GOING GAGA FOR RARE BREEDS

Sourcing quality meats is now more important than ever, with the provenance of everything on our plates a hot topic.

We caught up with Nick and Jon Francis, first generation farmers from Paddock Farm, just outside Stratford-Upon-Avon, to find out a bit more about the pork offered on the menu of both The Garden Room and The Potting Shed at Dormy House…

What inspired you to start farming pigs?

“We were interested in pigs for two main reasons: firstly, pigs are such fascinating animals to keep; secondly, they can produce such delicious and versatile meat. We weren’t disappointed on either count.”

Was there a pivotal moment when you knew the business was really going to take off?

“When we got the deal to supply all of the sausages for Raymond Blanc’s flagship Le Manoir aux Quat ‘Saisons we knew we were onto something. They had to go through lengthy taste tests and chef panels and in the end they came out top of all the competitors and we got the deal. Tell us about a normal day on the farm for you both. What do you get up to? There isn’t really a normal day–we are very fortunate for this. Because we manage the whole process on our farm, from breeding the piglets right through to butchering, selling and delivering the meat, our tasks and challenges are very varied. On top of this we run a busy retail butchery so our jobs involve a bit (or a lot) of everything.”

Out of the rare breeds you could have chosen, why did you choose Tamworth pigs?

“We were drawn to both the history of the breed and the reputation of the meat. It’s the oldest indigenous breed in the UK which makes it very suited to our outdoor free-range farm, plus there is no breed which can equal it for the quality of its meat.”

How many pigs do you keep?

“At any one time we have around 700 pigs on the farm. We have the largest herd of Tamworth pigs in the UK (and probably the world!)–but in commercial terms we are still a very small pig farm.”

How do you get such flavoursome, tender meat?

“To get the best meat you’ve got to start with the best pigs and then you’ve got to feed them the best feed and give them the best life possible. Healthy, happy pigs produce the best pork.”

What’s your favourite cut, and what would you pair it with?

“My favourite cut is the spare-rib section of the shoulder. On a Tamworth we get some excellent intramuscular fat and marbling here so it’s really tasty and succulent. At this time of year, I’d pair it with some foraged wild garlic, parsnip and a nice acidic sauce.”

What should we look for when buying pork?

“You should always look out for a deep red colour to the meat, a nice bit of fat and firm dry skin. Is there a secret to making great crackling? There’s no secret. If you’re using our Tamworth you’ll get perfect crackling every time! You’re a member of the Slow Food Movement.”

Why did you join?

“They invited us to be part of their Forgotten Foods campaign, raising awareness of rare, unusual or forgotten ingredients. Slow Food do some great work and their ethos matches ours so we were happy to be involved.”

Do we have to go to a restaurant to find your pork?

“We’ve recently opened our new retail butchery so you can come to Paddock Farm Butchery in Brailes to pick up some of our wonderful pork! If you’re further afield we sell it through our website.”

What’s next for Paddock Farm?

“We’re developing some really excellent charcuterie from our pigs, so look out for that soon. Our finnocchiona salami is amazing! We love a good fun fact.”

Can you leave us with one about pigs?

“All our pigs are named after friends or famous people – our most productive sow is Lady Gaga. She has always raised big strong litters of piglets!”

Visit the Paddock Farm Butchery in Lower Brailes, or buy their meat online at the website. Alternatively, book your table at The Garden Room or The Potting Shed at Dormy House Hotel & Spa direct online to experience locally sourced high-quality meat.