The Great Food Resurrection

Posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles | No Comments »

Painted Easter eggsI’m very fond of Easter as a holiday.  It involves none of the frenetic nature of Christmas, the gifts are easy; a chocolate egg or a chocolate egg and (usually) the weather is milder and of course days longer.   As a child I always dreaded the boredom of Good Friday when absolutely everything shut down in this country and yet today, having now experienced many ‘shops open’ Good Fridays, I yearn for the ones of my childhood.  I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t enjoy the simplicity of a seemingly endless day with absolutely no distractions.

While this new multicultural and multi ethnic Ireland has forever closed the door on how we celebrated Easter in the past, I have definitely noticed a general shift back to simplicity.  Our values have, without a doubt, changed in recent years due in part to the slump in the economy.  Jobs are more precious than ever and while we still have a love affair with technology, I think we now understand that it can complicate our lives as much as it creates efficiency.  We all realise the advantages of a simpler life today and while in the past we pretended by giving it fancy names like ‘going green’ or having a ‘social conscience’ I’m not sure if we really wanted simplicity at all.  Today more and more people do.  The trouble is that now we are in the middle of this unholy mess of stuff and clutter, tangible and intangible, we are suddenly aware that it is much harder to remove things and activities from our lives than it is to add them.  Such a theory can be applied to kitchen utensils as much as it can to our personal relationships. Leg of Roast Lamb with Mustard and Herb Dressing

This returning and yearning for all things simple is very good news for food, particularly the smaller independent operator within the food sector.  People are willing to go the extra mile because finally they once again put a value on the ‘little guy’ who grows his vegetables, rears his animals, makes his cheese or bakes his bread to sell on the local market.  His (or her) aim is to earn a good living and achieve a balanced quality lifestyle rather than the overarching and all consuming ambition of becoming a global captain of industry.  While the latter has great monetary rewards it can carry a great deal of personal sacrifice.  Finally we are putting a value on the independent grower or the person who is striving to make a difference.  In this time where jobs are indeed precious I think we like to support a business of that nature. It is a win win for the customer also, as usually one farm, one person or one business is dedicated to creating a quality product or products.  We like to support local, but even our definition of ‘local’ has broadened beyond a geographical boundary.  The new ‘local’ is really about a spirit of independence and entrepreneurship and that much shorter and healthier chain from maker to market and being ‘local’ to somewhere in the country.

There is another emerging trend that really takes us back to the days of our grandparents and that is buying less, but shopping more often.  Rather than filling trolleys and making the one marathon trip to the supermarket each week, we are rediscovering the butcher, the baker and the cheese maker.  Hurray, at last!  We are finally putting a little more value on what we put into our stomachs and the pool of knowledge and personal service available in smaller independent shops and market places.  While we are all watching our pennies, we can see the merit in buying fresh meat, enjoying quality cheese or speciality breads.  They might be considered luxuries in some quarters, but they are luxuries we can still afford.  People also seem to be more interested in a chat too.  It was always important at our shop, but once again people have time for a bit of light hearted banter and a smile – it is a very good thing indeed.  While the chat is inevitably a boost to our mental health we are also keen to keep our general health in check.  We are more aware than ever before just how much our diet contributes to our overall wellness and so we are concerned with nutrition and the make up of our food.  We have, thankfully, moved away from the ‘fat is bad’ to becoming a more educated bunch and realising that some fat is not only good for us but necessary to keep us alive, young looking and well.

We are also embracing cooking and crafting like never before. The gender boundaries are down and with so many cooking and food ‘apps’ for new technology we are increasing the appetite for such daily.  I hear people talking about pickling and making jams, preserves and sauces like never before.  Without even noticing we are slowly returning to the pastimes of our forefathers, but spinning them in a thoroughly modern way by learning from new media such as You Tube, twitter and face book.  It’s all quite fascinating.  I think it was Solomon who said, “There is nothing new under the sun” and I’m beginning to think he might have had a point.  Enjoy the Easter festivities and let’s celebrate our return to great food, shopping locally and a simpler way life.  Happy Easter.

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


Planning the Difference

Posted on Friday, March 20th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles | No Comments »

Painted Easter eggs

While much of what I learned in school is buried deep in the mind’s recesses, probably never to see the light of day again, I still frequently go back to a saying by one of my teachers; “Proper planning prevents poor performance”.  He would refer to it as the 5 Ps.  Leaving aside the clever alliteration I can add to his by saying “Proper planning prevents unnecessary stress” and, of even greater concern these days, “Proper planning saves you money”.  Easter is on the horizon and Confirmation and Holy Communion parties are also in the lens of many right now.  Whether it is a buffet style party for thirty or an Easter Sunday lunch for ten, it can all be accomplished relatively easy and without needing to remortgage the house to finance it, with a little forward planning.  How many times have you tried that free style approach only to end up with far too much food left over, a kitchen that looked like it had been hit by an earthquake, and an ulcer inducing level of stress and exhaustion?  If that sounds all too familiar stick with me and the lessons learned can be used at any time of year.

Not only should you plan the main event you should also have a plan for the leftovers, even if you never get around to using it.  Professional chefs do it all the time.  What is a main course today becomes a starter tomorrow if it isn’t used entirely.  What isn’t too popular on Tuesday as a side, becomes the soup for lunch on Wednesday.  Isn’t that the old joke, “I never order Soup du jour, it tastes different everywhere I go!”

Planning isn’t rocket science, and all it requires is a pen and paper, (or ipad/computer for the tech savvy) and a few obvious questions:

a) How many are coming?

b) What time of day will we eat?

c) What will I cook- a general Menu outline

d) How much of this menu can be done the day before?

e) Are there any clashing oven times/temperatures and if so what’s the solution?

f) Can I simplify this even more?

Now write down the list of ingredients you need for every dish and then check what you actually have in the cupboard and fridge and mark them off.  Do not go to the shops without doing this check as I guarantee the fear of not having something will make you buy it just in case.  This is where money and food are often wasted.

While a one pot is often the answer for a large crowd, traditional joints are also a great solution.  A roast dinner with beef or lamb as the star of the show rarely disappoints.  A joint of meat also needs adequate time to rest before serving and so that 30 to 40 minutes between coming out of the oven and serving creates the perfect window for finishing off sides and making great gravy.

I love getting everyone around a big table and particularly enjoy the special days such as Christmas and Easter.  I have long since taken the stress out of these events by simplifying as much as I can and remembering why I’m doing it.  It’s not about me and how good or bad my culinary skills are: it is about enjoying the company and sharing great food.  Even if I have discovered some chef-y way of tying up asparagus bunches with lemongrass strips I’m careful not to try and impress with such overly fanciness if the numbers are too large.  Tying small bunches of greens in dramatic fashion is just about fun for a family lunch for four but becomes downright tedious to prepare for a dinner for 12. (That’s assuming of course that you don’t have an army of help in the kitchen, in which case there are no limits.). We are often tempted to show off with some TV cookery programme inspired dessert frippery that needs more attention than a newborn baby, but my advice is, don’t do it!  Choose a popular dessert that can be made the day or night before and left in the fridge ready just to plate up; the same goes for starters if possible.  If you’re super organised you could even prepare them in individual dishes.  Trust me when I say your family & friends will prefer something simple and delicious and an unstressed and present host over a stress inducing complex dish any day.  Buying the best ingredients you can get your hands on will also remove a great deal of the work.  Good quality meat will need no disguising and fresh, local, in season vegetables will taste great naturally and will create the ‘wow’ for you.

You are also allowed to buy in some of the courses, in part or entirely, if it makes it easier.  I don’t know where we got this idea that unless we do everything ourselves that we are cheating! In Tipperary when there are so many excellent artisan producers on the doorstep we should definitely avail of their help.  I agree entirely with the philosophy of fresh and natural, but that need not be compromised.  From local breads, preserves, cheeses, desserts and sweet treats, herbs and vegetables and meat, there is a world of wonderful local food at your disposal.  If you are in any doubt check out the Tipperary Food Producers network website for a full list of what’s available locally. There are great websites online with fantastic simple recipes and even better videos which are great tutorials. Planning well is definitely the key to keeping great family occasions ‘great’ and avoiding that awful feeling of being an indentured kitchen slave to a bunch of ungrateful relatives.

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

Taking the time to care ……

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

Healthy Fruity Breakfast Muesli

Driving to Dublin yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the snow-capped mountains and their resemblance to having been heavily dusted with icing sugar, by some gargantuan sieve.  The

But with its many weathers, March also brings a great sense of hope – that perennial rejuvenation and regeneration that Spring brings with it. The days are getting longer, there is a stretch in the evenings -  the children are collected from schools and dropped off at their various extra-curricular activities, for once, not in 4.30pm pitch darkness.  I notice customers calling into the shop with a renewed vigour and a Spring –like variance in their purchases – the traditional ingredients for winter stews and casseroles is being slowly diluted with the requirement to tailor seasonal recipes – refreshing Spring dishes. Rhubarb, purple broccoli and spinach are all in season right now and are bursting with flavour, while spring lamb is also a traditional favourite for the next forecaster on the hourly news bulletin made specific reference to the cold snap of course, but consoled that temperatures would be creeping up again in the next few days. This mountain-top vista and the imminent promise of better, warmer days, coupled with snatched glimpses on Twitter and Facebook, of friends around the world who are enduring the coldest winters for years, reminded me that we are living in a time of extreme weathers right now – gently returning me to childhood classrooms where we were instilled with the March of many weathers  truism.

March, of course, brings with it its own festivities and this year is no exception with back to back celebrations of Mothering Sunday (15th) and St Patrick’s Day. It looks set to be a very busy weekend for families everywhere.

Bacon Eggs and Sausages

Whilst I advocate that mothers should be spoiled on every possible occasion, and at every meal, not just once a year,  Mother’s Day and the feast of our national saint are perhaps most easily and joyously celebrated by the first meal of the day – breakfast. Breakfast is something in which all of the family can get involved and there are so many breakfast ideas out there – just Google your way to originality ! Indeed, you can always be flexible and decide on breakfast-to- lunch fare – we have a great selection of meats that we can advise you on for the traditional mixed grill, for example. The choices are plenty and you can run wild with your creativity to ensure a really special holiday breakfast or brunch for everyone in the household.

Maybe a stack of American pancakes accompanied by a skyscraper of maple cured rashers would be just the treat that mum might like (check out the completely fantastic pancake art that is such great fun on Youtube right now – all you need is a recycled clean ketchup bottle, some pancake batter and a frying pan and you can personalise any pancake and make it into something really different).

So make sure you take the time to stick the kettle on and break everyone’s fast with some tasty morning treats.  You can satisfy any number of tastes first thing in the morning and with the atmosphere relaxed and informal the potential to create the perfect start to the day is abundant.

Healthy Continental Breakfast

In Tipperary we are quite spoiled with the quality of our bacon and the range of artisan sausages and breakfast pudding at our disposal.  Whatever your preference; whether it is a traditional rasher and pork sausage or a sophisticated black pudding and herb sausage, there is something for you.  Add to this some free range eggs, scrambled or fried, along with some home made breads from any of the several local producers and you have a breakfast fit for any royal household.

Given that Mothering Sunday and Patrick’s Day are falling so close to each other this year, you could, ostensibly, have a run  of leisurely breakfasting. Be careful though, you just might get used it!  Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit and be sure to treat the mother- figure in your life.



Mama’s Meatballs

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

One of the most popular dishes in our James Whelan Butchers range is the great family favourite, Mama’s Meatballs in a sumptuously rich Italian sauce and topped with local cheese.  It’s filling, comforting and fantastic value.  This is important as you can’t pick up a food magazine or go to a food website these days without seeing the words ‘budget’, ‘eat well, or spend less’.  I don’t want to be controversial, but surely the wise amongst us were always interested in value and many people I know always worked to a budget.  Savvy customers at James Whelan Butchers have always expected value without the compromise on taste or nutrition.  In a recent chat with another retailer he relayed a sad tale that he has noticed people buying the lower end range in food while they continue to buy the high end brands of pet food.  So Fido is getting the good stuff while little Johnny is being fed the less nutritious processed stuff.  There is definitely something wrong with that picture. Mama's Meatballs - James Whelan Butchers

Making great value but nutritious meals is nothing new.  Meatballs are one such meal and a good homemade burger is just a slightly different take on the meatball.  If it is good ‘stretch-a-bility’ you are after or you have to produce a real crowd pleaser then in my book you can’t go past these two firm favourites; meatballs and or burgers.  Both are great budget meals, but also meals that never cease to delight or raise a smile.

Making meatballs is very easy, but making mouth-watering, full of flavour, tender, juicy little brown succulent orbs of meat is another matter entirely.  While most Western countries are familiar with the meatball and, indeed, most European countries have their own version, I still love the Italian take on it.  Maybe I’m slightly biased as the best meatballs I ever tasted were found in an Italian restaurant in the States.  Now to be fair my wife likes to tease me that it was hardly a proper ‘Italian’ experience given that we were in America, but I beg to differ.  The restaurant was run by immigrants and relatively young ones at that.

So what are the rules of great meatballs?  Well great meat balls are actually balls of great meat!  If you don’t start with quality at this stage you may as well forget about it.  You also, ideally, need two types of mince preferably equal parts beef and pork.  If you really want to push the boat out try adding some lamb mince for an extra taste dimension.  The beef is what gives the meatball its substance while the fat from the pork and or lamb adds the real flavour.  Where possible don’t have the meat minced too fine.  Sometimes that thin, stringy meat that very large supermarkets are often guilty of makes the worst kind of meatball or burger.

The next imperative in a meatball or a burger is the adhesive.  If you’ve ever cooked either and they have fallen apart during cooking it is highly possible that you didn’t have enough ‘glue’.  Now meatball and burger glue comes in the form of milk soaked bread.  I discovered this tip while trying out a Delia Smith recipe for meatloaf. Instead of adding plain breadcrumbs, Queen Delia wanted bread with the crusts cut off soaked in milk added to the meatloaf mixture.  The next time I was making meatballs I tried it and it worked really well.  The moist bread binds everything together without flavouring it, leaving the herbs, the meat and any other additions to do their job without interference.

Finally when it comes to meatballs I always seal them on a pan on a very high heat before cooking them off, whether that’s in a sauce or baking them in the oven.  By sealing them quickly on a hot pan you keep all the lovely juices on the inside.  I like my meatballs prepared medium in size and served with a tomato sauce, but maybe you would prefer the creamier paler sauces favoured in Scandinavian countries – it really is up to you.

The rules for homemade burgers are very similar to meatballs in many ways.  Start with great ingredients.  Burgers are probably even more versatile in what you can add to them and how you serve them.  Along with pork mince you could try adding some smoked lardons or how about stuffing them with cheese? British chef, James Martin, has a wonderful cheese stuffed burger recipe.  I also like all the things that go with burgers – the onions, lettuce, slivers of juicy beef tomatoes all topped with crispy streaky bacon and with warm melted cheese on the top, sandwiched between soft burger buns.  The main trick with burgers is not to make them too thick.  If you do you run the risk of cooking them too much on the outside and not enough in the middle.

With meatballs and burgers you really get a lot of bang for your buck plus they are always a real crowd pleaser.  In my house we often make miniature burgers.  They are great for little hands but work particularly well as substantial finger food for adults, always eliciting a little ‘wow’ as people chomp into the juicy meat without the guilt of a full size whopper.

Mix up your mince, try it with different herbs and flavourings and along with being great value you’ll also find that it’s very tasty too. Drop by the website or the store in Oakville any day for more great money saving ideas.  Great meat at great value is what we are really, really good at.

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

Bacon; But Not As You Know It

Posted on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles | No Comments »

What a week, Valentines Day and Pancake Day just three days apart!  Such celebratory alignments indicate that between March and early April we’ll be very busy with all the spring celebrations; St Patrick’s Day, Mothers Day and Easter will come quickly on the heels of each other.  The retailer in me has to look ahead but the farmer and natural instincts that I bear tell me that all we have is now.

Having one foot in the shop and one foot on the farm still, I am acutely aware of the seasons and the individual joy each brings.  For me a favourite time is that period of change from one season to another and I can feel it in the air as I write, despite the chill.  There is always freshness when we are on the cusp of a new season.  It is hard not to marvel at the change from winter to spring and it never ceases to thrill me even though I’ve seen my fair share of them by now.  Just as you think the cold will never end suddenly little clues start appearing.  I look out the window and appreciate the sudden stretch in the afternoon light; as I hurry across the car park sometimes, muffled up in scarf and gloves, the sight of a little crop of snowdrops on a grassy verge under a tree is another little indicator.  And outside of Mother Nature when I see the giant red cardboard hearts being removed from the newsagent’s window it is yet more evidence that the game is up for winter and now it’s only a matter of time before something new will be with us.

It’s probably the main reason why I’m excited to be introducing something kind of new myself this week.  I’m very proud to reveal our most recent addition to the range at James Whelan Butchers.  Now you will familiar with Rack of Lamb, the meat with those little prehistoric bones jutting out.  It’s the kind of dish that wouldn’t look out of place in a show like Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall or the Flintstones.  Rack of Lamb has always had a somewhat posh air about it and once you start adding those little white hats to the tips of the bones when cooked, we’ve moved into fancy chef-y territory altogether.  While I have to admit to being quite partial to Rack of Lamb our new product which has me very excited encompasses all that is good about the traditional Rack of Lamb but with a modern twist, greater versatility and flavour and super value for money.  Ladies and gentleman I give you the JWB, Rack…………… of……….Bacon!  Ta dah!!!James Whelan Butchers - Rack of Bacon

Ok so that’s all very dramatic but I won’t apologise.   In my opinion it deserves a bit of a drum roll and a little razzamatazz as it has taken me eight long months to perfect and birth the JWB Rack of Bacon and let’s face it that’s only a few weeks short of a full term pregnancy!  (And before I get any irate letters, rest assured I purely use that to demonstrate the time that has gone into this. I certainly wouldn’t dream of comparing the two when it comes to endurance or stamina).

Bacon is an intrinsically ancient Irish dish.  For many years it was part of the weekly diet with bacon and cabbage a traditional favourite in many households.  I would have grown up in a house where bacon was eaten quite regularly and it was cooked in water, I might add, none of your fancy Coke or, God forbid, expensive cider.  One of my particular favourites was when the accompanying cabbage and or turnip was cooked in the bacon water adding all the great flavours of the bacon to, what my childish mind considered, boring vegetables.  As an adult my views of cabbage have changed for the better, but full of the bacon flavours it was always one of my favourites.

Rack of Bacon has been carefully developed to encompass all those wonderful memories of Irish bacon days of old, but with a new look that makes it perfect for the modern family.  Leaving those bones poking from the meat serves two very distinct purposes.  First of all it is a great aesthetic, it just looks interesting and as we eat with our eyes just as much as our mouths, our food should look as exciting as it tastes.  That look can make it a great centre piece and so if you like to add a little drama and theatre to your meals you could take this to the table as a centre piece and carve to an appreciative audience.  The second benefit, which is probably more important, is taste.  Cooking meat on the bone will always be tastier than without.  And for the hungry at the table there is nothing better than privately having a little medieval buffet of your own with the leftovers later on; no need for napkins or plates, the bone serves as its own cocktail stick.

I have no doubt that some of you are wondering what took the eight months that I mentioned earlier.  Well for a start making great bacon is quite an involved process.  There are ways to do it quickly that will compromise the taste somewhat, or there is a traditional more artisanal way of curing.  For many years now James Whelan Butchers has had a reputation for excellence and so we have a great deal to live up to. It’s hugely important to me that anything worthy of a place in our displays must carry that JWB seal of excellence and so to get it right, we have to trial and trial and trial again and try a few different infusions and brining recipes before I’m happy that it makes the grade as a JWB product.  This one took a little longer than I initially anticipated but the result is probably the best bacon you will ever taste and a cut of meat that I want everyone to embrace.  Try yours this week from James Whelan Butchers in the Oakville Shopping Centre or check it out online at

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




Steak, Kidney and Mushroom Pie with a Marrowbone Funnel

Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes | No Comments »

Steak, Kidney and Mushroom Pie with a Marrowbone FunnelThis is a real showstopper, almost medieval in appearance. We’ve given a recipe for a rich bone marrow pastry, which is truly delicious, but you can use ready-made puff or savoury shortcrust, as long as it is an ‘all butter’ version. We won’t tell. The Irish brand “Roll It” is excellent.

Steak, Kidney and Mushroom Pie with a Marrowbone Funnel – Printer Friendly Download


For the pastry:

  • 500 g self-raising flour
  • 5 g baking powder
  • the leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme
  • fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 100 g bone marrow, chilled and grated
  • 100 g butter, chilled and grated
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ice-cold milk

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
  • 50 g plain flour
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 kg skirt steak, in chunks
  • 400 g beef kidneys, cored and cut into
  • chunks
  • 150 ml red wine
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 750 ml beef stock
  • 350 g field mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • one section of marrow bone about 6 cm long
  • a little milk, for glazing

Serves 6

To Cook

First make the pastry. In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, thyme, salt and pepper. Gently mix in the grated bone marrow and butter, and then add the beaten egg yolks and enough icecold milk to bind. Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least an hour. Heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan until fairly hot but not smoking. Season the flour with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss the chunks of steak and kidney in the seasoned flour, shake off the excess and fry in batches until browned on all sides, adding more oil if needed. Transfer the meat to a large saucepan. Deglaze the frying pan with the wine, and add the liquid to the meat. Heat a little more oil in the frying pan and cook the onion for a few minutes until softened. Add the onion to the meat, along with the ketchup, mustard, bay leaf and enough stock to just cover the meat. Simmer very gently for about an hour and a half until the meat is just tender. If it is very liquid, remove the meat with a slotted spoon and reduce the sauce over a high heat until thickened. Check the seasoning and leave to cool. You can make the filling up to this point a couple of days ahead. Preheat the oven to 180˚ C/fan 160˚ C/gas mark 5. Fry the mushrooms in a little oil for a couple of minutes and add to the filling. Fill a pie dish with the meat mixture and place the marrowbone in the centre of the pie like a funnel. Roll out the pastry about 1 cm thick, cut a hole for the marrowbone to poke through, and cover the pie, allowing the excess to hang over the edge. Glaze with milk and bake for 30–40 minutes, or until the pastry is well browned. Serve with buttered greens and mashed potatoes.

James Whelan Butchers: Oh My, What a Pie!

Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles | No Comments »

I don’t think there is anything more disappointing in life than eyeing a fabulous looking piece of pie, sweet or savoury it doesn’t matter, only for the taste to be less than exciting. Indeed many shop bought pies, particularly the meat variety, have a way of over delivering on the picture on the outside and being severely underwhelming once cooked. The only answer was to make my own and it all starts with the pastry.

James Whelan Butchers Game Pie - Get the Recipe

Knowing both how to use and make pastry properly is an invaluable skill for any cook and it is relatively simple but, unlike full pies, the range of ready made pastry today is excellent. I think this is particularly true when it comes to filo or puff pastry, as while you could certainly master the process, it is time consuming and involved. My suggestion is to buy it. It’s not all about full coverage pies; pastry is also useful as an open casing for savoury tarts and quiches, both large and individual. If the pastry is good then it really can stretch the meat quite substantially. Pastry based dishes also have a good ‘make ahead’ value and are great freezer standbys. The two main types of pastry are shortcrust and puff, sometimes called flaky pastry. At James Whelan Butchers we would often use flaky for our individual meat parcels which are always popular, but stick with shortcrust for quiches and pies. I’m a little bit of a maverick in that I don’t believe in too many rules but definitely shortcrust works better as a base. Puff, as the name suggests, puffs up during baking becoming light and flaky.

Water isn’t the only liquid as some specialist dishes call for milk or even yoghurt but hone your skill with water first.If you see the words ‘double crust’ in a recipe this simply means pastry at the bottom as well as a pastry lid; encasing the whole dish.

If you do want to make your own short crust pastry from Delia to Darina, they will all tell you that one of the golden rules of pastry making is to keep everything cool. While it sounds like effort, always have a bowl of iced water nearby. I like to use plain white flour as shortcrust pastry tends to be quite crumbly when you’re making it. I have found that self raising flour makes it softer and more difficult to handle. The fat you use will determine much; the taste will be affected depending on the use of margarine, lard or butter but it also impacts on the texture. You can of course mix the fats also for different results; equal parts lard and butter is many chefs’ preference. The water used for combining everything together should be very cold and used sparingly.

Water isn’t the only liquid as some specialist dishes call for milk or even yoghurt but hone your skill with water first. If you see the words ‘double crust’ in a recipe this simply means pastry at the bottom as well as a pastry lid; encasing the whole dish. This is really good for stretching a batch of meat. The traditional apple tart would be considered a double crust. Usually if I am making a rich meat pie that only requires a pastry lid I am happy to use one of the many ceramic or Pyrex dishes that I have gathered in the kitchen over the years but a double crust really requires a metal dish. While enamel dishes are probably notconsidered as pretty as their ceramic cousins, metal is just a better conductor of heat and so will cook the pastry on the bottom so much better. Enamel dishes come in a range of sizes and while not necessarily all frilly, brightly coloured, chunky and sexy, they are relatively inexpensive. Many people stick fork holes in the top of the pastry before the oven. This is not purely for decoration but allows the steam to escape during cooking and prevents the pastry lid from getting soggy. If you are browsing a good cook shop some day try and find a pie funnel. This sits in the middle of the pie during cooking and lets the steam out very efficiently.

James Whelan Butchers Steak and Kidney Pie - Get the Recipe

For basic shortcrust pastry, put the flour in a bowl and add the fat, which I like to cut into small cubes. Using your very cold fingertips rub the fat into the flour, working quickly, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water very gradually, mixing it in with another cold utensil. Once you have a dough-like substance in the bowl turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface, knead lightly into a ball, wrap in cling film and pop it into the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes. This resting period is very important. It will keep like this in the fridge for up to two days or you can freeze it. When rolling shortcrust it can fall apart a little but just patch up the gaps. However my final tip, particularly with quiches and open tarts is that shortcrust pastry tends to shrink during cooking. I always drape it over the pie dish and cut off the excess with a sharp knife after cooking rather than trimming it before it goes into the oven. When it comes to the filling the choices are endless. Steak pie is a great favourite as is chicken or for something rustic and eye catching a lamb shank pie with the bones sticking out the top of the pastry is quite the talking point. If I have whetted your appetite for a savoury pastry pie but you don’t have the time to make it yourself drop by James Whelan Butchers today for some great inspiration. We’d love to see you.

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

James Whelan Butchers: Oxtail and Truffle Pizza

Posted on Monday, February 2nd, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes | No Comments »

James Whelan Butchers - Oxtail & Truffle Pizza from The Irish Beef BookThis is another unusual and delicious pizza that makes a wonderfully stylish starter for a kitchen supper with friends. It’s a great way of using up those little jars of truffle paste and bottles of truffle oil that you buy on holiday in France or Italy and then leave to languish at the back of the cupboard. And it’s a reason to keep a little oxtail in reserve whenever you cook it.

Oxtail and Truffle Pizza Recipe – Printer Friendly Download


  • 1 pizza base (try the Irish Pizza da Piero
  • brand)
  • 1 tablespoon truffle paste or truffle butter
  • 10 cloves of confit garlic
  • 1/2ball Toons Bridge Irish mozzarella or other buffalo mozzarella
  • 100 g cooked oxtail
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated hard cheese –Hegarty’s, Desmond, Coolea, Cratloe Hills, or Parmesan
  • handful of rocket leaves
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • flaky sea salt

Makes 1 Pizza

To Cook

Preheat the oven to its highest setting. Spread the truffle paste or butter in a thin layer over the pizza base. Squish the confit garlic with the back of a spoon and distribute across the pizza. Tear the mozzarella into small pieces and dot evenly over the top. Shred the oxtail with your fingers and add to the pizza. Finally, sprinkle with the hard cheese. Place on a heated oven tray or pizza stone and cook in the preheated oven until bubbling and starting to brown. Serve with the rocket strewn across the pizza and drizzled with the truffle oil and a little flaky sea salt.

James Whelan Butchers: Brined Beef Brisket on the Bone with Barbecue Sauce

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in BBQ Recipes, Beef Recipes | No Comments »

Brined Beef Brisket on the Bone with Barbecue SauceThis recipe is a labour of love that takes time but is well worth it. Do make it with a fine big piece of brisket so that you get the most out of your efforts. Brining the meat makes it very moist and juicy.

Brined Beef Brisket on the Bone with Barbecue Sauce – Printer Friendly Download


  • 4 kg piece of brisket on the bone
  • yellow mustard

For the brine:

  • 1 litre apple juice
  • 750 ml water
  • 600 g sugar
  • 200 g sea salt
  • 200 ml Worcestershire sauce

For the dry rub:

  • 4 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 4 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • for the barbecue sauce:
  • 250 ml cider vinegar
  • 250 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 500 ml water
  • 150 g tomato purée
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • I thick slice of lemon
  • 50 ml Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 tablespoons honey
  • 8 tablespoons treacle
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 400 g brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt

Serves 10

To Cook

First make the brine. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan over a high heat and stir while bringing to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Leave to cool. Place the brisket in the brine for a couple of hours, choosing a container that allows you to submerge the meat completely. Make the dry rub by combining all the ingredients. Remove the brisket from the brine and pat dry with kitchen paper. Smear the surface of the brisket with yellow mustard. Then sprinkle all over with the dry rub. If you have a stove-top smoker, put in the brisket for about an hour over medium heat, checking it every so often to make sure that the meat does not burn. This step is optional — there’s no need to rush out and buy a smoker — it just adds an extra dimension. Make the barbecue sauce by putting all the ingredients into a large pot over high heat. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the consistency is sauce-like. Remove the bay leaves and lemon and blend with a hand blender. Preheat the oven to 130˚ C/fan 110˚ C/gas mark 1. Place the brisket in a roasting tray and cover with a layer of clingfilm and two layers of tinfoil. Cook in the preheated oven for approximately five hours, or until very tender. To char the outside, either finish the brisket on the barbecue or in the oven with the foil off until it is nicely browned and the fat is crisp. When the brisket is cool enough to handle, extract the meat, the crisp fat and the outer bark from the surface, discarding any excess visible fat. Combine with the barbecue sauce, warm gently, and serve with red slaw and sweet potato wedges.


James Whelan Butchers: 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.

James Whelan Butchers: 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.

James Whelan Butchers: 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.