A taste of Northern Ireland

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As the final stages of the Clipper 2013-14 Race approach, restaurant owner Lawrence Lingard, a round the world crew member on Qingdao, continues his culinary world tour in Derry-Londonderry - a city as rich in heritage as it is in its hospitality.

The River Foyle provided the perfect backdrop as Lawrence met local chef Emmett McCourt, who has spent the last five years researching, and writing ‘Feast or Famine’, a historical cookery book which provides an insight into the native food heritage of Northern Ireland.

You can follow Lawrence on twitter, here.

The chefs met to discuss a recipe that best depicted the city’s rich history. The chefs were unanimous, choosing the newly revived dish known as Cruibins (pigs trotters) stuffed with a chicken mousse made from minced chicken, egg white and cream and served with fresh scone bread and the obligatory shot of Guinness.

“I really couldn’t believe it when I started to look at Emmett’s recipes. For me you have to understand where and why dishes have developed to truly be able to appreciate it and enjoy it,” added Lawrence.

In Derry-Londonderry, pigs have been reared and exported since the 1700s. The port of Derry- Londonderry and its geographical location has benefited from the export and import of many foods, in particular pork.

Emmett went onto explain, “Killing of the pig in Ireland was a day of great celebration; all parts were used in cooking. Derry has always been famous for its pork, the very popular Pork Store “Biggers” sold all cuts including the feet and the scratchings. Everything but the Squeal.”

Emmett explained the local connection with the unique serving method of the trotters on a 9,000 year old piece of bog oak with a shot of Guinness. “You often go to these gastro pubs or trendy bars and see food served on a wooden platter. Well the word Doire is Gaelic and means ‘oak Grove’ or city of the oak so I always like to serve food on old bog oak which has been preserved for thousands of years in the local bogs. The oak is cleaned and treated with bees wax before we use it; it ties in perfectly with the heritage of the city and the cuisine that I serve.”

Lawrence went onto say: “It has been so interesting learning about the rich heritage of the Northern Irish food, how the dish of Cruibin originated out of sheer desperation when the disaster of the potato famine meant people literally had nothing to eat -it came down to being resourceful and surviving. 

“What Emmett has done is really inspiring – he’s linking the past with the future and getting a new generation excited about the food their ancestors used to eat.”

To make the dish the pigs trotters are soaked for 24 hours in advance. Once ready seasonal vegetables are then fried alongside the pig trotters and wine is added before the liquid is reduced. Stock and a thyme leaf is added before it is brought to the boil, and then removed from the heat, covered and then placed in the oven for three hours to cook. 

The trotters were then laid flat before being stuffed with the chicken mousse, wrapped in tin foil and set aside in the fridge to cool for 15 minutes. Trotters were then poached for a further15 minutes before being unwrapped and served with scone bread.

Emmett McCourt’s new recipe book, ‘Feast or Famine’ is on sale now in all good book stores.