‘Wee cows’ punch well above their weight when it comes to flavour

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Dexter cattle are a native breed to Ireland and recognised as one of the smallest in the world.

What they lack in stature, their meat more than makes up for in the taste department.

They were introduced to England in 1882 and then virtually disappeared from Ireland. Fortunately it was still maintained as a pure breed in a number of small herds in England and also in the US.

Damien and Jackie Tumelty raise these “wee cows” and sell the meat in markets around the country under their Castlescreen Farm brand.

Today they’ll be at the Causeway Speciality Market in Coleraine from 10am, with a range of cuts from steaks to sausages, braising meat and vegetable roll.

Vegetable roll hasn’t had a great image over the years but it’s something unique to here that can be absolutely delicious when made properly.

Damien and Jackie’s version is 63% beef and 35% vegetables and is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. It has a depth of flavour that should be celebrated and not relegated to an afterthought in a fry up. One of my go to comfort meals is some of Castlescreen Farm’s vegetable roll, fried, served with mash and turnip and a liberal dash of brown sauce on the side.

If I want to gentrify this humble product I convert it into a hash, wrapped in crispy potato, topped with a fried quail egg from Ballinteer Farm in Macosquin (you’ll find them next door to Castlescreen at the market) and served with homemade brown sauce.

I teach one day a week on the professional cookery course in Northern Regional College in Ballymoney. One of my students, Gaetano Bonora is originally from the Puglia region of Italy and runs a fresh pasta company called La Dolce Via.

He sells his spaghetti, tagliatelle and lasagne, with fresh sauces at the Causeway Speciality market.

I’ve added a recipe for Dexter beef ragu that would be perfect with some of his fresh noodles.

Gaetano’s father is a farmer who grows fruit and vegetables back in Italy. His mother makes jam from the fruit and her apricot variety is incredible – it captures the essence of an Italian summer in a jar.

We serendipitously discovered in class that this jam and new season English rhubarb are a match made in heaven.

My last recipe is for a crostata – an Italian tart layered with apricot jam and rhubarb and topped with a lattice of the buttery pastry.

Gaetano will have some of this elusive elixir for sale today in Coleraine – grab it while you can!

You could do worse today than make the trip to this market on the wonderful north coast and sample beef from ancient cattle, fantastic local produce and a dash of Mediterranean charm.