Tipperary Food Producers Long Table Dinner 2015 in Coolbawn Quay

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

The 2015 Tipperary Food Producers “Long table Dinner” attracted more than 170 people last Wednesday night. The beautiful, idyllic Coolbawn Quay was the location for this wonderful night of culinary delights. In keeping with the Long Table Dinner custom, only food from Tipperary was served at the sumptuous traditional feast. Fresh, seasonal produce from over 30 food producers from all over county was used. The creative menu read like a journey around Tipperary. The menu combined the very best artisan food resulting in an astounding feast for all the senses with each dish looking every bit as good as it tasted.Tipperary Food Producers Network Long Table Dinner 2015

Commenting on the success of the event, Pat Whelan, Chairperson of the Tipperary Food Producers Network said ” we are absolutely thrilled with the evening, the quality and taste of the food produced here in Tipperary is exceptional and events such as the Long Table Dinner will make more people aware of the quality artisan food we have on our doorstep in Tipperary. This event is a great opportunity for the producers to get together with customers and celebrate all that is unique in Tipperary”.

The Tipperary Food Producers Network comprises of over 30 businesses and is in existence since 2008, it is an outstanding example of community working together, the Network collaborates and works very closely with the local agencies and is hugely grateful for the ongoing support it receives from Tipperary County Council, Local Enterprise Office, South Tipperary Development Company and North Tipperary Leader Partnership. Mr. Whelan goes on to add “it is through this close collaboration and support that Tipperary continues to develop such a strong vibrant food landscape and we have ambitious plans to develop food as a key pillar of growth for the local economy into the future”.

The Tipperary Food Producers Network directly employs over 220 people in Co Tipperary. For more information see www.tipperaryfoodproducers.com

James Whelan Butchers nominated for a Golden Fork “Food Oscar”

Posted on Thursday, August 20th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

Following the success of last year, James Whelan Butchers Beef Dripping has replicated last year’s success with another 3 Star Great Taste Award and inclusion in the 2015 Top 50 foods in the UK and Ireland.Of 10,000 entries to the Great Taste Awards, just 130 were awarded the highest and most coveted rating, 3 Stars and James Whelan Butchers Beef Dripping has now been further selected as a 2015 Top 50 Food and shortlisted for a Great Taste Golden Fork Award.JWB Beef Dripping

Produced in Clonmel, Tipperary by Pat Whelan, a fifth generation butcher the Beef Dripping evoked a great deal of nostalgia from the judges, who enjoyed it’s meaty flavour and the balance of sweet and savouriness, calling it “A pure distillation of bovine goodness“.

Beef Dripping is made from the suet of grass fed Angus and Hereford beef. Rendered down and clarifed into a pure fat, James Whelan Butchers Beef Dripping is simply packaged in white wax paper and stays fresh for up to six months, when stored in a cool dark place.

3 star Great Taste AwardsSeeing the upsurge of interest in heritage foods and traditional ingredients, Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers was inspired to create his own Beef Dripping. With the very best of beef available to him and within months he soon perfected a product that he was proud to share with is customers. “It’s the taste of my childhood” said Pat Whelan. “Our Beef Dripping is nutrient rich, high in omega-3 acids, clean, pure and carries great flavour, whether for frying a steak, roasting potatoes, or simply slathered onto good bread.”

The Great Taste Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, is the benchmark for speciality food and drink. Judged by over 400 of the most demanding palates belonging to food critics, chefs, cooks, members of the Women’s Institute, producers and a host of food writers and journalists, Great Taste is widely acknowledged as the most respected food accreditation.Great Taste Awards Top 50 Foods 2015

The Beef Dripping, priced €3.99, is available to buy online at www.JamesWhelanButchers.com or from James Whelan Butchers at Clonmel, Tipperary, Avoca Food Market, Monkstown, Avoca Rathcoole or Avoca Kilmacanogue.
The Golden Fork Award winners will be announced in London on September 8th. See #Top50Foods @GuildofFineFood

Long Table Dinner 2015

Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

Tipperary Food Producers shoot for the stars at Coolbawn Quay; Perfect Ingredients for an evening on Lough Derg

The Tipperary Food Producers Network is once again hosLong-table-dinner-2015_2ting a Long Table Dinner, set this year in the idyllic surrounds of Coolbawn Quay on the shores of Lough Derg, Co Tipperary. The banquet promises to broaden the imagination as well as the palate of food lovers from all over Ireland on Wednesday August 19th.

A charming boutique resort, bordered by forests and lush rolling green fields, Coolbawn Quay is built in the style of a traditional Irish village and has a sense of timeless tranquillity but with all the comforts of contemporary life.

Entertainment on the evening will be provided by singer Sharon Crosbie in her own inimitable style of haunting jazz.

Tipperary Food Producers Network Chairman Mr. Pat Whelan commented that “The Long Table Dinner is a great opportunity for us all to showcase the very best of our produce to a local and national audience. It will be a feast for all the senses – not just the taste buds.”

Long-table-dinner-2015_1Over the last year Tipperary Food Producers Network members really have reached the stars having won sixteen Great Taste Awards. Often described as the food Oscars, this world-famous competition, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, is the acknowledged benchmark for specialty food and drink products. Building on this success, the Long Table Dinner will showcase the vast range of quality artisan food produced within the county. The evening will be a virtual culinary tour of Tipperary with a special menu of products sourced exclusively from the 29 members of the Tipperary Food Producers Network. More information on the members can be found at www.tipperaryfoodproducers.com.

This year the Long Table Dinner is part of ‘A Taste of Lough Derg’ series of food events that are taking place around the Lakelands Lough Derg Region from June until September and more details of these events are available online at www.atasteofloughderg.ie.

Tickets for this Long-table-dinner-2015_3year’s event  cost €75 and are available at James Whelan Butchers, Oakville Shopping Centre, Clonmel on (052) 6182477 OR directly from Coolbawn Quay on (067) 28158.

Ticket holders are asked to be at Coolbawn Quay by 7.00pm sharp as the meal will commence at  7.30 p.m. Tickets are required for entry to the long table dinner event.

Barbecued Butterflied Lamb

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

Thanks to a combination of the recent spell of good weather, a lovely customer and a leg of lamb, I enjoyed a truly great barbecue experience. I know I’ve mentioned barbecuing quite a bit recently, but one of the hallmarks of the traditional Irish barbecue is that we tend to play it safe and cook individual items like steaks, burgers, sausages or kebabs. Far too few of us are brave enough to try and barbecue an entire joint of meat for the whole family to enjoy, but if you stick with me this week I might just encourage you to take the plunge. If you follow the instructions I can promise you a culinary triumph.Butterfly leg of lamb with spices

Perhaps my favourite thing about working in the shop is that I get to meet so many people. As the years have gone by many of my customers have become friends, mainly through the bond of our shared love of food. People who have an interest and a genuine love of good food are also usually quite generous souls. To be honest, the food hobby practically demands it.   We can’t help our selves; we love to share recipes, techniques, different food combinations, interesting ingredients or ingredients used in interesting ways. Listen in on food conversations and you’ll hear lots of, “have you tried…..”, “the secret is……”, “I find that…..”; always with wonderful gems and nuggets tacked on that not only improve your own cooking and eating but little tips and tweaks that can revolutionise an entire dish.   Food is all about sharing, nurturing and giving. Unlike say fashion, sport or investments which often rely on covetousness or at least withholding information in order to be successful, people who like to cook generally like to cook for other people. Recently a very good friend of mind received a wonderful gift of a Kitchen Aid food mixer; the Rolls Royce of baking equipment if ever there was one! Since she acquired it we are all enjoying batches of cup cakes, lemon slices and decadent chocolate cakes. That’s just the nature of food lovers; generous to a fault.

Because of this generosity and compulsion to share, I was the lucky recipient of a wonderful recipe for barbecued butterflied leg of lamb by one of my customers. It was one of those recipes that just sounded good even on paper, so naturally I couldn’t wait to try it. Butterflied leg of lamb is something that has become very trendy and fashionable recently. I’m quite the purist when it comes to leg of lamb. I like it cooked on the bone with traditional additions such as rosemary and garlic, however cooking it on a barbecue is another matter entirely and so this method is super. Put simply, to butterfly a leg of lamb you just get your butcher to remove the bone and that way you end up with a large piece of meat that you can lay flat onto the barbecue. By the way, butterflied leg of lamb works just as well in the oven.

If you’ve been following this column for the past few weeks you should be an expert in barbecuing by now. One of the main points I’ve been making about great barbecue food is that it often depends on the sauces and marinades used in conjunction with the meats. Like most things in life, good success depends on preparation and barbecuing is no different. Fortunately many good butchers do a range of ready prepared barbecue foods these days, but the recipe I have for you this week gives you the chance to do it yourself.

The advantage with most marinades is that they need to be prepared a good 24 hours in advance to achieve optimum flavour. At least if you are having friends over to share this, all the work and the mess can be sorted the day before, leaving you plenty of time to just barbecue and enjoy. Just in case you don’t have a small army to feed and there may just be two of you, there is nothing to stop you using the marinade recipe below to liven up some simple lamb chops before grilling. Just adjust the quantities of the paste ingredients accordingly or make up a full batch and put half in a clean jar to keep for another time. (Or give to a friend or neighbour like a real food lover would!)

Butterflied Leg of Lamb

  • 1 Butterflied leg of lamb (8-9lbs)
  • 1 medium onion (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 piece fresh ginger 3 inches x 1 inch long, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 7 gloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 6 fl oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tblsp ground coriander & ground cumin
  • 1 teasp garam masala & ground turmeric
  • ¼ teasp ground mace, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground pepper & ground cloves.
  • 8 fl oz Olive oil
  • 2-2 ½ teasp salt
  • Spring Onion to garnish

Whizz the onion, ginger, garlic and 4 tablespoons of lemon juice together to make a paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Take the meat and cut off all the fat and tissue. Stab the meat repeatedly with the point of a sharp knife, creating little holes. Rub the paste into the meat and make sure it goes into the holes. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn it over several times during that period. Barbecue when ready.

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

James Whelan Butchers: Lighter Days

Posted on Friday, June 12th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

Regardless of the weather I always find that I just enjoy lighter food in the summer months. It may be simple conditioning or it could be my body wanting to shed all that was packed into it in the cold winter. For me this time of year always calls for lighter meals and with the abundance of salad vegetables around there is plenty to choose from. However as a meat and fish eater I have no intention of eating like a rabbit and sometimes find it hard to get my head around making salads exciting. Warm Chicken Salad with Cashew Nut and Mango Dressing

Like everything it is only a matter of application. Once you take the time to think about it a myriad of possibilities enter the picture. You will find yourself looking forward to dinner and not just putting up with a little limp lettuce and a hard half of tomato with lashings of mayonnaise and fooling your brain into thinking you are eating something healthy and tasty. Ireland has really grown up when it comes to salad. No longer are we confined to potato salad with slices of cold corned beef, ham or chicken always accompanied by that limp lettuce and the hard halved tomato as mentioned above. Today we have great choice and taste. Crunchy romaine lettuce, soft lambs leaf lettuce, rocket and spinach leaves are all tasty alternatives in the green department. I am currently addicted to rocket leaves, and not just rocket, but a mixture of rocket and fresh coriander; it is nothing short of a revelation. You no longer have to put up with those un-ripened tomatoes that ricocheted around the plate when you tried to stab them with a fork; today the choice is immense. Choose from tiny baby tomatoes, delicious tomatoes on the vine, ordinary tomatoes or even sun dried are all readily available. Avocados, celery, red, white and green onions, peppers of every hue and an abundance of nuts and seeds have all transformed the humble salad into a plate of natural goodness that can be enjoyed rather than endured.  James Whelan Butchers Pork Belly

When it comes to meat I really want to encourage you to try cuts of hot meat with a decent salad and not just as a side dish; actually replace the spuds and cooked vegetables with something lighter. For a handy weekday meal try grilled pork chops with avocado and melon. Warm chicken salad couldn’t be easier and chicken works particularly well in the classic Caesar Salad, warm or cold. You can also try topping the meat with salad and this works particularly well with steak and rocket leaves. Indeed a good steak, rocket, homemade salsa and a baguette gives you the chance to create a hearty steak sandwich. Topping cuts of meat with salad is seen as particularly ‘chefy’ looking and it’s a style that is quite popular at the minute in food magazines and restaurants. Make sure you let grilled meats stand for about five minutes before topping with any salad mixture and serving.

Skewers of grilled meat and fish also work really well on a bed of leaves and salad vegetables. You can add a Mediterranean feel by incorporating some fruit such as slices of orange or lemon. Don’t forget the old combination of apples, raisins and celery is still tasty today. There are also plenty of pickles and chutneys you can make ahead and add for taste value such as pickled cucumber which I eat with just about everything at this time of year or beetroot.

Cheese is another great addition to a salad. Greek feta cheese, grated parmesan or some grated cheddar can elevate the taste. Some people like to add a little knob of butter to a steak but why not substitute it for a little knob of cream cheese and lettuce leaves or the classic stilton cheese with a little rocket on the top. Indeed a goat’s cheese, tomato and ham tartlet topped with rocket and coriander is a terrific starter.

Experiment with dressings, dips, temperatures and different combinations and if you come up with a particularly good one don’t forget to share it. You can contact me any time on twitter.com/Pat Whelan or email me pat@jwb.ie.

Try my delicious Beetroot, Jerusalem Artichoke and Skirt Steak Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts and Mixed Leaves, Tarragon Dressing

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

James Whelan Butchers: Summer Fruit

Posted on Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

Plenty of things alert us to the fact that summer has arrived but perhaps the roadside strawberry sellers are the biggest giveaway. There is something wonderfully summery about fruit purveyors lounging in worn deckchairs with heads buried in dog eared books alongside their makeshift trailer shops. Their languid reading is interrupted every now and again when a car pulls up and the strawberry exchange for money takes place. I love to hear my own kids shout “stop” if we see someone with a plastic table overflowing with strawberries and it warms my heart that their cries for fruit are still just as loud as they are when they see the golden arches. From a father’s point of view I rarely refuse the shout for strawberries but often choose to ignore the pleas for a cheeseburger. As takeaway food goes, strawberries are possibly the perfect choice and with Wimbledon approaching the annual spotlight will shine upon the age old tradition of strawberries and cream. As lovely as the strawberry is though, it always strikes me that we neglect the other berries because of it. The raspberry gets a bit of a look in but we largely fail to take advantage of all the other wonderful fruits available at this time of year and the diverse things you can do with them besides just smothering them with cream. There’s the entire family of berries to consider along with the peaches, nectarines, plums and other stone fruits. berries

It really is worth making the most of these months when fresh homegrown produce is available to buy. Berries are full of goodness and antioxidants and are a tasty, healthy option. We have plenty grown locally in the Irish countryside and most are in season now. Sadly we are so used to seeing summer fruits available year round in the supermarkets that we mistakenly assume that the berries we buy in November are similar to those we have now and therefore take the produce very much for granted at this time of year. Nothing could be further from the truth. Usually the off season types tend to be more acidic, forced and nowhere near as sweet and juicy as you will get naturally in the summer.

The other common problem with summer fruit is our lack of imagination. They are often relegated to dessert and we might think it sophisticated if mentioned as a starter ingredient and some are even suspicious if they are used in a warm main course dish. We’re just very unadventurous when it comes down to it. I’ve been totally inspired while watching chefs on TV tossing berries in salads, grilling them and even putting them in hot gravies along with popping them in drinks or using them for all sorts of exotic desserts. I’ve enjoyed pears poached with blue cheese and baked lamb chops with warmed plums. The possibilities are endless.

I personally love berries at breakfast time. Little bursts of summer first thing in the morning are thoroughly uplifting. Strawberries, raspberries, fresh cherries and even blueberries work really well with breakfast drop scones or pancakes. They are delicious when made into compote and served with muesli and Greek yoghurt. I love this as it takes that gravelly, dusty taste away from the muesli that I’m told is good for me! Berry compote is very simple to make and keeping a jar on hand is a great summer standby. As a rough rule of thumb use approximately 1 tablespoon of caster sugar for every 100g of berries and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Just pop all the ingredients in a pot and heat gently until the berries begin to soften and release their juice. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until you have a runny, jammy mixture. You can serve it warm or cold and it will keep in a lidded container in the fridge for up to a week. Some people use a little corn flour to thicken it up, others add wine or ginger for an added taste kick and I have a friend who substitutes honey for the sugar to save on calories. Try your own variation and personalise it any way you like. Compote can also be used as a desert garnish. If I’m having a particularly healthy morning I’ll pour cranberry juice into the breakfastblender and then throw in some berries and blitz. If the fruit has been in the fridge overnight it makes a great cold thick juice drink. You could put a banana through it to make it into a proper smoothie if you wanted to. Blackcurrants, gooseberries and blackberries are also great summer fruits and shouldn’t be forgotten.

When buying berries look closely for soft or moldy fruit as this can quickly contaminate the whole lot. Berries are highly perishable and should not be exposed to sunlight or kept at room temperature. If stored in the fridge unwashed and loosely packed with the damaged berries discarded, they should keep for 2 to 4 days. If you have grown your own then freezing berries is a good way to preserve them for use in baked dishes. Blueberries tend to be a little tougher if washed before freezing, and whole blackberries should be frozen spread out individually and then transferred to an airtight freezer container. Strawberries may be frozen sliced, with or without sugar. Adding sugar will help preserve the color but remember when using pre-sweetened berries, reduce the amount of sugar or sweetener called for in any given recipe.

You will have to shop around to get good value but markets and farm gates are usually less expensive and if you can find a ‘pick your own’ farm it’s a great way to spend some family time. We are very fortunate in South Tipperary to have ‘The Apple Farm’ which has a great range of Apple Juices & Soft Fruits. There is always a great welcome at the Apple Farm for all the Family with lots to do including – feeding the Donkey! I wish you a ‘berry’ good week.

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

Racking up the Wow factor

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

One of the greatest secrets to excellent food is the old and familiar adage, “keep it simple!”  If you are really clever you will also have twigged that sometimes the ingredients of any dish can do the talking for you.  A good quality, flavoursome piece of meat and the freshest vegetables you can find are often all you need to have them cheering in the aisles and marvelling at your culinary skills.  The difficulty is that somewhere along the line simplicity was traded for the smoke and mirrors antics of the professional and celebrity chef.    The idea that some things can never be reproduced in a domestic kitchen to any great degree of competency is, in my opinion, nonsense.

Now before I insult all my good friends in the industry, I don’t deny the talent, craft, skill and dedication of the professional, but it depends on an entirely different set of criteria to that of your average family cook.  My thesis is that while Joe and Josephine Blogs will always marvel at the labour intensive ‘handmade, truffle filled, star shaped ravioli with a little butter and mushroom jus’ on their occasional visit to a restaurant, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the time at home means bland food hell.  We eat every day! BBQ Lamb Cutlets

What we sometimes need is a sense of adventure; a desire to try something new but not necessarily anything too complicated.   For example at this time of year why not cook a rack of lamb?  This is something that is often seen as only perfected by the professional.  I disagree.  The key to this is buying the best lamb you can get your hands on and then following the traditional rules of cooking it.  With a little preparation, the meat itself and the oven do all the work!  The same theory applies to the accompaniments.  Two excellently chosen sides will trump quantity or variety any day.

So why are people so afraid of rack of lamb?  I suppose it is considered a luxurious dish, probably stemming from the fact that it is the most tender part of the lamb and therefore considered quite exclusive. It also has a regal look about it and that’s why sometimes you see those little ‘chef hats’ covering the ribs.  Preparing the rack involves cleaning the fat of those ‘sticky out’ bones, (this technique is called ‘frenching’) however, if you go to a good butcher they will do that for you.  I would suggest three to four cutlets per person.  Rack of Lamb with Black Pudding and Red Wine Jus

Take your time when preparing the lamb.  I like to coat it in a little oil mixture that I make using olive oil, chopped fresh rosemary, two garlic cloves (chopped) and a pinch of mustard powder.  I lightly coat the rack with this mixture and then I heat some oil in an oven proof pan and sear the meat.  Do not put the meat into the pan until it is good and hot and then be very careful not to let it burn.  It will only take approximately 2 minutes on each side to sear.  Do not leave it go past 3 minutes or you could be in trouble.   Once it is seared, wipe any excess fat from the meat, cover the bone tips with a little tinfoil to stop them going black during cooking and put the meat, bone side down onto an oven proof dish ready for the preheated oven.  You could, if you wanted to, roll the whole piece in breadcrumbs at this point, but that is optional.

Usually you are trying to achieve a nice brown colour on the outside with a little pink still in the centre of each cutlet.  Have the oven preheated and then the general rule of thumb is 20 minutes for rare and 25 minutes for medium rare; the latter being my preference.   Once again I make the comment about owning a meat thermometer.  It is a foolproof way of checking if the meat is cooked through and no kitchen should be without one.

Like any meat it should be left to rest for 10 to 20 minutes before carving and if you want a real sense of theatre then do so at the table!  This is not for the fainthearted and I prefer to cut and plate up out of sight, that way you can wipe away any drips before you present it to a guest.

At James Whelan Butchers we take particular pride in our naturally reared, wholesome Tipperary lamb with its deep red colour and remarkably sweet, grass fed taste.  Prepare to wow your guests with this sophisticated roast that makes for beautiful presentation and is easy to carve, making it a perennial dinner party favourite.  There are several spring lamb recipes and serving ideas on our website so do check that out also and don’t let anyone tell you that a perfect rack of lamb is only achievable in a restaurant.  Try it out this weekend and see if home cooking a rack of lamb is not only delicious but tremendous value as well.

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

A Fresh Look at Asia

Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

Given that I work with meat, I suppose it is hardly surprising that the subject of food comes up in my conversations a great deal. I’m often asked for advice about cuts, preparation and cooking and while some will just indulge and join me in a nice chat about things that taste great, the other common issue is diet and weight. What I probably find most amusing are the different schools of thought on the subject. You have the ‘lean meat, fat is evil’ brigade, the ‘no carb’ bunnies, the point counting sisters and brothers, the “how many calories?” worry warts, the vegetable only zealots; the list is endless. Basically everyone is headed for that same utopian slim dream, but there seem to be many routes to it.

Beef stir fry with noodlesThere seems to be one thing that most of these diets and their self proclaimed healthy eating devotees have in common and that is the general rule that junk food was conjured in the bowels of hell in order to make us all fat. The spiritually enlightened wouldn’t dream of defiling their temple with anything but lean chicken, a stick of celery and a lettuce leaf! If the quality of the chicken, celery and lettuce is good I can appreciate that it is a nice snack combination, but the difficulty is I can’t live on just that. We naturally crave, or should I say ‘need’ variety. It’s what makes life and food the wonderful thing that it is. Sadly we have taken the junk food umbrella and crammed more and more foods under it. Chinese food often gets swept into the mix as high calorie junk food and the creamier dishes of Indian cuisine are also given the evil eye by the virtuous.

Because of these generalisations we tend to avoid whole cultures and we miss out on interesting tastes, new experiences and a chance to introduce new things to our own diet. Traditionally, food in both China and India Beef Noodle Soup with Pak Choiis seen as health giving. In the household kitchens real people feeding their families try and create vibrant, fresh, light and tasty meals. This is especially true of China. While some western Chinese restaurants have chosen the route of too much, salt, MSG, sugar and trans fats, an authentic taste of China is good for you. The same can be said of Indian food. Obviously the creamy korma and tikka sauces are rich, but if we look to aromatic chicken or beef baked slowly in a clay oven we get a different picture. Even in restaurants the average Indian mixed grill is lean, protein rich and full of health giving spices.

When it comes to Asian food we have enough ingredients at our disposal these days to come pretty close to an authentic home cooked meal from these foreign lands. Chinese food should be fresh and fragrant. There are many layers of taste in Chinese food and we should be able to taste each note. Traditional Chinese food was never meant to be coated in batter, deep fried and concealed by a viscous, luminous sauce.

What I like best about Asian food is that it offers us alternatives for accompaniments. There is a great range of rice available from wild and long grain, brown rice to the more aromatic and soft Pilau or Thai Jasmine rice. Noodles can be thin light strands such as glass noodles or thick fat udon noodles and a myriad of types in between. (By the way glass noodles are naturally gluten free and so are perfect for coeliacs.)   I also like the way real style Asian cooking makes use of nuts; from the cashew to the peanut the taste is great.

We always keep a variety of noodles and rice in the store cupboard as I think they are fantastic for making up dishes with leftovers. If we have some left over chicken, adding in some vegetables, herbs and chilies and serving cold on a bed of glass noodles really stretches the meat. The other great thing about noodles is that they bulk out a soup to make it really feel like a meal. I recently saw a beef noodle soup recipe on the television and I have put it on my list of ‘must makes’ over the summer.

Chinese Chicken Noodle SoupTo be fair it is hard for us to know what exactly healthy Chinese or Indian food actually is, as we haven’t grown up with it. However it is only a matter of learning the basics and adapting them to our own taste. The aim isn’t to open an authentic Asian restaurant to satisfy Asian people; the goal is to provide rich variety in the food we feed our own families. It is about what we like and being comfortable using the myriad of wonderful foods available to us. Indeed it seems crazy to cook the same few dishes over and over again when we have so many choices at our disposal. Not only do we have choices but we have an abundance of free knowledge; the library, the internet and the television are full of great food ideas that won’t cost us a penny to learn.

So back to my dieting friends and those on the eternal quest for the supermodel body, my message to you is that your journey towards your goal is a noble one and I wish you great success, but please stop with the deprivation and sweeping statements about real food groups and food cultures.   Real food was given to us for fuel, but also for enjoyment. We can enjoy all good things and still lose and maintain weight if we can just get the balance right.   I encourage you to explore all that Asia has to offer in natural and good spices, rice and noodles; we are blessed to have it at our fingertips. Combine that with your choice of local home grown vegetables and meat and, without a doubt, you’ll have them all screaming for more.

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

James Whelan Butchers: Bone Marrow Pizza

Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Beef Recipes, Recipes | No Comments »

James Whelan Butchers - Oxtail & Truffle Pizza from The Irish Beef BookThe bone marrow gives a rich beefiness to this pizza — you might not manage a whole one on your own, so is perhaps best shared between two as a starter, or cut into small pieces as part of an antipasti offering. The Irish-made pizza bases sold under the Pizza da Piero brand are excellent and the mozzarella produced by Toby Simmonds and John Lynch in Co. Cork — with the help of their herd of buffalo, of course — is a genuinely innovative Irish product that stands up to comparison with the best buffalo mozzarella from Italy.

Bone Marrow Pizza Recipe – Printer Friendly Download


  • olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 pizza base
  • 1/2 ball Toons Bridge Irish mozzarella or other buffalo mozzarella
  • 50 g bone marrow, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated hard cheese –
  • Hegarty’s, Desmond, Coolea, Cratloe Hills or Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • small handful of caper berries

Makes 1 pizza

To Cook

Preheat the oven to its highest setting. In a small frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil and gently fry the shallots and garlic until soft and golden. Tear the mozzarella into small pieces and dot evenly over the surface of the pizza. Add the shallots and garlic, with their oil, and distribute evenly over the pizza. Add the chopped bone marrow and finally sprinkle with the hard cheese.

Place on a heated oven tray or pizza stone in the preheated oven until bubbling and starting to brown. Sprinkle the pizza with a little finely chopped parsley and scatter the caper berries over the top.

Burgers and Balls

Posted on Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles | No Comments »

You can’t pick up a food magazine or go to a food website these days without seeing the words ‘budget’, ‘eat well, spend less’, ‘feed your family for a fiver’ or any other of the myriad ways we are constantly being encouraged to save money. Here’s the thing, and I don’t wish 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. Stretching a meal is nothing new but the media would have us believe that we need re educating.   If you grew up in Ireland when shepherds pies, beef stews, roast beef on Sunday and roast beef hash on Monday, bacon, lamb, chicken and maybe a fish day were popular, then you know how to eat well on a budget. This might be new to the media but it isn’t to many of us. I sometimes think we have forgotten about the comfort and taste in those traditional Irish dinners not to mention the value and you’ll never feel like you are on a budget.

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.

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, Delia wanted bread with the crusts cut off soaked in milk added to my 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 our 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.

Here are two of my favourite ways to cook meatballs available for download on our site:

Spanish Meatballs in a Tomato Chorizo Sauce

Persian Koftah (Beef and Rice Meatballs)

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

Baking Confidence

Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2015 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles | No Comments »

I had an absolutely filthy thought recently. It was mid afternoon and I was working on some very boring paperwork in the office when suddenly, out of nowhere, a soft, slightly warm and moist fat scone slathered with real butter, juicy raspberry jam with a generous dollop of cream sauntered nonchalantly into my thoughts. I tried hard to ignore this naughty scone that was salaciously dancing around my head and winking provocatively at me, as I knew to respond would mean leaving my desk and the dull but important task at hand.

If I’m honest naughty thoughts, like this, are a common distraction during my day. I should add that it could just as easily have be a savoury and sophisticated seductress rather than something simple and sweet; one can never predict other than to know it is usually bad, very bad.

The problem I generally have with the sweet wickedness is that it is often better in my head than it ever actually tastes. This is, sadly, a reflection on the mediocrity of bakers at large, rather than my over active imagination. We’ve all been in that place where the carrot cake, cheese cake, cherry loaf or cupcake seduces us with their enviable good looks from behind a glass case. It is often bought with the promise of something wonderful only to cheat us by sometimes being too dry or even, dare I say it, tasteless. Overall I find you have to be careful where you have your cake should you want to eat it as well. Breads often suffer from the same fate. Bread can so easily give you that ‘come hither’ look, particularly when placed near bread ovens that give off that heady, bready aroma; reeling you in from the moment you step across the threshold.Baking Ingredients

The difficulty lies in the fact that good baking requires more science than art. While the latter is of course necessary, the former is where the taste comes from. Overuse of any one ingredient can throw the balance so easily when working with flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking sodas and raising agents. There is plenty of room for error and it should be approached with all the precision of a science experiment. I would also be suspicious of the plethora of celebrity bakers out there. Baking really is a huge trend at the moment, everyone seems to be doing it and to be honest I would advise that you stick with tried and trusted. As it happens there is a new book on the horizon called Pastry by Richard Bertinet, published by Ebury. I’ve seen a few extracts and with sweet and savoury recipes and excellent tutorials about the science behind pastry, I would have to recommend it. Richard Bertinet is a French chef and baker and to be fair, the French definitely know a thing or two about pastry.

However back to our present dilemma of how to turn the baking mess around. First of all if you find a good baker, bakery or coffee shop then shout it from the rooftops and make sure everyone knows about it. We are quite blessed in this neck of the woods to have some great bakers on our doorstep. Hickeys Bakery in Clonmel, The Cookie Jar, Mags’ Home Baking in Nenagh, The Tipperary Kitchen and The Scullery to name a few. The other thing we can do to help, and yes I agree this is a bold move, but we must start telling people if we haven’t enjoyed their cake. I am as guilty of this as anyone out there and I’m in the retail trade. I have often just paid up and said nothing; it’s an Irish trait that is not at all virtuous. You don’t have to be rude or loud to get the point across, but I think most people would appreciate the honesty and constructive criticism. If we don’t tell people about a problem they will never know that they have one. The other thing is that if only one in ten chooses to be honest, the baker or coffee shop assumes that the one individual is just having a bad day or has damaged taste buds. As a consequence we all suffer; bad cake lingers on, the coffee shop/bakery plods along and you make a mental note not to buy or eat their cake again. This doesn’t help anyone.

Great baking, sweet or savoury is a something to be cherished. It is a skill, a science, a craft and while some people will be naturally gifted, just like the pianist who plays by ear, for most of us it will need serious adhering to the rules. However perseverance, application and concentration in the baking area will lead to untold treasures and compliments once mastered.

Steak and Kidney PieWhether it is a luscious pastry clad steak and kidney pie, tasty bread, a tea loaf or a special cake it should always, always, always taste as good as it looks. The flavours should be balanced and carefully matched as no amount of cream will disguise a disaster.

Going back to my filthy thought of the day, I never actually realised my scone fantasy. I knew a common supermarket lump of plastic wrapped, cooked dough with a shelf life of ‘forever’ could never match the smooth, jammy, siren in my head. I grabbed that tempting, cream covered hussy and pushed it firmly out the door of my mind. I went back to my work and it was only a matter of seconds before that minx’s cousin, spicy lamb meatballs, popped up centre stage. In the end I just gave up and went home for my tea.

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

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