If food trends are telling us anything, it’s that fresh, raw ingredients are the next big thing. In this lakeland region, locally produced food has always been in fashion
On the edge of County Fermanagh's Upper Lough Erne you’ll see many things. You’ll see swans waddle through reeds and sun warm the water’s rippling surface. You’ll see dense forests and you’ll see a collection of islands. Among those islands, you will find a Hare Krishna Centre (Inish Rath); millennia-old carvings (White Island); and an entire monastic site once subjected to Viking raids (Devenish).
On Inishcorkish Island you will find black pigs. And if you choose the right day, you might also spot the butcher Pat O’Doherty making his way there on his boat.
To be truthful, though, Pat O’Doherty isn’t just a butcher. He’s a key player in a global food revolution and a key food trend. Ask Forbes, The Ingredients Network, any food blogger: consumers are looking for high quality raw, natural ingredients. They’re moving away from commercially farmed foods to local, hands-on producers.
Pat O’Doherty is one such producer.
There’s one thing black bacon producer Pat O'Doherty will never experience on his commute to work: traffic. Along his way to visit his black pig herds on Inishcorkish, Pat is alone with rippling water, a swan or two and Lough Erne’s serene silence.
This is the image of the local, free-range producer that is inspiring chefs around the world. According to The Ingredients Network, a key food trend for 2014 will be “The New Flavours of Farm-to-Table”. But it’s not only chefs who want to cook with produce that has been “raised by small-scale producers” like Pat (chef Noel McMeel treated world leaders to Pat's Fermanagh Black Bacon during Lough Erne Resort’s hosting of 2013’s G8 summit). Food lovers want to eat it, too.
Bottom line: as far as grass-fed, farm-to-table quality goes, bacon from pigs reared on their very own island ticks all the boxes.
From a grassy patch on Inishcorkish, Pat’s ‘on trend’ bacon ends its journey at his Enniskillen butcher shop. After providing such paternal care and intimate attention, does Pat get close to the herd?
"I become very attached to the pigs," Pat told the food blog The Foodie Bugle. "I travel to the island each night to give them little snacks and check on their well being. I’m fascinated by the way they interact with nature and each other."
But Pat’s care and dedication isn’t just noticeable in the behaviour of these very happy and well-tended pigs. As this recipe below confirms, it’s evident in the taste, too.
Derrylin Soda Farl Sandwiches with Black Bacon
Derrylin Soda Farls and Black Bacon provided by Pat O'Doherty
- 450g/1lb plain white flour
- 150g/5oz self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 25g/1oz butter
- 568ml/1pt approx. buttermilk
- Flour for dusting
For the salsa
- 4 vine tomatoes, deseeded and diced
- 2 shallots (spring onions), finely diced
- ½ cucumber, deseeded and finely diced
- Fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
For the filling
- 12-16 rashers of Black Bacon
- Olive oil
1. Sieve both flours into a bowl with the salt and baking powder. Rub in the butter.
2. Add the buttermilk a little at a time (you may need to add a little more buttermilk (or water) depending on the temperature of the four).
3. Form the dough into a circular shape and cut into six triangles.
4. Heat a large frying pan and sprinkle with flour. Griddle the farls on each side for 10 minutes until risen and golden.
5. Allow to rest for an hour before serving.
6. Mix together ingredients for salsa and season with salt and pepper.
7. Fry the bacon in a little olive oil until cooked through.
8. Split the farls and butter liberally on each side. Slide two rashers of warm Black Bacon into each farl and serve with the salsa.
The above recipe is delicious anywhere and anytime. For the ultimate experience, though, just add a Lough Erne sunset.