If Wilson has a mission with The Ginger Pig Meat Book, it is to explain to people about the flavour – and the value – in these animal breeds. This is not quickly-grown, mass produced meat. Wilson documents a year’s worth of work and careful husbandry on the farms, talks about the arrival of new stock, the heartbreak of losing animals and making three-tiered savoury pie wedding cakes. For someone used to the size of Irish farms, the sheer scale of the business is breathtaking. Grange Farm alone, which is where Wilson started out, is 280 acres, plus another 1800 acres of grazing on heather moorland. In January he mentions that they have to look after “140 chickens, 58 pigs, 320 ewes, 400-500 baby lambs in the barns, more than 1,000 sheep in the fields, two Riggit bulls, 10 cows and 2 baby calves, not forgetting my dog Brisket…my sheepdog Mickey and the kittens.”
But the recipes are the real treasure in this book. The first part is all about explaining different cuts of meat, with plenty of diagrams and lots of recommendations of what to use for different recipes. I particularly liked the steak section, with more information on my current favourite cut: bavette, as enjoyed recently in Electric. Wilson is also a fan of my favourite bronze turkeys and his recipe for Citrus Roast Festive Turkey looks worth a try.
Like Wilson’s text, the recipes follow the farming year, starting in September with warming dishes like Meatballs in Tomato Sauce and Braised Spanish Pork and moving towards lighter ideas such as Spring Beef Pasta (poach a sirloin steak on top of your boiling pasta) or Wokked Duck and Greens. He is very proud of their sausages – check out the sausage guide online – and use some good quality local-to-you ones to try things like Sausage and Butterbean Pot, Chilli Sausage and Beans or start from scratch to make Ginger Pig Sausage Roll. There is little waste: recipes for Rillettes, Pork and Maderia Pâté, Lamb’s Kidneys in Rich Red Wine Sauce and Lamb’s Liver with Sage see to that.
While not everyone has a Ginger Pig butcher nearby, Wilson very much encourages you to engage with your own local butcher and, with this book in hand, you’ll have the knowledge to look for exactly what you want. An educational and tasty read.
Must Try: with weather as autumnal as we’ve been getting recently, ‘Lamb Henrys’ with Beans are on the list of future dinners, as is Slow Roast Belly of Pork. And how could I resist Bogota Bavette of Beef?
The Ginger Pig Meat Book by Tim Wilson and Fran Warde is published by Mitchell Beazley.