Book Review - An Irish Butcher Shop by Pat Whelan

An Irish Butcher Shop by Pat WhelanWho could fail to be charmed by a book that arrives carefully wrapped in stout brown paper, tied up with white string, labelled with a manilla tag label (like the ones my father used, when sending produce on the overnight train from Cornwall up to Covent Garden) and neatly finished with red sealing wax…?

It’s hard to spoil this picture of perfection by opening it but, once carefully disassembled (in case later tempted to reconstruct the dream) it opens to reveal a handsome book An Irish Butcher Shop (Collins Press, €25) by Pat Whelan, with the cover featuring the very ball of string (or its cousin) alongside a juicy rib roast of what can only be Tipperary beef.

Pat Whelan, perhaps Ireland’s most famous butcher and certainly one of the most innovative, is the second generation owner of James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel (established by his parents in 1960), farmer, and chairman of the extremely effective Tipperary Food Producers Network (

Tradition and innovation go hand in hand here in Tipperary, where the value of tradition – and especially traditional farming, as in grass fed cattle - is respected, but the importance of a forward-looking outlook is equally well understood.

Whelans was Ireland’s first online butcher, and now has a thriving business dispatching meat throughout Ireland and the UK, with an overnight service anywhere in Ireland. The range is wide and includes speciality produce from the local area such as wagyu beef, free range pork and Inch House traditional black pudding as well as their own Angus and Hereford beef, local lamb, rabbit and Hubbard chicken.

The wide range of products sold in the shop, together with Pat Whelan’s balanced appreciation of both the old and the new, is reflected in this book which is part memoir – a tribute to the love of the job instilled in him by his parents and a country childhood - part text book (each meat has a detailed introduction, for example, and there is a chapter devoted to cooking methods), and then his collection of around 90 recipes, which has a bias towards the goodness of traditional flavours but also offers a fair range of international dishes, including some from Pat’s wife, Lina, who is from Lithuania.

The great meats of Tipperary dominate, of course – beef, pork and lamb – but there’s a substantial poultry chapter, including recipes for the Christmas turkey and roast goose, some appealing game recipes, a good range of side dishes and a chapter on kitchen basics like sauces, stocks and pastry.

An Irish Butcher Shop is a practical book, but it’s also opens a window into Tipperary life – and, above all, it’s a book with heart.

Steak & Kidney PieRECIPE: Steak and Kidney Pie

“ Nothing can compare with my mother's steak and kidney pie,” says James Whelan in the introduction to this recipe in his book, An Irish Butcher Shop. “I still use the same recipe with just a small tweak; where she would have used lard or dripping to cook the meat, I use olive oil.

As an all-round favourite, steak and kidney pie ticks all the boxes. It's a very satisfying dish that also freezes well for a delicious midweek treat without any fuss.”

Serves 6

Click for recipe

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