Rib-eye from Roscommon takes the European Angus honours

Supreme Champion: Padraic Gilligan of Gilligan Farm Fresh Meats, Roscommon (third from left) picked up the Supreme Champion title at the 2015 European Angus Steak Tasting Competition sponsored by Devenish. Gilligan Farm Fresh Meats also won best Fillet steak, best Sirloin steak and best Rib-eye steak in the Over 15 Employees Category of the Steak Tasting Competition. Pictured with Padraic are, from left, Harry McGaffin, secretary of the European Angus Cattle Society, Paula McIntyre, head judge and Simon Caughey of sponsors, Devenish.
Supreme Champion: Padraic Gilligan of Gilligan Farm Fresh Meats, Roscommon (third from left) picked up the Supreme Champion title at the 2015 European Angus Steak Tasting Competition sponsored by Devenish. Gilligan Farm Fresh Meats also won best Fillet steak, best Sirloin steak and best Rib-eye steak in the Over 15 Employees Category of the Steak Tasting Competition. Pictured with Padraic are, from left, Harry McGaffin, secretary of the European Angus Cattle Society, Paula McIntyre, head judge and Simon Caughey of sponsors, Devenish.

Last Saturday night an award’s ceremony was held in the Bannville House Hotel in Banbridge for the European Angus Cattle Society’s steak tasting competition.

Sponsored by Devenish, this was the fifth year of the event and attracted entries from all over Ireland.

European Angus is a breed in it’s own right and is a cross between Angus and Limousin, although the percentage can’t go below 50% on the Angus side. The result of the cross is you achieve the eating quality of the Angus and the carcass quality of the Limousin.

An initial judging wittled the steak entries down to the top two fillets, sirloins and rib-eyes and my very difficult job was to pick the top one. The winner was a rib-eye from Gilligan Farm Fresh meat in Roscommon.

At the judging in the outstanding Loughry College in Cookstown, the society also had the genius plan of inviting the Women’s Institute to moderate the added value meat products (a new category for this year) and the Young Farmer’s of Collone group to do the same for the burger and sausage category.

I was in the room with the WI and they were exemplary in their assessments – fair, open, honest and organised.

As Harry McGaffin from the society said: “They’re not behind the door when it comes to telling it how it is!”

Maybe we should let the WI run the country for a few years? Open, transparent, honest, no nonsense, organised economically and socially – what more would we ask for in a government?

The tastings were all done anonymously, and one entry that caught my eye (I wasn’t judging this category but was a tasting observer), and that of the WI, was a beef sausage roll and a steak pie, that turned out to be from H and J Carnduff in Newtownards. They won third and first respectively for these products and collected the added value product champion prize outright.

A beef sausage roll is an inspired idea and this particular one was so tasty with crisp, buttery pastry. The pie was a triumph and I’m planning a trip to Newtownards to pick some up.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try the sausages on the night of judging – at that stage I had tried a piece of over 50 added value products and couldn’t, in any shape or form, eat any more.

The Young Farmers took the judging very seriously and even split into groups with the younger members having an older and more sausage and burger savvy, member as a mentor. You can check out all the winners on www.europeanangus.co.uk.

Gary Scott, the chef in Sally McNally’s restaurant in Markethill, did a sterling job of cooking all the products – no mean feat given the amount of entries. He also knows how to cook a rare steak properly.

This week’s recipe is for beef sausages with a homemade brown sauce. My mum taught in a school outside Maghera when I was young and she always got meat from McKee’s in the town. Their beef sausages were (and still are) beautiful – rich, succulent and meaty. Beef sausages and brown sauce are great together and this is the inspiration for this week’s recipe. All the sweet, sour flavours of brown sauce, added to beef sausages in a casserole.

I got a photo/text from my friend and Strangford leek grower supremo, Roy Lyttle, this week of his tractor planting the new season leeks on his farm. The image of his sloping, furrowed field is an enticing herald of the delicious future harvest.

Beef and leeks are a classic combination and my other recipe is for leek mash- buttery leeks and a dash of cream, folded into fluffy mash. The calendar might say spring but the temperature gage is firmly stuck in Winter, so make the most of it with warming sausages and mash.