Andarl Farm piggies!
Dave and Di Milestone, both originally from Yorkshire, first came to Ireland in 2010. Dave was a long distance lorry driver and Di worked part time in a local deli in Claremorris. In 2012 they bought a derelict farm and some land at Brickens as they were both used to living in the countryside and along with this they also bought Doris, a Large White sow. Doris soon gave birth to 17 piglets but three days later the unthinkable happened when Doris died, and the piglets had to be hand reared. They had wonderful support from their friends and neighbors during that time. Two of the orphaned piglets took to drinking replacement milk straight away and thrived. They were named Thelma and Louise and they still have them today. A few more ladies have joined the group since: Ruby, Rosie, Scary, Posh, Sporty and Baby (Ginger hasn’t arrived yet!) They said that it is such a great feeling to have Thelma and Louise the original orphaned piglets in particular, producing regular litters of their own, despite the fact that they were told by a local pig farmer at the time that they would never make anything out of them! Little did they know that with Thelma and Louise, Andarl Farm Velvet Pork was born.
Their passion for their pigs started from that point on. As modern tastes can often find free-range pork too fatty, they decided to take up the challenge to find the perfect cross that would have the right fat to lean ratio as well as a good hardy outdoor disposition to suit their farming style. It took 3 years through the use of AI to develop the right breed and in 2014 they bought Harry, a Hyroc boar to compliment the Andarl Farm sows. Harry was bred by Hermitage Genetics in Kilkenny and is a cross between a Duroc and a Pietrain. The fat and lean characteristics of this meat results in a density that gives Andarl Farm meat its name: Velvet Pork.
Harry photobombing the Spice Girls
They soon found they had a bit of a backlog of pigs, weight ready but with nowhere to go. They asked Michael Webb the owner of the abattoir where they kill their pigs if he had any interest in taking a few for his Castlerea shop. He took a pig that first week and has been buying them since. A few weeks later I met Dave and Di at a Mayo Food Producers meeting and we started selling their pork in De Búrca’s. They supply Mark’s Meats in Dunmore and Ryan’s Food Emporium in Cong. Sheridan’s in Galway sell the pork products they have developed in the last few months: dry cured rashers, gammons, sausages and Pork and apple burgers. Award winning restaurants such as: Flanagan’s in Brickens, Bar One and Rua in Castlebar, The Hungry Monk in Cong and Araby in Claremorris feature Andarl Farm pork on their menus. Dave and Di are also at Boyle Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 10am to 2pm.
They both really care about their pigs and it shows in the final product. I asked Dave does he ever struggle with that journey to the abattoir. He said ‘I do and I don’t’ in the sense that the overriding feeling he has is one of pride. Pride that he and Di have done their best for their pigs and reared them to standards that results in very happy healthy pigs that lead lives according to their natural instincts. They prefer to use the small abattoir in Castlerea because they find it to be a quiet gently process that doesn’t lead to stress for their animals. The care taken at every stage is evident in the wonderful flavour and texture of the pork and this is why the customers for Andarl Farm Velvet Pork are growing on a daily basis.
DATE TO REMEMBER: Dave and Di from Andarl Farm will be at De Búrca’s Butcher Shop for a food demonstration of their pork and pork products on Friday 31st July 2015 from 11am to 2pm.
I get annoyed when people dismiss certain vegetables out of hand as ‘fattening’. I spoke with a lady the other day who said she couldn’t eat potatoes because they had too many ‘empty carbs’ and she questioned ‘what’s in them anyway?’ Firstly, you don’t have to eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch and tea. Secondly, we could all learn to shown some restraint with portion size. But to rule out an incredibly nutritious vegetable altogether I think is wrong – especially one that has such a strong history with this country to the point where it has become synonymous with Ireland.
How the potato got to Ireland in the first place is a bit of a mystery. Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins have all been credited with introducing the tuber into Europe. The usual story for Ireland is that Sir Walter Raleigh brought it here when he was came to help suppress the Desmond Rebellions between 1579 and 1583. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support this dating from that time in any of the Raleigh-related estate records. Some evidence comes in the form of hearsay some 100 years later through the minutes of a Royal Society meeting held 13th December 1693 when it’s president Sir Robert Southwell (1635-1702) stated that his grandfather had ‘brought potatoes into Ireland who had them from Sir Walter Raleigh after his return from Virginia’. This may or may not have been the case. There does seem to be a connection with Spain however as an early name for potato was An Spáinneach. A likely scenario is that the first potatoes reached us from Spain via commercial trading routes.
Either way, Ireland fell in love with the spud. And as a staple food of a country, potatoes weren’t a bad option. They were one of the few staples that one could live nutritionally on exclusively which was the case for about 40% of the population in the 1800s. Potatoes are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc, and of course the First World dreaded starch. All was good until 1845 when the potatoes were struck by blight and this, coupled with Ireland’s political and commercial practices at the time, resulted in the famine.
When Irish people think of potatoes their eyes often glaze over at the thought of freshly boiled new potatoes and rubbing the thin skins off before eating them with butter, salt and some new onions. Or colcannon, which is one of the most celebrated of Irish potato recipes and one of our favourites. It has all the simple goodness of floury potatoes, kale, milk, butter and scallions – Heaven! Maybe this is what the lady meant when she said that she couldn’t eat potatoes as they were fattening. But is there any dish that can evoke an Irish childhood more?
What you need:
- 2lb or 1kg of Floury potatoes
- 400g chopped kale
- 1¼ cup/ 320ml milk
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 4 scallions, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
What to do:
- Boil the potatoes in a large pot until tender. Always start with cold water, never using hot water. Otherwise you will end up with floury outside and a hard middle.
- Add 3 tablespoons of butter to a pan over a medium heat. Add the kale and cook until just wilted. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Strain the potatoes. Add the milk, butter and scallions to the pot and let simmer gently for 2 minutes to infuse the milk with the scallion. Add the kale and the peeled potatoes to the pot. Mash until smooth.
- Season with salt and pepper
- To serve traditionally, make a crater on top of each portion using the back of a spoon. Add a knob of butter to each crater so that every forkful of colcannon can be dipped into the lake of melted butter.
Published in The Western People 20th July 2015