Mark Hix recipes: Our chef is inspired by a culinary trip to Northern Ireland

On the menu is a meaty goatherd’s pie, pork cheeks with risotto, and the best bacon sarnie around...
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Indy Lifestyle Online

A few weeks ago, I went on my annual trip to Northern Ireland. I went for three reasons. Firstly, to cook a beefy dinner at the Cultra Inn at the Culloden Hotel, just outside of Belfast, with Kevin Gratton, my right-hand man in the kitchen. Secondly, to see Peter Hannan, who's our beef supplier – but who also sells all sorts of other meaty things, and wins lots of Great Taste Awards doing it. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I went to see Peter's racehorse, Hix Fix, who, despite his tender years, has already won two races.

Goatherd's pie

Serves 4

We had this dish at the Parson's Nose in Hillsborough and very good it was, too. Not all butchers sell goat, but you can normally get it in a shop which is halal. Or, if not, you can use rabbit.

1kg coarsely-minced or finely-diced goat leg or shoulder
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, cut into small, rough ½cm dice
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into rough ½cm dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
1tbsp flour
½tbsp tomato purée
1ltr hot chicken stock
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 glasses of red wine
2 servings of firmly-mashed potato
200g parsnips, peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped

Season the goat, then heat some of the vegetable oil in a heavy-based frying pan until it is almost smoking, and cook the meat in small quantities for a few minutes, turning it with a wooden spoon as you go; drain in a colander to remove any excess fat.

Meanwhile, in a thick-bottomed saucepan, heat some more vegetable oil and gently cook the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme for 2-3 minutes, stirring every so often until they have softened. Add the meat, dust it with the flour, and then add the tomato purée and continue stirring on a low heat for a few minutes.

Slowly add the red wine, Worcestershire sauce and the hot chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about 1 hour until the liquid has thickened and the meat is tender. Remove from the heat, check the seasoning and then leave it to cool.

Meanwhile, cook the parsnips in boiling salted water for about 10-12 minutes until they are soft. Drain in a colander, then return to the pan on a low heat for a minute or so, to get rid of any excess water. Purée the parsnips in a food processor, or mash them smoothly with a potato masher; then mix them in with the mashed potato.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. To assemble the pie, just put the meat into a large serving dish, or individual dishes, and top with the potato mixture, using a piping bag or with the help of a fork. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden.

Serve with seasonal vegetables.

Bacon rib with Waldorf salad

Serves 4

Bacon rib is perfect for the summer barbecue season. What I use here is basically a slab of sweet-cure smoked, streaky bacon which is left on the bone. A good butcher should be able to get hold of a piece of it for you, and if you don't want to barbecue it, you can slow-cook it in the oven.

1-1.5kg piece of sweet-cure smoked, streaky bacon on the bone

For the Waldorf salad

1 firm red or green dessert apple, cored
3-4 sticks of celery, peeled if necessary and cut into rough 1cm squares
Any leaves from the celery, washed
20 walnuts, lightly toasted
2-3tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Marks' bacon rib with Waldorf salad is perfect for the summer barbecue season (Jason Lowe)

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Put the bacon rib in a roasting tray and cook in the oven for about 3-4 hours, basting as often as is necessary to keep it nice and moist.

When you are almost ready to serve the rib, cut the apple into chunks about the same size as the celery (around 1cm). Then mix the apple, celery and walnuts in a bowl with enough mayonnaise to bind the mixture together; now season to taste. Cut the bacon ribs into slices and serve with the salad on the side.

Pork cheeks with barley and fennel risotto

Serves 4

Good butchers and decent supermarkets now quite often sell pork cheeks. They're a great cut of pure meat and they have natural marbling, so they stay moist during slow cooking.

500-600g pork cheeks, cut into 4-5cm chunks or left whole if small
60g butter
1tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, peeled, halved and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g flour, plus some for dusting
500ml dry cider or white wine
1ltr chicken stock
½ bulb of fennel simmered gently until tender in 1ltr of chicken stock (reserve the chicken stock)
½tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil

For the risotto

½ bulb of fennel, finely diced
80g butter
60g pearl barley, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
The chicken stock from the cooked fennel

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Pork cheeks with barley and fennel risotto (Jason Lowe)

Season and lightly flour the pork cheeks. Heat a heavy frying pan with one tablespoon of vegetable oil and fry the cheeks on a high heat for a few minutes, browning them on all sides, then drain on some kitchen paper.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and gently cook the onion for 2-3 minutes until soft; add the flour and cook on a low heat for a minute, then gradually add the cider or wine, and the stock. Bring to the boil, add the pork cheeks, season and simmer gently for about 1-1½ hours, or until the cheeks are tender.

The sauce should have reduced; if not, remove the cheeks and simmer the sauce until thick, then return the cheeks to it.

While the meat is cooking, melt a knob of the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the diced fennel for a couple of minutes without colouring. Stir in the pearl barley, then gradually add the stock the fennel was cooked in, stirring every so often, for about 20 minutes, or until the barley is cooked; re-season, then remove from the heat and stir in the rest of the butter.

While the risotto cooks, cut the cooked fennel bulb into four wedges, heat the rapeseed oil in a heavy pan and fry the fennel on both sides until lightly coloured.

To serve, reheat the risotto, adding a little more stock if necessary, spoon on to warmed serving plates, spreading it around. Spoon the cheeks and sauce into the centre with the wedges of fennel.

Guanciale and bubble and squeak soda farl

Serves 4

If possible, use Peter's Great Taste Award-winning guanciale.

4 soda farls
8-12 slices of guanciale
125-150g new potatoes, cooked
200g spring greens, cooked and chopped
6 spring onions, trimmed
100g podded peas, cooked and chopped
100g broad beans, cooked and chopped
1tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp vegetable oil

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Guanciale and bubble and squeak soda farl (Jason Lowe)

Chop the potatoes, greens, onions, peas and beans and toss with the parsley. Mould the mixture into 4 patties. Heat the oil in a pan and cook until golden.

In another pan, cook the guanciale until crisp; keep warm. Halve the farls, toast, and assemble.

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