Add some buffalo meat to mix things up a bit on the barbecue

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There’s not a thing wrong with putting sausages and burgers on the barbecue but sometimes it’s good to mix things up a bit.

Why not look beyond the normal beef and pork for something a bit different for the grill?

Last week at Antrim Show the food tent was full of the aroma of sizzling buffalo meat from Ballyriff Farm, located at the food of the Sperrins near Ballyronan. Theirs is the only water buffalo farm in Northern Ireland and it’s a protein that’s well worth sussing out.

The meat from these animals has an old fashioned, full flavoured taste. It contains less fat and cholesterol and more protein than beef. Research from Italy has shown that people who substitute water buffalo meat for cattle meat had a marked decrease in cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduced inflammation and lower blood pressure. I for one am not going to argue with those statistics!

Years ago there was a craze for ostrich meat with farms popping up all over the place. Likewise it’s meat was promoted as being ultra healthy but unfortunately it tasted of very little and dried up when you cooked it. Buffalo on the other hand is rich, juicy and has succulent flavours. I used the mince from this meat last weekend to make a ragu to stuff baked onions and I’ve included the recipe this week. Soft onions, roasted to golden and stuffed with unctuous meat and topped with grilled cheese. Do them on the barbecue to impart extra smokiness or just in the oven. They’re great served with some grilled buffalo steak on the side.

You can find Ballyriff Farm on Facebook or the Food NI website for details.

Broughgammon Farm outside Ballycastle, are renowned for their ethical goat meat. They also produce Rose Veal meat from male calves, who like the billy kids, frequently end up incinerated as they’re no use to the dairy industry. Both animals provide deliciously tasty and sustainable meat that we all should be eating.

Rose veal is more delicate than beef but is just so flavoursome and tender. In the winter months the shin can be stewed to make the traditional Italian dish, Osso Bucco but in summer the chops are perfect for the barbecue.

I’ve taken inspiration from the Italians for my other recipe this week. The veal chops are grilled with garlic and rosemary and then wrapped in parma ham for a final grill.

Italian peaches are in the shops now – juicy, fragrant and perfect. They make a refreshing salad, grilled and combined with mozzarella cheese, basil and balsamic to have with the chops. Ballyriff are planning to make mozzarella from their water buffalo milk – another innovative product on the Northern Ireland food scene.

The monthly, award winning Comber Market takes place next Thursday, the 3rd August. They’re celebrating local meat and Forthill Farm from Tandragee, Omagh based Kennedy bacon and Broughgammon Farm will be there with their products. It’s well worth the visit for outstanding food and a great cream tea in St Mary’s Church hall!