A Northern Irish Christmas Dinner...
This Christmas I’ve decided to do my very best to make Christmas Dinner using ENTIRELY Northern Irish produce. Please note that none of these products were provided free of charge or discounted. They feature on this blog on their merit alone - that's how we roll!
Now I don’t know about you, but I believe the Christmas ham is one of the most important parts of the dinner itself. The key is ordering a ludicrously large ham (like 6lbs for 6 people!) which will give you awesome sandwiches for a few days after.
Corndale Farm, based in Limavady, was launched in 2012 by Alastair Crown. It started off with just 4 Saddleback pigs and due to Alastair’s passion for the trade the drift (collective noun for pigs!) is now around 100! Corndale adopt a ‘field to fork’ approach and all of their pigs are rare-breed and free-range with them processing everything on site. In 2016 they launched a range of Irish charcuterie, with my personal favourite being their chorizo which has a lovely balance of spice and fennel. Their free-range Christmas Hams sell out quicker than the Belfast Food Tour, and last year I was gutted when I missed out.
I booked my Dry Cured Christmas Ham the day they went on sale, and I’m very glad I did as they were all gone only a week later. Alastair’s dad Eric hand delivered the ham to me – and in true Northern Irish style I know his son, and Alastair’s brother, Ryan well.
Hams and Charcuterie are available to purchase from Corndale Farm.
Every Christmas Eve when I was growing up we would visit my Dad’s side of the family in Antrim and one of my favourite stops was my Aunt Sally’s (she wasn’t officially an Aunt, but I only found this out in my twenties!). She served up home made ginger wine, that would blow your head off, and her husband Uncle Jim reared turkeys to sell at Christmas (turkey sausages and mince weren’t so in demand back then…). Thanks to writing this feature I’ve found out an awesome bit of Christmas trivia…
Anyway, the days of Uncle Jim’s posse of turkeys are long gone so I decided to head to Pheasants' Hill Farm instead. Pheasants’ Hill Farm is located in Killyleagh (known for more than just Sir Hans Sloane and his chocolate) and they specialise in Free Range meats, including pork, chicken, geese and most importantly for us, turkey!
I ordered the Free Range Kelly Bronze Free Range Turkey. These turkeys from the famous Kelly Bronze stock are allowed to roam 160 acres of land and are fed a mix of grains, wheat, native grasses, seeds and insects. Pheasants’ Hill Farm have a stall all year round in the corner of St. George’s Market every Saturday, so do pop down to try out their fantastic meat.
Every week on the Belfast Food Tour we champion local vegetables, and we always mention the excellent seasonal Vegetable Boxes that Helens’ Bay Organics offer (another great stall on Saturdays at St George’s Market). Established in 1991 these guys were growing organic vegetables before they were cool.
We got in touch with John from HBO and ordered their local potatoes, celery, carrots, parsnips, brown onions, leeks, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, apples and fresh eggs. Just look at the vibrancy of the vegetables! The boys loved visiting the farm, especially the mud, and there's an outdoor pizza oven that I am mighty jealous of.
Helen’s Bay Organics offer vegetable boxes delivered to your home from £9.50 per box and you can call in to buy whatever you need from their farm in Helen's Bay.
Abernethy Butter: I will be using Abernethy Butter to rub the turkey and promise to not eat any with a spoon. What a lucky turkey this is. Purchased from Arcadia Deli.
Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oils: I’ll be using their lemon oil for the turkey and a mix of their other varieties throughout the cooking. Purchased from Arcadia Deli.
Irish Black Butter: This beauty will be used for the Christmas ham glaze. Purchased from Arcadia Deli.
Hillstown Sausages: I couldn’t look past Hillstown Farm Shop for our sausages. I went for their pork and cranberry cocktail sausages as well as their sausage meat for stuffing.
O'Doherty's Bacon: I’m using O’Doherty’s Black Bacon for the Brussels sprouts, the stuffing, turkey... and anywhere else I can put it. Purchased from Arcadia Deli.
Piccolo Sourdough: For the stuffing I've purchased some freshly baked Sourdough bread made by Portview Kitchen, just below our office, which is sold through Piccolo in Ballyhack. This will also be used for my ham sandwiches the next day!!
Passion Preserved Damson Jelly: Not sure my nana will ever forgive me for this, but we're swapping out cranberry sauce for Claire's Spiced Damson Jelly this year. Wish me luck! Purchased from Arcadia Deli.
I'm working out my timetable (yes, I'm that guy!) for everything at the moment and will try to get a decent photo before it's all inhaled on Christmas Day!
Words by Phil Ervine.