Almost a month ago to the day, I was first introduced to the magic of North Cork butcher Jack McCarthy of Kanturk’s meat produce.  He was one of the three exceptional butchers (alongside TJ Crowe and Ed Hick) who took part in Inishowen Food Festival at Harry’s Restaurant, all of whom shared the same passion for outstanding meat.

Since our Butchers’ Masterclass, I’ve picked up Tipperary based TJ Crowe’s gorgeous bacon (available in Fallon & Byrne) and I’ve bought incredible gourmet pork directly from Dublin’s Ed Hick at Saturday’s Temple Bar market.  And although present at Inishowen but not demonstrating on the day, Tipperary’s James Whelan Butcher main man Pat Whelan’s ah-mazing Wagyu steaks deserve a mention here as outstanding and totally unique Irish meat.

Coming away from Inishowen, however, it was Jack McCarthy’s chocolate, mint and pistachio black pudding that was the recurring food craving for the weeks to come.  The recipe was inspired by something Dermot Gannon from The Old Convent in Clogheen (which looks unbelievable by the way) had created using some of Jack’s black pudding.

When I enquired after where I could get my hands on some more of the amazing stuff on Twitter a week or so ago, I was contacted by Jack himself wondering whether I’d be interested in receiving some more along with a few other samples of their produce?

He didn’t have to ask me twice, that’s for sure.

As Niall said after tasting Jack’s sausages: “The man is clearly some kind of meat genius.” I absolutely concur.

I received an outstanding selection of some of McCarthy’s of Kanturk produce, including some Black Pudding Sausage, some Wild Garlic sausage and some Bramley Apple sausages.

Jack’s black pudding is sold in Sheridan’s, but his fantastic website offers great value meat for delivery all over Ireland.  I’d suggest getting one of the hampers or value packs, which will give you an overall picture of the standard of the produce.

I used all three in a Sunday night casserole, which is a great one for making for friends on a lazy day.  Firstly, it takes very little effort to put together.  As well as that, it actually tastes better when it’s cooked, allowed to cool and reheated again.  This means you can get it ready in the morning, let it cool and re-heat when your friends arrive.

Although it seems like a very wintery dish, it works surprisingly well as dinner on a warm day, as the tomatoes make it that bit more summery that your average stew.  The carrots and parsnips especially give the whole dish a startling sweetness, although a few spuds wouldn’t go awry in the mix as well.

What you need for a sausage casserole for 4 to 5 people

Olive oil

10 – 12 Jack McCarthy’s of Kanturk sausages of your choice (or the absolutely most delicious alternative you can find)

1 large onion, sliced into half moon shapes

2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into chunks

2 – 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks

1 tablespoon of fennel seeds

2 tins of good quality chopped tomatoes

Salt and pepper

A handful of fresh parsley (flat leaf or curly) finely chopped

an 180C/ conventional 200C/gas 6

Pre-heat your oven to fan 180 C/conventional 200 C/ gas mark 6.

Heat some oil in an oven-proof casserole dish on a medium to high heat on the hob.

If you don’t have an oven-proof casserole dish suitable for hob use, you can do this first part in a very deep frying pan and transfer mix to an oven-proof dish once it’s ready for the oven.

Start by browning your sausages.  You want them to get a good bit of colour so cook them for at least ten minutes, turning to ensure even colour.  Once browned, remove from pot and set aside.

In the same pot, fry your onion, carrots, parsnips and fennel seeds for five to ten minutes, stirring constantly.  Add a little more oil if you need to.  You want the onion to start to soften and the other vegetables to get started off cooking.

Once your onions have turned golden and begin to soften, you can now return the sausages to the pot.  Then add your two tins of chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Mix everything evenly.  Top up with boiling hot water (you can also use a bit of vegetable stock here) so that all of the sausages and vegetables are covered with the tomato sauce.

Now put the oven-proof casserole in the oven, uncovered.  Checking and stirring from time to time, cook the lot for between 45 minutes and one hour, until the parsnips and carrots are cooked through and deliciously soft.

You can either eat it immediately, or let it cool and rest for a few hours so the flavours get to know each other.  Then you can reheat it in the oven for 15 minutes.

Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley, some crusty white bread and a glass of good red wine.  We had a 2004 Trinchero Barbera D’Asti which I picked up in The Corkscrew on Chatham Street and it went down a treat.

TUNE

We were having a listen to Australia’s Cut Copy while polishing off this sausage casserole, and remarking on how unbelievably similar their track Take Me Over is to Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere.  Kind of embarrassing actually… follow the links to both songs below on The Hype Machine!

Cut Copy – Take Me Over

Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere