Beef and Crozier Blue Pie with a Suet Crust

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes | No Comments »

April Bloomfield is the British chef behind the Spotted Pig in New York. We took inspiration from a recipe in her book, A Girl and Her Pig, to create this luxurious pie that celebrates not only quality beef, but also one of our wonderful Tipperary cheeses, which is produced by the Grubb family, who also make Cashel Blue. You could substitute any similar blue cheese–Bellingham Blue from Co. Louth is another that we like a lot. This is a recipe to be made over a weekend, as it’s a two-step process, but by goodness is it worth it. And don’t worry if you’ve never made suet pastry before—it’s very forgiving. You will need a non-stick springform pan, 20 cm in diameter and 8 cm deep.

Beef and Crozier Blue Pie with a Suet Crust – Printer Friendly Download


For the filling:

  • 1 kg shin beef, cut into chunks about
  • 2.5 x 5 cm
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 40 g plain flour
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil or Irish rapeseed oil
  • 2 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and sliced thickly
  • 2 tablespoons thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1. tablespoons black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
  • 675 ml dry red wine
  • 675 ml chicken stock, preferably homemade

For the suet pastry:

  • 450 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 150 g freshly ground suet, chilled
  • about 50 ml ice-cold water

To finish:

  • butter, at room temperature, for greasing the tin
  • 150 g Crozier Blue cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk

To Cook

Put the meat in a big bowl and season it with the salt and pepper. Add the flour and toss, ensuring all pieces are evenly coated. Put a wide, heavy, ovenproof casserole dish over a high heat and pour in half the oil. When it begins to smoke, brown the meat on all sides in batches, adding more oil as necessary. Transfer the meat to a plate. Add the garlic, onions, thyme and peppercorns to the pot, and cook, without stirring, for about 3 minutes. Return the meat to the pot, stir well and cook for ten minutes, stirring now and again. Pour in the red wine, stir and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the liquid looks a little viscous, about 15 minutes. Add the stock, return to a simmer, cover the pot and cook at a gentle simmer until the meat is tender, about two hours. Allow the filling to cool in the pot, cover with a lid, and chill overnight in the fridge. To make the pastry, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, then mix in the suet. Add 50 ml water, stirring the mixture with a fork and gradually adding more water if you need it, until you have a slightly sticky dough with the fat well distributed rather than in large chunks. Cover with clingfilm and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. The next day, remove the meat from the pot and put it in a large bowl. There will be about a litre of solidified liquid remaining in the pot. Put the pot over a medium-high heat, bring the liquid to the boil, and cook, stirring frequently to make sure the onion doesn’t stick to the bottom, until it has reduced by half, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, break the chunks of meat into smaller pieces. Allow the reduced liquid to cool completely and pour it over the meat. Give it a gentle stir. Grease the tin with the butter. Make a rough ball with ®˙ of the dough, keeping the rest in the fridge. Dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough ball into a 35 cm disc. Place it in the tin, gently pressing it against the bottom and up the sides so it fits securely. Chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180˚C/fan 160˚C/gas mark 4. Spoon half the beef filling into the pie shell. Crumble half the cheese into large chunks and scatter over the filling. Spoon in the rest of the filling and scatter with the remaining cheese. Dust the work surface with flour again. Form the remaining dough into a rough ball and roll it into a circle about 25 cm across. Cut out a circle about 2.5 cm across from the centre of the round and set the small disc aside. Whisk together the egg yolk and milk in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush the rim of the pie with some of the egg mixture. Lay the 25 cm round on top of the pie and press it lightly against the rim of the bottom crust until it adheres. Trim off any overhang with a knife, reserve it, and crimp the edges. Form the reserved dough scraps into a ball. Lightly flour the surface again and roll out the dough into a disc about 0.5 cm thick. Cut out a 5 cm circle from the dough, then cut a 2 cm hole in the centre of that, to make an O-shaped piece of dough. Brush the top of the pie with the egg mixture and place the O of dough on top so that the holes line up. Chill for about 15 minutes. Brush the top of the pie again with the remaining egg mixture and bake, rotating the tin occasionally, until the crust is crisp and golden brown all over, about 11/2 hours. Put the tin on a rack and use a knife to make sure the sides of the crust have separated from the tin. Allow it to rest for about 25 minutes. Carefully loosen the spring and remove the pie. Cut into wedges and serve with a green salad.

Individual Potato-Topped Steak and Chorizo Pies

Posted on Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes, Recipes | No Comments »

Individual Potato-Topped Steak and Chorizo Pies thumbnailThese cute little pies are lovely for supper with a simple green salad on the side. The chorizo makes for added interest and flavour. Children love these pies.

Individual Potato-Topped Steak and Chorizo Pies – Printer Friendly Download


  • 50 g butter
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fine sea salt
  • 500 g onions, minced
  • 500 g minced beef
  • 200 g cooking chorizo, finely chopped
  • 50 g flour
  • 200 ml beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 500 g butter, melted

Serves 6

To Cook

Melt the butter in a large frying pan and season with lots of pepper and some salt. Add the onions and cook until soft but not brown. Add the mince and chorizo and cook for another five minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for a couple of minutes more, then add the stock and Worcestershire sauce, bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes until cooked through. Preheat the oven to 240˚ C/fan 220˚ C/gas mark 9. Grease 6 individual pie dishes. Spoon the filling into the dishes and top with the sliced potatoes. Brush the potato with lots of melted butter, then put the pies into the oven and bake for about 35 minutes until nicely browned.

Cottage Pie with Porcini Mushrooms

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes | No Comments »

Cottage Pie with Porcini MushroomsIf you are not a mushroom fan, you can leave out the porcini or replace them with some chopped pancetta or bacon.

Cottage Pie with Porcini Mushrooms – Printer Friendly Download


  • 20 g dried porcini
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or Irish
  • rapeseed oil
  • 1 kg minced beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 150 ml red wine
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 kg floury potatoes, peeled
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • a large knob of butter
  • 75 g Hegarty’s cheddar

Serves 6

To Cook

Preheat the oven to 160 C/fan 140 C/gas mark 3. Soak the porcini in a bowl with 400 ml boiling water for 30 minutes, then drain, reserving the liquid, and chop the porcini. Heat the oil in a casserole dish, add the mince and fry in batches until well browned. Add the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes. Sprinkle over the flour, stir for a minute, then add the chopped tomatoes, wine, mushrooms and reserved mushroom liquid. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and cook in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the mince is tender. Remove from the oven and stir in the thyme and Worcestershire sauce. Taste to check the seasoning. Transfer the mince into a shallow pie dish and spread out evenly. Set aside to cool while you make the topping. Increase the oven temperature to 200Æ C/fan 180Æ C/gas mark 6. Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and return to the pan. Add the milk, butter, salt and pepper and mash until smooth. Spread the potatoes over the mince and make ridges on the top with the tines of a fork. Sprinkle with the cheese then place in the oven for 35–40 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top.

Free Turkey for Easter!

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Good Food | No Comments »

Free Easter Turkey - Order twice before Easter and receive a Free Turkey with your Easter orderDon’t say we never plan ahead because we’re starting 2015 with a fantastic FREE EASTER TURKEY giveaway. Simply, order twice between now and Easter and we will include your FREE turkey with your third order on Friday April 3rd. All orders must be a minimum of €100 spend

Terms & Conditions:

To avail of this offer, customers must place 2 orders for delivery anytime between now and Friday March 27th and a third (Easter) order for delivery on Friday 3rd April, to which your Free Easter Turkey will be added. This offer cannot be used with any other promotion. Minimum order amount of €100 for each order.

Rick Stein’s – Beef, Guinness and Oyster Pie

Posted on Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes | No Comments »

Rick Stein Beef Guinness and Oyster pie‘In 2002 I was honoured to be named as one of Rick Stein’s Food Heroes; it was one of the proudest moments of my career to date. Rick has always encouraged us to think carefully about the food we eat, to seek out the best quality ingredients and to cook them simply. The whole idea of the Food Heroes television series was to champion people who were making a difference by offering great-quality local food to their customers. The series saw Rick travel all over Britain and Ireland, searching out the best produce, from beer to bread and from beef to cheese. It was a great accolade to be awarded, and a wonderful endorsement for our family business. The recognition was a great source of pride for the entire community we serve in Tipperary.

Rick Stein’s – Beef Guinness and Oyster pie – Printer Friendly Download


  • 900 g beef stew meat
  • 30 g plain flour
  • 5 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 225 g button mushrooms, trimmed
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 300 ml Guinness
  • 300 ml beef stock
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 Pacific oysters
  • 450 g puff pastry
  • 1 small egg, beaten, for brushing

Serves 6-8

To Cook

Season the pieces of steak with salt and pepper, then toss with the flour and shake off but reserve the excess. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a flameproof casserole or large saucepan and brown the meat in 2 batches until well coloured on all sides. Transfer to a plate. Add another tablespoon of the oil, half the butter and the mushrooms to the pan and fry briefly. Set aside with the beef. Add the rest of the oil and butter, the onions and sugar to the pan and fry over a mediumhigh heat for 20 minutes, until the onions are nicely browned. Stir in the reserved flour, then gradually add the Guinness and stock and bring to the boil, stirring. Return the beef and mushrooms to the pan with the thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and some pepper, then cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is just tender. Lift the meat, mushrooms and onions out of the liquid with a slotted spoon and put into a deep 1.2 litre pie dish. Bring the liquid to the boil and boil rapidly until reduced to 500 ml. Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyze twigs, adjust the seasoning if necessary and pour into the pie dish. Stir everything together well and leave to cool completely. Preheat the oven to 200˚ C/fan 180˚ C/gas mark 6. To open the oysters, wrap one hand in a tea towel and hold an oyster in it with the flat shell uppermost. Push the point of an oyster knife into the hinge, located at the narrowest point, and wiggle the knife back and forth until the hinge breaks and you can slide the knife between the shells. Twist the point of the knife upwards to lever up the top shell, cut through the ligament. and lift off the top shell. Release the oyster from the bottom shell and remove it, picking out any little bits of shell. Add the oysters to the pie dish and push them well down into the sauce. Push a pie funnel into the centre of the mixture. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is 2.5 cm larger than the top of the pie dish. Cut off a thin strip from around the edge, brush it with a little beaten egg and press it on to the rim of the dish. Brush it with more egg, cut a small cross into the centre of the larger piece of pastry and lay it over the dish so that the funnel pokes through the cross. Press the edges together well to seal. Trim away the excess overhanging pastry and crimp the edges between your fingers to give it an attractive finish. Chill for 20 minutes to relax the pastry. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling is bubbling hot.

James Whelan Butchers: Animals are what they eat

Posted on Monday, January 12th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles | No Comments »

It had to happen at some stage but for someone in the meat business it was probably the best New Year’s gift and a great way to start 2015.  What am I talking about?  The small fact that there has been a dramatic swell in the research emerging from the US that confirms grass fed beef is full of health benefits.  Not that I want to say, “I told you so” but for years I told you so.  It has been hard to convince certain quarters of this particularly with the loudness of the healthy vegetarian and vegan messages but it doesn’t make it any less true or valid.  Does it make vegetarianism or veganism wrong?  Not at all!  Thankfully we live in a free society where I would highly value our freedoms and choices but these lifestyles are just that, choices, and should be entered into on that basis and not because they are believed to be a healthier alternative.

Pat Whelan's Wagyu HerdThe word coming from the US is that beef that comes from grass fed or ‘pastured’ animals is full of nutrients and minerals that will aid the body in its quest for energy and ultimately good health.  Grass fed beef is considered a traditional food that promotes optimal health.  Such food, (and there is much that falls into this category and not just beef), has nourished the human body for hundreds of years, long before the advent of modern food processing.

It is also important that we don’t mix up terms such as ‘organic’ with ‘grass fed’ animals; they are not interchangeable terms.  100% grass fed beef is fed on grasses, sometimes hay and of course wild plant life that they find in the field.  Naturally the soil where the food comes from is also key and we are blessed here in Tipperary to have some of the best soil in the country.  I’m delighted to say that James Whelan Beef is grass fed and therefore meets all the credentials required.

Effectively grass-fed beef is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  It’s not important to understand what they are but it’s good to know that they fight inflammation and reduce the risk of type II diabetes, thyroid disorders, and obesity.  The body will also digest and metabolise grass fed beef much easier than it will grain fed or factory reared beef.  Beef also contains a special fat called CLA (conjugatd linoleic acid). CLA is unique and sought-after because it is a nutrient that can tone up and slim down the waistline.  Yes, CLA can help you lose weight!

Grass-fed beef also has other nutrients like the fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin E and the amino acids L-carnitine and carnosine. You may have already heard about the antioxidant value of vitamin E. But why are antioxidants important?  Basically antioxidants are known for their ability to protect the body from free radical damage which in a nutshell is what leads to degeneration of tissue, aging and the inflammatory response of the body.  A little oxidative stress is perfectly normal and part of the human experience but a lot of oxidative stress can seriously overburden and wear the body down.  Effectively this all helps in the area of anti aging, something that we are all interested in.

So whether it’s cooking the perfect steak or a long slow warming stew, creating an arsenal of beef recipes and experimenting with cuts and cooking methods is good knowledge to have.

There are plenty of recipes available at which is open to all 24/7 and naturally you can drop into us at The Oakville Shopping Centre where you can pick up a variety of our grass fed beef cuts.  In 2013 I also authored The Irish Beef Book which is effectively a one stop shop for all you need to know about beef and beef cookery.

While I can’t speak for every butcher in Ireland I am proud to say that generally we have an excellent beef industry in Ireland.  We have many small farms with people who take pride in producing an excellent product.  Most of these farmers come from a long line of Irish beef producers stretching back in time and so the wealth of knowledge and tradition is strong.  We have good land and a good climate for raising animals and we have a strong community within the industry.  From the consumer’ point of view it’s about asking questions and just making sure you are buying your beef from a reputable source and that’s why dealing with a craft butcher is one way of ensuring this.

So as we start another New Year and perhaps look at our resolutions for a healthy 2015 and a more nutritionally balanced year ahead don’t forget to stick a bit of beef on the menu, it’s good for your health.

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, Rathcoole & Kilmacanogue. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers


Barbacoa Beef Cheeks

Posted on Friday, January 9th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes | No Comments »

Barbacoa Beef CheeksBeef cheeks are one of our favourite cuts. The meat is intense, full of robust flavour and has a richness that is not at all cloying. Don’t be put off by what might seem like a bizarre combination of ingredients; this recipe is a cinch, and it takes very little time to prepare. The recipe serves four, but our recommendation is that you make a larger batch and invite over your friends to watch a match, have a few drinks and shoot the breeze. An Irish artisan cider such as Stonewell would go nicely.

Barbacoa Beef Cheeks – Printer Friendly Download


  • 1 kg beef cheeks, trimmed
  • 1 ancho chilli
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or Irish rapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons Highbank apple syrup or maple syrup or honey
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 handful fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 250 ml chicken stock
  • 4 limes
  • to serve:
  • 2 avocados, peeled and sliced (or guacamole)
  • 4 wraps or tortillas
  • roasted tomato salsa
  • fresh coriander
  • sour cream
  • grated cheese — a strongly flavoured Cheddar-type such as Hegarty’s from Whitechurch, Co. Cork

Serves 4

To Cook

Remove the stem and seeds from the ancho chilli, chop it roughly and put it in a little warm water for a few minutes to rehydrate. Blend the chilli (and its water), garlic, peanut butter, espresso powder, 2 tablespoons of the oil, syrup, cumin, paprika, coriander and salt into a paste. Marinate the beef cheeks in the paste for a few hours, preferably overnight, in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 140˚ C/fan 120˚ C/gas mark 1 1/2 Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a flameproof casserole dish and brown the cheeks on both sides. Don’t move the cheeks around too much when you’re browning them — the less they move, the more colour and flavour they’ll pick up. Pour the rest of the marinade into the pan with the stock, then squeeze in the juice of 3 limes. Put the lid on and place in the oven for about 3ó hours, turning the cheeks once or twice while they cook. If the liquid dries up, add a little more stock. By now the cheeks should be very tender. Pull them apart with two forks and mix with the juices in the pan. Add a squeeze of lime to taste, and a touch more syrup if you like. Serve the barbacoa in a wrap or corn tortilla with guacamole or slices of avocado, roasted tomato salsa, sour cream, a sprinkling of fresh coriander and grated cheese.

Irish Beef Cheek Lasagne

Posted on Monday, January 5th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes, Recipes | No Comments »

Beef cheek lasagne by Pat Whelan

This was one of our great discoveries when we were testing recipes for this book. It elevates the humble lasagne to another level entirely.

Irish Beef Cheek Lasagne – Printer Friendly Download


  • 70 g butter
  • 40 g plain flour
  • 1 litre milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • 1/2 quantity multi-tasking meat sauce
  • 250 g fresh lasagne sheets
  • 100 g finely grated hard Irish cheese–Coolea, Cratloe Hills, Desmond or Hegarty’s Cheddar will all work well—or the traditional Parmesan

Serves 6-8

To Cook

Preheat the oven to 200˚ C/fan 180˚ C/gas mark 6. First make the béchamel sauce. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cook for about 6 to 7 minutes over a medium heat. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Gradually add the hot milk to the butter and flour mixture, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use. Brush the bottom and sides of a lasagne dish with oil. Lay a couple of the fresh lasagne sheets on the bottom of the dish. Spread a layer of the meat sauce over the pasta, and then pour on a layer of b.chamel sauce. Sprinkle with a little finely grated cheese. Repeat the layers, ending up with a pasta layer, over which you spread the remaining béchamel and a final sprinkling of cheese. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until hot through and nicely browned on top.

Short Ribs with Balsamic Vinegar

Posted on Thursday, January 1st, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes, Recipes | No Comments »

Balsamic Short Ribs by Pat WhelanShort ribs are also known as Jacob’s ladder. The flavoursome meat is well suited to slow braising; the meatier the ribs the better, so ask for them well-trimmed. Taken from the bone, short rib meat also works well in burgers.

Short Ribs with Balsamic Vinegar – Printer Friendly Download


  • 6 beef short ribs, cut in half across into sections 5–7 cm long (allow 2 pieces (one rib) per person)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or Irish rapeseed oil
  • 6 garlic bulbs, split horizontally
  • 4 tablespoons Highbank apple syrup (or honey or maple syrup)
  • 5 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 litre balsamic vinegar (the cheap stuff is fine in this recipe)
  • 110 g butter
  • 1.6 litres chicken stock
  • 1 litre beef stock

Serves 6

To Cook

Season the ribs generously with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Combine the oil, garlic, apple syrup, rosemary and 250 ml of the vinegar in a bowl. Taste the marinade and if you think it needs a little more sweetness, add more syrup. Put the ribs in a Ziploc bag and add the marinade. Leave for a couple of hours, or overnight if you can. Preheat the oven to 160˚ C/fan 140˚ C/gas mark 3. Remove the ribs from the marinade and place in a single layer in a large oiled roasting tray. Cover with two layers of foil. Cook for about three hours, or until very tender, turning halfway through. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it begins to foam, place the garlic (from the marinade) in the butter, cut side down, and cook until nicely browned but not burnt. Then add the rest of the marinade and the remaining balsamic vinegar, and cook over a high heat until reduced by about three-quarters. Add the stock and continue to cook over a high heat until starting to thicken. It should be a syrupy consistency. Remove the ribs from the oven, pour off the juices that have accumulated, and skim off the fat from the surface. Add the skimmed juices to the sauce and reduce further if necessary. Trim any excess fat from the ribs, if you like, and coat with the sauce. Return to the oven, uncovered, and cook, turning from time to time, until nicely browned all over, about 20–30 minutes.

James Whelan Butchers: Make It Easy

Posted on Monday, December 15th, 2014 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles | No Comments »

It’s really great to be alive at this time of technological breakthroughs, tremendous convenience, and working central heating!  We have a lot to be thankful for and yet I see the stress on the faces all around me.  For every smile there’s at least one frown.  Some people truly delight in this time of year, they thrive on the planning and the busyness of the season.  They appear to love the anticipation of friends and family during the festivities.  For others it’s just a downright hassle.  To the latter group I say “Let go and just make it easy on yourself this year.  There are plenty of ways to do it”.

There are so many ways to simplify and enjoy and the first is to buy in what you need.  I would urge everyone to take a look at or drop into the store to see how we can help you alleviate the stress.  Besides looking after much of your own in house needs you could also do all of your Christmas shopping with us. From cookery books to jars of sauces, from vouchers to beef bonds – we definitely have something for everyone and a food gift is something everyone loves.

Food gifts are always welcome.  I can’t help but notice that all over Ireland we’ve tended to suddenly embrace a more European vibe and approach to Christmas.  Let’s face it, as the Celtic Tiger was roaring we leaned more towards the American Model.  Year on year housing estates resembled the feverish lighting schemes of the hilarious National Lampoons’ Christmas movie as neighbours everywhere wanted to have the best dressed house.  The downturn made us turn away from the more garish, we pared back the lights and the electricity bills to a more modest and pleasant appearance and turned to our European counterparts for inspiration.  It wasn’t long before ‘European like’ shopping villages started to spring up everywhere in December.  There’s not a town or a village in Ireland these days that doesn’t have some sort of Christmas festival and I think it’s marvelous.

Probably one of the bigger ones is Waterford’s Winterval.  I popped down over the weekend and it really has grown over the past three years.  There is a lovely buzz in the city with the bells of the Winterval train and the clip clop of the horse drawn carriage adding tremendously to the sound effects on the streets.   While we still have a little bit to go to match the wonderful street food found in other countries there was plenty to try and taste on the streets of Waterford.  From sweet things like cupcakes and cheesecakes to savoury sausages served in crusty bread.  There is something magical about eating steaming food in the frosty air while soaking in the aromas of smoke and spices.  The sauce dripped down faces and landed on scarves and gloves, but nothing that a proffered wet wipe couldn’t handle.Waterford Winterval

It got me thinking that if great and tasty food can be prepared in a tiny hut on the side of the street, then really we can keep things simple at home too.  From food gifts to our own menus the key is definitely in stocking up on ingredients.  Have lots of bread, sausages, cold meats, chutneys, spices and cheeses in the fridge and plenty of lettuce, spring onions and tomatoes to hand and you can have a rustic feast in an instant.   It really is all about being organised ahead of time.  There’s still time to make this the best Christmas ever.  Here are my top tips.

  1. Don’t overcook the Turkey!  It is the number one problem with Christmas cooking every year.  If you bought your turkey from James Whelan Butchers then we will have inserted a little disposable thermometer in the bird.  When this ‘pops’ your turkey is perfectly cooked.  If you don’t have this advantage, buy an inexpensive meat thermometer.  You will use it all year round and it will become one of your best tools for cooking any kind of meat or poultry.  By all means follow guidelines on how to cook a turkey but the turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 75 degrees C. Test the temperature by plunging the meat thermometer into the thigh of the turkey.  Remember cold turkey and recipes for using it will be your best friend in the days after Christmas.
  2. If you are using recipes, and particularly ones that you aren’t overly familiar with.  Gather them today!  Get them all in the same place and read them over twice.  Make sure you have all the ingredients necessary and ready to go.
  3. A friend of mine uses Post It notes when doing a lot of cooking.  It’s a great idea.  If you have different dishes at different times sticking little post it notes around you while you cook can be a really handy reference.  My one rule is to remove all Post Its during clean up.  Do not start another day’s cooking with old Post It notes still on the wall – it could lead to a mix up.
  4. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure.  People need well cooked and tasty food.  They do not need your failed attempt at being Nigella Lawson.  Also don’t be a perfectionist!  While this is similar to being over ambitious; there are subtle differences.  Perfectionists are usually quite capable individuals but they tend to set the bar very high……for themselves.  Tell them they have prepared a wonderful meal and they’ll lament the fact that the carved tomato was a tad uneven!  Stop it.
  5. Use the internet.  While I know everyone doesn’t have access, many people do.  You can do plenty of research on line – there are literally thousands of tips, recipes, hints, how to lessons just waiting for you.  Our own website is also great resource.
  6.  You can only eat the same amount on Christmas Day as you can any other day of the year!
  7. Make time by planning.  Twenty minutes spent making a plan for Christmas Day and any cooking on Christmas Eve will buy you hours – trust me.  Whether you write a list or make a work of art with arrows and coloured pens or create a maze of Post It notes on the wall – a plan is a plan and it will help organize your mind as much as your time. It is very calming.
  8. Today, sort out the fridge.  Just do it.  Know what’s in it; lurking at the back and in the drawer.  An organized fridge will lead to an organized mind.  Do the same with the main food cupboard.  It’s really not as bad a job as you think.
  9. Delegate.  While you can get help from all the family I would also say let your butchers and local shops do as much work as they can to ease your burden.  Value is not just about money.  Often it is false economy to try and make everything from scratch.  Do what you can and buy the rest!  There are great deals to be had out there and don’t miss them.
  10. ENJOY!  Don’t get stressed and remember what it is all about – spending time with family and friends while sharing good grub and warm drinks of all kinds.  Whatever you do, keep it simple.

Enjoy & Happy Christmas.

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, Rathcoole & Kilmacanogue. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers



Baked Beef and Almond Curry

Posted on Friday, December 5th, 2014 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes | No Comments »

Baked Beef and Almond CurryA delicately spiced curry that needs very little attention, and does not take long to prepare.

Baked Beef and Almond Curry – Printer Friendly Download


  • 4 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 12 small green cardamom pods
  • 2 x 5 cm cinnamon sticks
  • 1.2 kg stewing beef – chuck would be perfect
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 4 medium onions
  • 20 g fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 500 g natural yoghurt
  • 100 g ground almonds
  • juice of half a lemon
Serves 6

To Cook

Preheat the oven to 180° C/fan 160° C/gas mark 4. Heat the oil in a heavy ovenproof casserole and add the cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks. Brown the beef in batches, setting to one side as they are ready. Add the cumin seeds and let them pop before adding the onions. Fry the onions until they start to turn pale brown. Add the ginger, ground coriander, cayenne and salt, and mix thoroughly with the onions. Lower the heat and return the beef and any juices to the casserole, stir to coat the beef with the onion and spice mixture, add the yoghurt and stir to mix. Increase the heat to medium-high until the mixture reaches a simmer. Take a large piece of foil and cover the casserole, sealing tightly around the edges. Then place the lid on top and put the casserole in the oven. Bake for about 90 minutes or until the meat is tender, adding the almonds after about an hour. Just before serving, add lemon juice and season to taste. Serve with basmati rice and roasted cauliflower.

James Whelan Butchers: Plan for a Happy Christmas

Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2014 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles | No Comments »

There will always be those prepared for Christmas in September and while we may admire their industriousness for most of us it just isn’t practical. So here we find ourselves in the first week of December, the public lights are up, the Christmas songs are playing in the shops and it’s time to get festive. It’s time to focus on what Christmas is all about – family, friends and, oh yes, food. Even if the gifts fall short, as long as the grub is great it all pales into insignificance.Christmas at James Whelan Butchers

Of course the trick is to make it tasty but simple. I enjoy the process of choosing ingredients, preparing them all and cooking so I don’t see it as a big chore but I am aware that some people see it as a job, and a taxing one at that. Either way I believe that the very nature of the food we eat at Christmas makes preparing meals quite a joy. For a start once the food for the main event is cooked, you then have the basics for ‘easy’ meals for several days. Now I’ve heard all the usual moans about how we are all sick to death of turkey and ham by December 27th, but really it is just lack of forethought and imagination that is the real issue. If you insist on just serving slices of turkey and ham and the frazzled and dried up left over veg at every meal for three days with the only choices being hot or cold, then inevitably it gets boring. Instead make sure you have some good chutneys or savoury jellies and jams to hand. These really liven up leftover meat and there is quite a range of local produce to choose from if you haven’t made your own. Having said that whizzing them up yourself is no longer the torture it once was and so don’t negate trying it. Crème Fraiche is a fantastic tasty treat when added to a little stock for a pale sauce to bathe turkey and ham in. You can serve it as a sauce on the side; you can immerse the meat into it or how about making a pie filling with it instead. Indeed use your bun tray to make small individual savoury pies by making a pastry base and topping the filling with a little cranberry sauce and covering the top with some pastry. These are really gorgeous. Also don’t be afraid to freeze leftovers, just be sensible and do it as quickly as possible once they have cooled down. So now is the time to either make the pastry or buy the pastry and freeze it to have it to hand. Keep plenty of it to hand as it’s great to parcel sweet or savoury treats that you’ll use all through December.

The store cupboard and the freezer are your best friends at this time of year. You could try cooking some full dishes over the next two weekends or simply keep the raw ingredients such as some braising steak or lamb pieces in the freezer. Spicy lamb tagines, Hungarian goulash or exotic curries are all great one pot meals that while they require time to cook, are quick and easy to prepare, warming and will stretch a long way with a crowd. There are several recipes for dishes like this in both my books or on the JWB website. Stock the store cupboard with tins of tomatoes, good quality stocks and various rice and noodles and you won’t be caught of guard. So this weekend check the store cupboard for all those handy spices, flours and condiments. Make sure you have enough rice, pasta, cous cous or other favourites ready to go.

Another area sorely neglected in my view at this time of year is breakfast! Now is the time to beef up the breakfast menu arsenal. Remember that at Christmas there will be mornings where you can take a leisurely approach to breaking your night time fast. Don’t just cobble together cold turkey and a few withered nibbles from the night before along with three Quality Street, a choc mallow and a bag of Tayto! (Don’t say you’ve never done it). This Christmas by planning ahead, learn how to make eggs Benedict, try something different and even make breakfast the ‘star meal’ of one of the days. Now you might be thinking that I’m getting ahead of myself but as you’re reading this there are probably only around 20 days left to Christmas Day! The first thing is to stock up on good Tipp sausages and bacon; we have some of the finest in the land right on our doorstep so there is no excuse. Now I’m not suggesting that you stick to the usual full Irish, but make it festive by adding some corn fritters for example. Use the bacon to top some French bread with maple syrup, chopped bananas and nuts or even American pancakes. Cook the sausages and instead of frying the eggs, bake them in small buttered ramekins for a real treat. Try some different bread: with the great breads available locally you will be spoiled for choice. How about taking some of the leftovers and making a great Christmas omelette!

Finally I can’t say enough about keeping some fresh fruit, herbs and spices around at Christmas. Ginger, garlic, nutmeg, coriander, basil, chives, cinnamon, a chilli or two, lemons, limes; the list is endless but it is about the ones you like. Having things like this at your disposal can transform leftovers. For example, the basis for most curries is a combination of garlic, ginger and chilli. Go easy on the chilli depending on how hot you like it. If you like mild curries then try a trinity of cinnamon, clove and cardamom. Fresh coriander, one of my favourites, can be chopped into dishes as a garnish or an ingredient; from soups to salads or as a marinade it gives a lovely flavour and a little basil added to a risotto makes all the difference. By the way if you do overindulge at any stage a little bit of fresh ginger chopped into a cup of boiling water can help soothe a sore throat and also ease nausea and hangovers.

My final tip for Christmas cooking is to buy a box of red and a box of white wine and keep them in the kitchen. The wine will stay fresh and you can just use what you need as and when you need it. It may sound extravagant initially but over time you will see the merit. Having to open bottles of wine for a glass or two for the gravy, sauce or stew, is where the waste will occur. A box of wine will stay fresh for a long time and you always have cooking wine on tap. Over the next few weeks start buying all of these items slowly and when the offers come up. The main thing is not to stress and make it easy for yourself and everyone else. Good food doesn’t have to take a long time or create drudgery for one person. We have some great local produce and products that will not only excite the taste buds but might also create a good talking point. Plan ahead now and make your meals a pleasure this Christmas rather than drudgery. Enjoy

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, Rathcoole & Kilmacanogue. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers