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Ireland’s Leading Independent Food & Hospitality Guide
The Euro-Toques EirGrid Food Awards are always special and 2016 was a vintage year, when they celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Euro-Toques Ireland and also marked Myrtle Allen’s legacy with a wonderful event at Ballymaloe House in high summer.
And now, in the colder months, it’s the traditional time to make the most of delicious free range pork - a product that was especially praised at the event, and rightly so. “Shrinking year on year in the face of regulatory and economic barriers”, free range pork production in Ireland is all too rare.
It is, as Darina Allen said, “…a challenging occupation that takes patience, skill and sensitivity to the needs of the animals in order to produce a good product”, so it was encouraging for the sector to see a joint Euro-Toques award for free range pork going to two enthusiastic couples, Fergus and Sandra Dunne, Pigs on the Green, Co Offaly; and Dave and Diana Milestone, Andarl Farm, Co Mayo.
On their small farm near Tullamore, former organic vegetable farmers Fergus and Sandra Dunne now rear free range Tamworth pigs. A hardy native breed once known as the Irish Grazer, Tamworths are famous for their feisty nature - and great taste. The Dunnes’ ‘Pigs on the Green’ brand took off from the get-go, thanks to the succulence and flavour of the meaty sausages, black pudding, dry-cured bacon and fresh pork cuts that quickly earning a following at leading restaurants.
Discerning shoppers weren’t slow to give them the vote of approval either, and Pigs on the Green products can be found at quality-led shops including McCambridges, Mortons and Joyces of Knocknacarra in Galway, Swans of Naas and Wilde and Green in Milltown, Dublin.
Over at Claremorris, Co Mayo, Dave and Diana Milestone of Andarl Farm (andarlfarm.ie) famously started off on their ‘great pig adventure’, with a Great White sow called Doris, and they then spent several years working towards the perfect partnership for the right fat to lean ratio and the hardiness needed for the outdoor life. Then along came a Hyroc boar called Harry, and the deliciously tender Andarl ‘Velvet Pork’ was born.
You can buy it in specialist shops such as Castlebar’s De Búrca’s Traditional Butcher Shop - Seán Bourke and Sarah Ní Shúilleabháin’s extraordinary ‘whole animal butcher shop’ - and enjoy it (eat or buy) nearby in the McMahon family’s equally extraordinary Rua (where the pork and apple burger and dry cured bacon are special favourites) and other selective outlets. Bred for its cooking qualities, it’s well worth seeking out.
RECIPE: Roast Loin of Pork with Apple & Spinach Stuffing
2kg/41/2 lb loin of free range pork
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
l onion, peeled and sliced
60ml/4 tbsp water
Juice of l orange
50g/2oz dried apricots, chopped
50g/2oz spinach, blanched and chopped (or use 2-3 tbsp chopped parsley)
50g/2oz hard Irish farmhouse cheese, grated
l cooking apple, eg Bramley’s Seedling, peeled and grated, or finely chopped
Grated rind of 1/2 of the orange
15ml/l tbsp mild wholegrain Irish mustard
30ml/2 tbsp Demerara sugar
Preheat the oven at 350ºF, 180ºC, gas mark 4.
Prepare the stuffing, by putting all the ingredients into a bowl and mixing well together.
If the joint has the skin on, remove it to cook separately for crackling.
Place the meat, fat side down, on a chopping board and spread the stuffing over it. Roll up and tie neatly with cotton string; season.
Put the joint in a roasting tin with the peeled and sliced onion and the water. Cook uncovered for about 35 minutes per 450g/1 lb.
If making crackling, score the pork skin, rub in a little salt and roast in a separate tin until brown and crunchy. The drippings are perfect for cooking roast potatoes in.
40 minutes before the end of the cooking time, pour off the liquid into a small saucepan and discard the onion. Add the orange juice to the liquid.
Spread the joint with mustard and sprinkle with the Demerara sugar. Return the joint to the oven and turn the heat up to get a crisp finish.
Boil up the juices, thicken if you like and serve with the sliced meat, roast potatoes and fresh vegetables.