|Nigel, with Dr Noel Murray(left) of CIT and Conrad Howard of Market Lane Group.|
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Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Nigel Cotter. His Butcher to Chef Story
Nigel Cotter, the Douglas man who was recently awarded the Market Lane Culinary Scholarship with CIT, has taken a long road to cheffing. He is a qualified butcher and has spent over ten years in the trade.
And it was while working as a butcher that he began to appreciate quality of produce. He credits an early mentor, Flor Kent, with giving him a good all-round picture, of the trade, of food and of life. And that butcher background is now a massive plus as he studies to be a chef.
But cheffing had always been somewhere in his mind and that has much to do with his mother who was a farmer’s daughter. Her roasts were spectacular, memorable. But with a whole animal from the family farm available, she had to use all the cuts and they had meat, stews and steaks and so on, all the year round variety.
Nigel still appreciates the meat of course but nowadays tends to cook a lot of fish at home. “We are an island nation, we should be using more fish.”
And it is not just at home that Nigel cooks these days. As part of his CIT course, he had to find a restaurant that would give him 400 hours placement. Luckily, Brendan Cashman’s Gallo and Galetti, where both Nigel and his wife enjoy eating, took him on and now that 400 hours requirement has been well and truly exceeded.
He was delighted to accept the scholarship that will help him extend and enhance his culinary education, “It is an incredible opportunity for me.” Nigel, who is currently studying for a Certificate in Culinary Skills, will use the bursary to progress to the National Chef De Partie Apprenticeship Programme at CIT, which will set him on a fast-track to becoming a fully qualified chef with access to the best kitchens in the country.
He is an obviously determined young man. His studies currently take up two full days each week and then he works around that commitment. Does he get a chance to relax? He does indeed. He loves watching Rugby and American football. For the past seven or eight years, he has been playing Five-a-Side football out in Ballincollig, enjoying the exercise and the craic. Music is another big interest of his and indeed he “used to play for a few bands”.
He has been strong on getting local producers recognised and his thoughts on the subject were taken on board by Conrad Howard of Market Lane who will be including profiles on their menu in the coming weeks, introducing their diners to the fantastic, passionate producers that supply the restaurant with their produce.
Nigel’s interest in local producers was reinforced by Avril Allshire of Rosscarbery Recipes and Caherbeg Pork when she spoke to his group at CIT. “Avril gave us a great talk and very unselfishly promoted other producers as well.”
He is all for diversity and balance in diet. “We should eat better quality meat, but less of it, and definitely eat more fish and vegetables.
Has he a favourite chef? “Marco Pierre White, a working class man who shot for the stars. Also the Roux brothers, Albert and Michel, French-born restaurateurs and chefs in Britain. And I’m sure there are more!”
Nigel is a patient fellow. It has taken him a long while to get to this point but he is not jumping too far ahead. “Of course, it’s in the back of every chef’s mind to have his or her own kitchen and to run the show to his or her own standards. But I’m only at stage one. You’ve got to serve your time, got to learn, then find your niche.”
Monday, April 27, 2015
Treat Meat With RespectTalking to Avril Allshire-Howe
|Avril, and books!|
“Meat should be treated with respect.”
So said Avril Allshire during our recent visit to the Rosscarbery farm that she runs with husband Willie and their two sons William and Maurice. The small farm is home to two related enterprises: Caherbeg Free Range Pork and Rosscarbery Recipes. It is also the place where the young sons practice on their racing quads!
“Every little mouthful should be savoured,” she continued. “None of us can afford to gorge ourselves, we can't afford to waste meat.”
|Pork Fruit Cake. Secret Recipe!|
Avril was talking to me in her own home, surrounded by shelves and shelves of books, many of them food related. No surprise either to see that she is a big fan of Joanna Blythman, the English writer who constantly exposes the con-men of the big-food world and who will again appear at the 2015 Ballymaloe Lit-Fest next month.
Avril could well write a recipe book herself. She agreed with me that food producers should provide recipes to customers but only if they have something new to add.
She certainly has and you’ll see quite a few of them on her Rosscarbery Recipes blog. But there is one that she won't be publishing, won't be sharing! As we spoke we were treated to a slice of what looked like a normal fruit cake.
|Spots (left) and Timmy|
As we began to enjoy it, she revealed that it had “no eggs, no dairy”. She named this delicious creation, an exclusive one, Pork Fruit Cake, as one of the important ingredients is, believe it or not, sausage meat! “It is an alternative to Christmas Cake, may well have been a forerunner of Christmas cake.”
Later, at lunch, she served us her Black Pudding lasagna, another of her originals, a flavoursome echo perhaps of the time when there were no convenience shops, maybe also a shortage of cash, and people had to use what was close at hand, what was in the cupboard. And indeed there was another echo of those days in her answer to the question What is your own favourite? “Depends on the humour,” she laughed. “But I’ll use whatever is in the house.”
“Has the success of any particular product surprised you?”, I asked.
“Yes, I have been surprised by the success of the black pudding, by the variety of people that like it, the young and the old alike. Eastern European peoples quite like it too. It is quite low in fat and useful for a variety of dishes.”
Husband Willie drove the rest of the family to the brink of frustration during the long 15 months he (and they) spent developing their black pudding, developing it to his and their satisfaction. But the passion paid off in a big way and the pudding has won a string of awards, mostly gold, in Ireland, the UK, Belgium and notably in France. “How do you know you have a good one?”, I queried. “The acid test,” she replied, “is to cut a sliver and eat it at room temperature.”
We discussed trends in the business.”Six or seven years ago, you could not give away belly of pork. Then the recession hit and everybody wanted it. The Caherbeg herd is quite small. We have limited numbers and not that much belly and so the Celtic Ross have exclusivity on our belly.” We had enjoyed that special dish in the local hotel the previous evening and it is worth travelling for!
Then it was time to take a tour of the free range pigs (a mixture of breeds including Gloucester Old Spot, Tamworth and Kune-Kune) and we met some of the main characters including Spots, the mammy of many of them, and Timmy, the daddy. Pigs are not the only animals here. We met the dog and some of the five cats. And also Maa-aa, the growing lamb that they adopted from a neighbouring farm after its mother had rejected it. Maa-aa has been given a job! She'll be keeping the grass and weeds in control in their orchard! Two legs or four, you have to pull your weight in Caherbeg!
Read more about Caherbeg Free-Range Pork and Rosscarbery Recipes here
Rosscarbery Recipes Website: http://www.rosscarberyrecipes.ie
Rosscarbery Recipes blog: http://rosscarberyrecipes.blogspot.ie
Caherbeg Free Range Pork website: http://www.caherbegfreerangepork.ie
Caherbeg Free Range Pork Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Caherbeg-Free-Range-Pork-Ltd/250142158334295?fref=ts