In the run up to St Patrick's Day celebrations on the 17th March, we spent some time with Richard Corrigan, originally from County Meath in Ireland. Richard is now one of the most distinguished figures on the British culinary scene and will be returning to our TV screens as a judge on the upcoming Great British Menu.
Here he chats to Mecca about St Patrick's Day celebrations from his childhood, how he celebrates the day at his London restaurants and we explore his love of Irish food and farming.
Can you tell us about celebrating St Patrick’s Day when you were young?
St Patrick’s Day was treated like a relaxed Sunday and a real family affair. You’d go off to church and when you came back there’d be a little bit of boiled gammon or a boiled piece of ham. It was always simple and delicious but very family orientated. My parents weren’t great drinkers and weren’t really pub goers as such, so it would always be celebrated around the house, with friends, family and lots of children.
And how do you celebrate St Patrick’s Day now?
It’s always a very atmospheric day now. It’s slightly enhanced for people living outside of Ireland or Irish people living abroad and we want to make it even more special for them. I’m always working on St Patrick’s Day. We always have a big breakfast with friends here at Corrigans of Mayfair. We have a very civilised lunch, that runs through to a very busy and fun evening full of laughter and great characters. I probably know everyone that’s in my restaurant on St Patrick’s Day – it’s a strange thing to say.
Last year people were with us until 3 or 4 in the morning in the Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill singing songs. I don’t know how many bottles of champagne we drank but I remember waking up the next morning thinking “I’m glad this only happens once a year”.
What are some of your favourite traditional Irish recipes?
Every year I do my beautiful Irish stew which I’ve been making for about 22 years now. I use scrag end, neck or lamb shoulder on the bone. I poach the whole thing and it’s delicious. I always use my Tipperary bacon which is sent to me before St Patrick’s Day from Crowe’s butchery, in Dundrum down in County Tipperary.
They’re an extraordinary family of butchers and are probably one of the only family pork farmers with their own abattoir as well. It’s good to see a family survive like that. They’re really amazing people, as governments have always been very keen to close down small abattoirs and put them into big centralised units. They always send me a lovely shoulder of bacon over. It’s incredible and the dry curing they do is very special. I just love it, I love it, I love it, I love it!