It isn’t every day that an artisan food business in Northern Ireland is invited to develop an original product for diners in his classy restaurant by one of the world’s most respected French chefs.
Alastair Crown, the founder and managing director of Limavady-based Corndale Fa-rm Free Range Charcuterie, was “humbled and thrilled” when celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli first in-vited him to supply his award-winning chorizo and other cured meats for diners at his highly acclaimed Novelli restaurant at City Quays in Belfast.
The 112-seat restaurant opened earlier in the year with a spectacular menu and stunning views of the Belfast waterside.
Novelli subsequently app-roached Alastair to work with his executive head chef Jim Mulholland and his kitchen team on a distinctive house salami for the restaurant.
Alastair first met Jim Mul-holland and Jean-Christophe Novelli at Balmoral Show in 2017. The top chef had been invited along by Food NI.
“They both tried our products and enjoyed them. Jim Mulholland was then the highly regarded head chef at the Ballyrobin Hotel, near Belfast International Airport. He used our cured meats, and we developed a working relationship with him. Jim subsequently joined Jean-Christophe as head chef.
“When they were opening the new restaurant, part of the AC Hotel, we were asked to supply our local free range charcuterie,” Alastair continues.
“After discussing the range with Jim, the idea of a house salami, exclusive to Novelli, was born. We both loved the idea and started to come up with recipes for sampling.
“With the new restaurant being along the quay and where the old dockyard was, Jim thought it would be good to try and capture the history of the docklands in a product exclusive to the restaurant,” he says.
After a bit of brain storming, Jim suggested trying to replicate a traditional Belfast docker’s lunch.
Alastair explains: “The lunch used to consist of a pickled pig’s foot (trotter) and a pint of Guinness (Porter). The pig’s trotter was then a cheap and tasty meal in working class parts of Belfast, especially on the Shankill and docks.
“The concept was there. It was then up to us to come up with a contemporary recipe that would work in a salami. We had to create a quality product in line with other Corndale charcuterie products,” he adds.
After several weeks of testing and recipe development, Alastair produced a unique ham hock and porter salami.
“The salami was quite technically challenging and had a longer process than most salamis,” he continues.
“First we start with our own free range ham hocks. We dry-cure them slowly and carefully in our own dry cure of salt, brown sugar and our own secret blend of aromatics.
“We then bone-out the ham hocks and meticulously remove any sinew or silver skin that can spoil the texture of the salami. Once the ham hock is boned, trimmed and diced the salami process can start.
“The ham hock is added to minced pork shoulder and leg, with a little hard back fat to give a beautifully marbled salami. We season the salami with a delicate blend of herbs and spices and the porter to give a beautiful acidity and a touch of mace for fragrance.
“The salami is then fer-mented and air-dried in our state-of-the-art chambers near our farm for up to 12 weeks. This allows the flavours to develop and mature. The salami is sliced in-house by the chefs at the restaurant to ensure diners are getting the freshest possible and most flavoursome eating ex-perience,” he adds.
The ham hock and porter salami makes up part of the Corndale Charcuterie board now offered at the restaurant. It is accompanied by the company’s fennel & black pepper coppa, Irish Black Butter lomo, chorizo and Corndale’s multi award-winning venison salami. Al-
astair describes the char-cuterie board as “a lovely balance of flavours and textures”.
The new house salami will soon be available in handy retail packs to buy directly from the hotel reception alongside other Corndale charcuterie products.
“The support from the restaurant and the ideas being generated in discussion with the team there are a marvellous boost for our business and a tremendous endorsement of the quality of our charcuterie.
“We are learning a great deal from working so closely with Jean-Christophe, Jim Mulholland at the team at such a prestigious rest-aurant.”
Corndale Free Range Farm
Charcuterie, a Food NI mem-ber company, has won UK
Great Taste, Blas na hEireann and British Cured Meats awards for products, incl-uding its venison salami and chorizo.
Established in 2012 by Mr Crown, an expert in solar heating with a long-standing interest in rearing pigs and food production, Corndale has been at the forefront of the successful revival of traditional meat curing and charcuterie in Northern Ire-land.
In addition to salami and chorizo, the small company, which cures meat from its own herd of heritage pigs, has produced its own bresaola and lomo.
Other new cured meat products developed by the farm-based business include two flavoured salamis – garlic and thyme and orange and cardamom, both of which are aimed at the wholesale market.