‘Sweet, juicy beef’ from Co Down wins top Great Taste award

Hannan Meats first company to win top prize for a second time as Dunnes Stores sticky toffee pudding takes Republic of Ireland award

Hannan Meats in Moira, Co Down, has become the first company to win the Great Taste Awards supreme championship for a second time. The awards have been running for 22 years and attract more than 10,000 entries competing to be named the best food product in the UK and Ireland.

In 2012 Peter Hannan’s company won the accolade for a pork product, Moyallon Guanciale, and at a gala dinner in London on Monday night it scooped the top award again, this time for Glenarm Shorthorn four-rib roast, a beef joint dry-aged for a minimum of 28 days in a Himalayan salt chamber at the company’s base in Northern Ireland.

Hannan, who held key roles in the Seamus Purcell meat export empire in the early 1980s before setting up his own company, has spent more than a decade perfecting this method of maturing beef, which results in a sweet, clean tasting beef with very little spoilage. London restaurateur Mark Hix was one of the first chefs to use the beef, which now has an international reputation and is exported as far afield as Hong Kong.

Highest score

“We hadn’t contemplated for a moment that a piece of beef would go and win the Great Taste awards and we were well taken by surprise,” said Hannan, whose product was the highest scoring supreme champion in the history of the competition.

“Out of a possible 80 points, the 16 judges, who had five marks apiece, gave it 79 out of 80. They said it was the highest scoring supreme champion in all of their time and it got 15 fives and a four.”

The competition is judged by more than 400 food industry professionals, food writers and chefs, and every product is blind tasted at regional and national level. A final panel of 16 judges, which this year included TV chef and author Valentine Warner, restaurant critic Charles Champion, and food buyers from Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason, decide on eight regional award winners as well as the supreme champion.

The winning beef was commended for its “sweet, juicy and oozy flavour that travels through the meat and fat”, and the final judging panel commented that they “couldn’t believe that beef could taste to good”. It can be purchased from The Meat Merchant, the retail shop at the Hannan Meats headquarters in Moira, Co Down.

Rep of Ireland prize

Hannan's product also took the Northern Ireland title, and the regional winner for the Republic of Ireland was Simply Better Irish Handmade Sticky Toffee Pudding, made for Dunnes Stores by What's For Pudding, in Kilmessan, Co Meath.

Each of the puddings the company supplies to Dunnes Stores is made in small batches of 54 at a time by Catriona Flaherty, her son Rory, who is a building surveyor by profession, and his fiancée Anna Townsend. The judges remarked on the "superb execution" of the classic pudding.

Last year's Great Taste supreme champion was also from Ireland. Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers, who took the title with his Irish beef dripping, was a finalist again this year with his Heritage Cure Ham, along with Holycross Original Butterscotch Sauce, made by The Tipperary Kitchen in Thurles.

Following the awards, Peter Hannan said: "The phones never stopped until four this morning and we were on the go again at seven. There has been a huge reaction."

He described the win as “a huge boost to the 120 farmers who work diligently to produce the beef to our spec. The Glenarm Shorthorn has taken us quite some time to bring it back to greatness. When we started with it, it was in a pretty low place and our partners in Glenarm Shorthorn, the Glenarm Estate, have invested heavily in the best bulls and the best husbandry . . . the attention to detail to bring it where it is now has been mighty. There isn’t a short cut to that. We are getting the correct finish on our beef now, the right amount of marbling, the right amount of fat.

“ It’s a model for the future of beef production on the island of Ireland that really works. You can never make food too good, so never stop trying to make it a bit better,” he said.