Life Food & Drink

Monday 10 December 2018

'We are flat out' - The Irish butcher using Buckfast as a key ingredient

John and Simon Dowey with their Buckfast pasty. Photo: Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph
John and Simon Dowey with their Buckfast pasty. Photo: Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Ivan Little

An Irish butcher is hoping to make a fast buck out of Buckfast.

Simon Dowey is adding the tonic wine to a new range of meaty pasties that could do for an Irish town what deep fried Mars Bars have done for Glasgow.

But Simon, from Lurgan, Co Armagh, says his deli delicacies are more tasteful altogether than the much-mocked Scottish calorie-laden gut-buster.

And he insists that the new Buckfast pasties won't get anyone pie-eyed.

Already the pasties, which sell at £3 (€3.40) each or two for a fiver, are proving to be a recipe for success, with hungry customers gobbling them up in record quick time.

Simon only put them on sale on Thursday and the response has been remarkable, with the sale of the pasties surpassing all his expectations. "We are working flat-out to produce more, but it takes nearly three days to make them," he explained.

The award-winning butcher is loath to talk turkey about everything that goes into his Buckfast pasties.

Quite simply, Simon said: "We have a number of secret ingredients. We don't want people copying us."

But he is happy to chew the fat about how lean steak pieces are marinated in the strong tonic wine before being slowly cooked with handmade puff pastry and a rich onion gravy.

Only small amounts of Buckfast are used in the pasties, similar to the ratio of wine in a beef and red wine sauce, says Simon, who added: "It's seasoned rather than overpowering. You won't get drunk but the Buckfast does give the pasty a distinctive taste, a nice sweet flavour not unlike red wine, I suppose."

The idea for the Buckfast pasties was a slow-burner.

He added: "After the Christmas rush we always start to think about new things, new flavours to offer our customers. One suggestion was that we should put a Lurgan twist to the Cornish pasty - and Buckfast came to mind."

The tonic wine, originally produced by Benedictine monks at Buckfast Abbey in Devon in England, may be a holy spirit of sorts, but it has always had a somewhat unpalatable reputation as a drink that goes down well - some would say too well - in Lurgan.

But a monk-like vow of silence usually greets queries about Lurgan's thirst for 'Buckie'.

It has been reported that the wine accounts for a quarter of all alcoholic drink sold in the town, where it gives milk a run for its money.

Simon says he doesn't know why the drink is such a local favourite. He added: "We are aware that there are a lot of people in Lurgan who enjoy Buckfast."

But the folk who thirst for the 15% tipple aren't necessarily the customers that he is targeting for his unusual new pasties.

"A lot of people's tastes become different as they grow older," he said, adding that he had over 3,000 products in what he calls his "repertoire" in his family's High Street shop that has been trading since 1936.

Taking a butchers at what Simon has to offer shows that one of his mouth-watering - or maybe eye-watering - specials is a chocolate sausage with chilli and beef.

He is now looking for a name for the Buckfast pasties.

He explained: "We toyed with 'Lurgan champagne', but we are open to suggestions." Sales of Buckfast are on the rise, and not just in Lurgan.

That's partly due to the introduction of new 25cl cans and Buckfast's attempts to rebrand the tonic wine as a cocktail and culinary ingredient under the guidance of Michelin-starred TV chef Martin Blunos.

The high-caffeine drink had been made at Buckfast for almost a century, but is now produced under a licence granted by the abbey, and the manufacturers are trying to offload its notoriety for fuelling drunken violence.

However, Simon insists his pasties are unlikely to cause any beefs in Lurgan.

Belfast Telegraph

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