Friday, December 23, 2016

The Cork tradition of spiced beef is the order of the day in the English Market, we speak to a couple of traders and soaked up the atmosphere. Video by Dan Linehan
It has become an integral part of Christmas dinner for many, with butcher Tom Durcan doubling his staff to meet the demand.

“We will sell 11 tonnes of it over the counter in the market before Christmas,” he said.

“Trying to physically get over the mountain of meat to reach the counter is proving a problem at the moment!”

Tom Durcan and staff, from left, Adrian Hughes, Joleen Cronin, Charlie Moloney, Yvonne and Tom Durcan, Colm Donovan, Marguerite Uragay and John Durcan. Christmas at the English Market in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Currently, nine people are manning the stall in the English Market. A typical day during the year would see just four. 

The packed Olive store in the Market. Picture Dan Linehan

Staff will be working right up until late afternoon on Christmas Eve in a bid to meet the demand for Christmas dinners. 

“It’s not just turkey anymore,” Mr Durcan said

The Chicken Inn staff on their 61st Christmas in the English Market, included are Stevie Daly, John Murphy, Chris Zgraizczynski, Tim, Mary and Jack Mulcahy. Picture Dan Linehan

“Roast beef on the bone is absolutely huge this year and there’s glazed hams too, which are very popular.” 

As for his own dinner, Mr Durcan sticks with turkey and ham.

“But it’s spiced beef and scrambled eggs for breakfast,” he added.

Spiced beef isn’t just a Cork tradition anymore, with Mr Durcan renowned nationally for the meat. He starts the curing process in October to create the taste that people look for.

“People use it for anything. We have three types — the regular one for boiling, carpaccio for salads and cooked lumps. I even have one guy that buys it to put on pizza.”

Jack and Mary Mulcahy in the Market since 1955. Christmas at the English Market in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Mr Durcan has even had requests for spiced beef sausages. 

“They might be ready for Christmas 2017,” he said.

“People love it — it’s the smell of it. It’s not Christmas until you smell spiced beef.”

Other traders in the market are reporting a big upturn in business in recent weeks too.

Fishmonger Pat O’Connell said: “There is a fantastic buzz in the market this year. People seem to be under less financial pressure and it has really lightened the mood all over the city.”

He said that people have strayed from traditional Christmas staples like turkey and ham in recent years.

“That has changed in the last five or six years,” Mr O’Connell said.

“The numbers having fish have gone through the roof— smoked salmon for breakfast, prawns to start or turbot and black sole as a main, there’s a lot of variety.”

Pat O’Connell at work on the fish counter at Kay O’Connell’s in the Market. Picture Dan Linehan

He said the weather has played an important role this year, allowing them to get huge numbers of quality fish and enticing even more people into town to shop. 

“It takes all the stress off,” he said.

As for his own Christmas dinner, Mr O’Connell enjoys a traditional one.

“Prawns to start, some turkey for the main. I suppose I’ll have a bit of Tom Durcan’s spiced beef too — it’s a Cork tradition after all.”

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