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.   I welcome your feedback to pat@jwb.ie

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

Ingredients

  • 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.

MEATBALLS

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

 

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 while.weather 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 www.jameswhelanbutchers.com.

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

Ingredients

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

Ingredients

  • 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.