar in a food processor and blitz until combined add the egg and blitz for a further 30 secs. Add in the flour and pulse for a few secs until just combined, and just starts to come together, add a little water if the dough appears a little dry. Knead the dough gently on a floured surface into a disc and then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Ingredients – Makes 3.2kg (7lb) approx 8-9 pots

Suggested mince meat recipe: Myrtle Allen’s Ballymaloe Homemade Mince meat

  • 2 cooking apples
  • 2 organic lemons
  • 900g (2lbs) Barbados sugar (soft, dark brown sugar)
  • 450g (1lb) beef suet
  • 450 (1lb) sultanas
  • 224 (8oz) currants
  • 110g (4oz) candied citrus peel
  • 70ml (2.5fl oz) Irish whiskey
  • 2 tbsp Seville orange marmalade
  • pinch of salt

To Cook:

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4
Core and bake whole apples in the preheated oven for 30 minutes approx. Allow to cool. When they are soft, remove the skin and pips and mash the flesh into a pulp.
Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of the stainless steel grater, squeeze out the juice and stir into the pulp. Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater, squeeze out the juice and stir into the pulp. Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly. Put into sterilized jars, cover and leave to mature for two weeks before using. This mincemeat will keep for two to three years in a cool, airy place.

Pork and Cranberry Sausage Rolls

Posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Dripping Recipes, Christmas Recipes, Pork Recipes, Recipes | No Comments »

sausage rolls pork and cranberryThe beef dripping really gives these festive sausage rolls a delicious crunch.

Pork and Cranberry Sausage Rolls – Printer Friendly Download

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

For the filling:

  • 450g free-range pork sausages
  • 30g dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1 orange, finely grated zest
  • 6 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds

To Cook:

To make the pastry: Place butter, cold lard (beef dripping) and sugar in a food processor and blitz until combined add the egg and blitz for a further 30 secs. Add in the flour and pulse for a few secs until just combined, and just starts to come together, add a little water if the dough appears a little dry. Knead the dough gently on a floured surface into a disc and then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas 7. Divide the pastry in half lengthways, so you have 2 long pieces. Make a slit down the length of each sausage and remove their skins. Place the meat in a large mixing bowl with the cranberries, orange zest and sage and mix till well combined. Halve the mixture and, using slightly wet hands, gently form each into a long skinny sausage the same length as the pastry. Place a long sausage in the middle of one of the pastry pieces and brush one of its long edges with some of the egg. Roll into a long cylinder, making sure the pastry overlaps where it meets. Place seam-side down and use a sharp knife to cut into 6 rolls. Gently squeeze the cut ends of each to neaten them if necessary. Repeat with the other half. Transfer the rolls to a large, non-stick baking sheet. Brush with egg and sprinkle with the fennel seeds. Bake for 20 minutes or till cooked and golden brown. Allow to cool before packing.

 

 

Triple-Cooked Chips

Posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Dripping Recipes, Recipes, Side Dishes | No Comments »

triple-cooked-chipsYou can make chips in a saucepan, but a domestic deep fat fryer is not very expensive and makes the whole process much safer.

Triple Cooked Chips – Printer Friendly Download

Ingredients:

  • 200 g Maris Piper potatoes
  • Beef dripping (enough to half-fill your pan when melted)

To Cook:

Peel the potatoes and cut into chips: 1 cm thick for chunky chips; half that for skinny chips. Rinse well under cold water, then drain. Put the chips into a pan of cold salted water and bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat and simmer until the chips are just soft to the point of a knife. Drain, pat dry, spread out on a flat tray and allow to cool; then put in the fridge until cold.

Heat the fat to 120˚C and add the chips. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Blanch for about five minutes until cooked through but not coloured. Remove, drain, pat dry, spread out on kitchen paper on a flat tray, cool and refrigerate.

When you are ready to eat, heat the fat to 160˚C and add the chips. Cook until crisp and golden, then remove, drain, season and serve immediately.

Beef Dripping Roast Potatoes

Posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Dripping Recipes, Recipes, Side Dishes | No Comments »

beef-dripping-roast-potatoesThese are in my humble opinion the best roast potatoes you will ever have. Try this recipe for you Christmas roast potatoes and you’ll be converted straight away.

Beef Drippin Roast Potatoes – Printer Friendly Download

Ingredients:

  • Allow 2–3 floury potatoes per person

To Cook

Peel the potatoes and cut into roughly equal pieces. The more surface area there is, the more opportunity you have to create a crunchy exterior. Par boil the potatoes in a large saucepan of salted water for about 7 minutes, or until there starts to be a little ‘give’ on the surface when scraped with the tines of a fork. Drain and return to the saucepan, put the lid on and give it a good shake to roughen the potatoes’ surfaces a little. Put a few tablespoons of dripping into a roasting tin and place in the oven with the meat for about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes to the tin, turning to ensure that they are basted in the fat. Sprinkle with fine sea salt. Cook for about an hour or until crisp and golden. You can leave them in after the meat comes out of the oven and turn up the heat if you think they need it.