A Cut Above the Rest – Pat Whelan


From New York to London butchery classes are over subscribed – most recently a two day butchery course organised by Teagaśc at Ashtown also had a waiting list.
It illustrates the exciting and fundamental changes at grass roots level and the craving for real food and almost forgotten flavours and experiences. A couple of weeks ago Ear to the Ground RTE1 – presenter Ella McSweeney butchered the two rare breed pigs she reared in her suburban garden and then proceeded with the help of 3rd generation butcher Ed Hicks to use all the miscellaneous delicious bits that normally end up in pet food.
In East Cork at least nine National Schools have edible school gardens and a chicken coop with a couple of hens so the children can learn how to look after poultry. At last there is an appreciation of the importance of a degree of self sufficiency. A growing number of parents are concerned about how disconnected even country children are from the reality of how their food is produced. It’s ever more important to bring children to visit farms, to shop at farmers markets and indeed to grow and rear some food yourself. Otherwise children reckon chips come from the freezer cabinet, milk comes out of plastic bottles and meat comes in neat little polystyrene trays from the supermarket. Mind you, butchers shops are almost as sanitised nowadays, few have a carcass or even a leg of lamb hanging any more, much of the meat is ready prepared, stuffed marinated or tossed in sweet and sour sauce so its barely recognisable – in long well-lit chill cabinets.
I am and always have been a staunch supporter of the traditional family butcher, I seek out butchers who, preferably have their own farm and abattoir and still possess the entire butchers craft, from being able to judge the condition of an animal in the field to the skill of humane slaughter, dry ageing and finally the skill of butchery. Curious customers can have chats about the breed and the feed and how the animal is raised while they wait for the order to be prepared. In Baden-Württemberg the local butcher doles out small glasses of the local wine to customers while they queue which helps to create a wonderfully convivial atmosphere and keeps everyone chatting amiably. Another iconic butcher called Dario Cecchini at Antica Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano in Chianti recites Dante and plays operatic arias for his customers while he prepares the beautiful Chianina beef he sells.
Here in Ireland we are fortunate to still have over 850 family butchers (500 of those are Craft Butchers of Ireland members) and an increasing number “are finding their voice”
Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel in Co Tipperary is well known for his enthusiasm and the quality of his meat. He comes from a long line of Tipperary farmers and his family have been butchers since 1960. As soon as he could toddle about he went with his dad to ‘check the cattle’. Living over the shop meant family life and business were enmeshed and the skills were learned and absorbed effortlessly as he listened to the chat and enjoyed the craic and absorbed the entrepreneurial spirit of his parents. He was hooked from an early age and learned the trade by accompanying his mother on her delivery round. As soon as he was himself old enough, he pedalled the butcher’s bike with the wicker basket in front to deliver the weekly meat to the convent and the priest.
Nowadays it’s all come full circle and he makes full use of the latest technology, Pat is a regular tweeter – twitter.com/pat_whelan – and now has a significant online meat business that guarantees delivery within 24 hours.
Pat’s family are long time Aberdeen Angus breeders but his quest for even better meat was influenced by a trip to Japan, he’s been experimenting with a Wagyu cross, which mingle with Piedmont and Hereford in the rich pastures of his 200 acre Tipperary farm.
Pat is also quite rightly passionate about creating stress free conditions for slaughter in his own on-farm abattoir.
Pork for his butcher shop is sourced from TJ Crowe another Tipperary butcher, well known to food lovers. Both were founder members in 2007 of Tipperary Food Producers Network. The latter is a collective of 30 artisan producers who showcase their local food each year with a memorable summer banquet called the Long Table Dinner.
The concept of sustainable local economies is of paramount importance to Pat and his colleagues. Can’t imagine how he managed to find time to write a book, An Irish Butcher Shop – published by The Collins Press – in the midst of it all – a terrific eclectic collection of traditional and contemporary recipes. I’ve chosen some delicious comforting recipes from Pat Whelan’s book using less expensive cuts of meat.
Pat was awarded the Good Food Ireland Enterprise and Innovation Award on November 15th 2010.
James Whelan Butchers, Oakville Shopping Centre, Clonmel, Co Tipperary
+353 52 22927 / info@jameswhelanbutchers.com / www.jameswhelanbutchers.com 

Pat Whelan’s Osso Bucco

Serves 6

8 slices beef shin, cut at least 2.5 cm/1 inch thick
plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
85 g/3 oz butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
11⁄4 cups (10 fl oz)  white wine
1 x 220 g/8 oz can of chopped tomatoes
11⁄4 cups (10 fl oz) chicken stock
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Coat the beef shins well with the flour. In a heavy-based pan melt the butter and add the oil. When the oil and butter are very hot, fry the beef until browned all over.
Remove the beef to a warmed plate and add the onion, celery, carrots and half the garlic. Cook until soft and aromatic. Return the beef to the pan and add the wine.
Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or so. Add the tomatoes and stock, then cover with a close-fitting lid and simmer for 11⁄2–2 hours.
Mix together the parsley, lemon zest and remaining garlic and stir in before serving.

Pat Whelan’s Braised Oxtail

Serves 6

50 g/2 oz plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
4 oxtails, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil or 30 g/1 oz butter
(or combination of both)
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 thick bacon rashers, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
570 ml/20 fl oz red wine
1 litre/35 fl oz beef stock
bouquet garni of a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, a sprig of parsley and a sprig of
rosemary, tied together
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup parsley, finely chopped

The casserole can be cooked on the stove top or in the oven. If you are cooking it in the oven, preheat it to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Put the seasoned flour into a plastic bag and add the oxtail pieces. Shake it well to coat the meat. Heat the oil or butter in a large heavy-based casserole and add the oxtail pieces in small batches. As each batch is browned, remove to a warmed plate with a slotted spoon and repeat until all the meat has been sealed. Add a little more oil if necessary and add the onions and cook until golden. Add the bacon and garlic and cook for 2–3 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole, pour in the wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by about a third. Add the stock and bouquet garni to the pot and cover. Simmer gently on the stove or cook in the oven for about 2 hours. At this point add the carrots, celery and tomato paste and continue to cook for a further 2 hours or so, until the meat falls off the bone. Adjust the seasoning and sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with mashed potatoes and baked parsnips.

Pat Whelan’s Beef Stew with Dumplings

Serves 6

4 tablespoons plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 kg/2 lb 4 oz braising steak, cut into 2.5 cm/1 inch cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 turnip, peeled and cut into cubes
570 ml/20 fl oz beef stock
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme


175 g/6 oz plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
1⁄2 cup milk

Put the seasoned flour in a plastic bag, add the beef cubes and toss to coat.
Heat the oil over a moderate heat in a large saucepan or flameproof casserole dish and add the beef cubes. Brown well on all sides. This should be done in batches, removing the meat from the pan to a warmed plate until all the meat is browned. Add the onions and cook until they start to turn translucent and add the rest of the vegetables, stirring frequently to brown. Now return the beef to the pan and add the stock, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to the boil, stirring well. Cover tightly and reduce heat to as low as possible. Simmer for at least 2 hours.
To make the dumplings, sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and add the oil and milk. Stir until the dry ingredients are incorporated and the mixture resembles a batter. Mould the dumplings into small balls. Approximately 15–20 minutes before serving, turn up the heat, bring to the boil and drop the dumplings on to the surface of the stew. If the stew is being cooked in the oven, allow around 30 minutes for the dumplings to cook.

Pat Whelan’s Pork Spare Ribs

Serves 4

1 cup (8fl oz) soy sauce
3⁄4 cup brown sugar
1⁄4 cup (2fl oz) balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 cup (2fl oz) tomato paste
1⁄4 cup (2fl oz) orange juice
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon hot chilli powder
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin powder
pork spare ribs (allow 4 for each person)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Combine all the ingredients except the pork and mix well. Heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly until it boils. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Lay the ribs in a flat dish, cover with the marinade and refrigerate for several hours minimum. Reserve any extra sauce.
Pour any remaining marinade over the ribs and bake for 45 minutes. Serve when cooled to room temperature.

Pat Whelan’s Kashmiri Lamb Curry

Serves 6

300 g/10 oz natural yoghurt
85 g/3 oz skinned almonds, chopped
2 teaspoons medium curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 kg/2 lb 4 oz lamb, diced into 2.5 cm/1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
1 x 400 g/14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
300 ml/10 fl oz water
110 g/4 oz raisins
large handful of fresh coriander, chopped

In a large mixing bowl combine the yoghurt, almonds, curry powder, ginger, garlic and salt, stirring to mix well. Add the lamb to the yoghurt mixture, covering the meat well.  (You could leave this to marinate in the fridge overnight or for a few hours before cooking.)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onions with the bay leaves until golden brown, constantly moving them around the pan. Add the meat and yoghurt mixture to the pan and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add the chilli, lemon juice and tomatoes to the mixture in the pan and stir-fry for another 5 minutes. Add the water, cover and leave to simmer over a gentle heat for 60 minutes.
Add the raisins and most of the coriander and turn up the heat. Stir until the sauce has thickened. Garnish with the remaining coriander and serve with rice.
Fool Proof Food

Pat Whelan’s Spicy Lamb Meatballs

Serves 6

1 large potato, peeled and grated
1 large onion, peeled and grated
500 g/1 lb lamb, minced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fresh herbs such as parsley, coriander, tarragon and mint
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 cup (4 fl oz) olive oil

Rinse the grated potato in cold water and with your hands squeeze out all the moisture. Place all the ingredients except the oil into a bowl and mix until well combined. Form the mixture into small balls and flatten them into pattie shapes. Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the meatballs in batches for about 5 minutes on each side, turning carefully.
Food Framed is a Charitable Silent Auction of Handwritten Recipes and Documents from some of the world’s greatest chefs and food writers, Richard Corrigan, Gary Rhodes, Paul Flynn, Ken Hom, Thomas Keller from the French Laundry in San Francisco, Ferran Adria from El Buli in Spain, Lloyd Grossman, Darina Allen and Ainslie Harriet. The documents will be on display from 11am to 4pm Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Co Waterford on Saturday December 4th 2010. You can also bid by email, contact Ken Madden 086 1712813 / madden@eircom.net  Proceeds to go to Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

The winner of the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland’s National Spiced Beef Competition on Friday 12th November was Jerry O’Leary from O’Leary Family Butchers, The Square Millstreet, Co Cork. Jerry’s spiced beef is made from a recipe that has been in the O’Leary family for over 80 years – 029 -701 46 –www.olearyfamilybutchers.com 

Mahon Point Farmers Market in Cork took home the Best Farmer’s Market Award at the recent Good Food Ireland awards,  The shortlist of nominees included Dungarvan Farmers Market, Naas Farmers Market, Kinsale Farmers Market – and Midleton Farmers Market. Mahon Point Farmers Market – every Thursday  10am to 2pm.

Ballymaloe Cookery School 2011 Course Schedule is online www.cookingisfun.ie

To meet the growing demand from those who would like to have the choice to buy unpasteurised milk, David Tiernan’s milk is available from Sheridans Cheesemongers in Dublin, South Anne Street and Carnacross in Co Meath. Unpasteurised organic Jersey milk is also available from the Farm Shop at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Co Cork daily – 021 4646785 www.cookingisfun.ie 

Those of you who crave a delicious black pudding made in the traditional way from fresh pigs’ blood should look out for Hugh Maguire’s butcher shop in Navan. I also found his white pudding soft and delicious. Hugh also makes a range of homemade sausages – we fought over the Bratwurst and his well aged T Bone steak – 01-8499919 – hughmaguirebutchers@eircom.net

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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