ANDREW and Leonie Workman from Dunany in Co Louth are unique: they grow, mill, pack and distribute their organic spelt, rye and wheat from their farm.
They’ve only been selling their produce for a year and a half and already it has developed quite a following. Recently they came down to Ballymaloe Cookery School to tell their story at a Slow Food event.
Andrew and Leonie met at agricultural college in the UK and then returned to Ireland to their family farm where they farmed conventionally for 23 years. Gradually it became more challenging as the cost of fertilisers increased and they became aware and concerned about the damage they were doing to the environment and the land.
In 2004 they embarked on a tour of organic farms in Ireland and the UK and after much soul searching, picked up the courage to convert to organic. They went into conversion in 2004.
A couple of tough years ensued, their yields dropped by two thirds, but they were still getting conventional prices and couldn’t charge the organic premium until 2006 when they were fully certified with the Organic Trust.
Gradually the wildlife and birds returned to the farmlands and now there are kites, kestrels, buzzards, barn owls, sea otters, and they have even spotted a pole cat. A natural harmony has returned to the landscape.
Initially they grew organic grain for animal feed, but then prices fell in the UK, so understandably their customers started to import the cheaper grain.
A new direction was needed so they decided to grow rye, spelt and wheat for flour; traditionally rye was grown for thatching in Ireland, it grows 5ft tall and a field of willowy rye rippling in the breeze is a beautiful sight. Initially it was milled in the local White River watermill in Dunleer.
However, when the river was low, milling became problematic so they sourced a stone mill through connections in Poland and Germany and now have a mill on the farm which grinds 50kgs an hour. Andrew and Leonie employ a couple of WOOFERS and now supply up to 50 outlets around the country.
The demand is increasing as more people who have wheat intolerance find they can tolerate spelt without ill effects. Coeliacs, however, cannot eat spelt. Try these easy bread recipes from Dunany.
Debbie Shaw’s Beetroot and Walnut Cake
Walnuts are a great source of omega 3 and omega 6 essential fats. Beetroot is a powerful liver and gall bladder detoxifier and can assist in the elimination of kidney stones. In addition it helps build healthy blood and keeps it clean. It has a high mineral content, including calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and manganese. The leaves are also very nutritious and can be put in salads.
125g (4 ½ oz) fine wholewheat Dunany spelt flour
125g (4 ½ oz) white Dunany spelt flour
1 generous rounded teaspoon of baking powder
1 pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground allspice
125g (4 ½ oz) of Xylo Sweet (available in Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop)
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
260g (9 ½ oz) of beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated (wear plastic gloves)
50g (2oz) of walnuts, chopped
200ml (7floz) sunflower oil
4 free range organic eggs
Crème Fraiche icing (optional)
225g (8oz) Low fat crème fraiche (or low fat cream cheese if unavailable)
50g (2oz) sieved icing sugar
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gasmark 4. Oil and line an 20.5 cm (8”) round or square tin, on the base and the sides with parchment paper.
Sift the flours, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and stir in the ground cinnamon, allspice, Xylo Sweet and grated beetroot. Next stir in the chopped walnuts. Beat the eggs, maple syrup and oil together and stir gently into the dry ingredients until they are combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for 50 minutes, or until a skewer when inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool and make the icing. Whisk the crème fraiche and icing sugar together with an electric beater. Add the lemon juice and rind and spread on top of the cake with a palette knife.
Rye and Caraway Seed Bread
Make 1 loaf or 3 small loaves
12 ozs (350g/3 cups) strong white flour
5 ozs (150g/generous 1 cup) dark rye flour
¾ oz (20g) caraway seeds
1 tsp salt
1 oz (25g) fresh yeast
1½ ozs (45g) butter
1 loaf tin 5 x 8 inches (13 x 20cm) approx. (optional)
Crumble and mix the yeast with ½ pint (300ml/1¼ cups) lukewarm water. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and add the liquid yeast with extra warm water if necessary to make a good soft but not sticky dough. Add butter and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place. Punch down and shape into 2 or 3 loaves. Cover and rise again. Alternatively bake in a well-oiled loaf tin.
Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with poppy seeds and slash the top in a cross with a sharp knife.
Bake at 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 40-45 minutes approx, or until the bread sounds hollow when knocked underneath. For small loaves 25 mins for a loaf in a tin.
Cool on a wire rack.
Rye and Caraway Bread Sticks
1 batch of rye and caraway dough (see recipe)
Preheat the oven to 250C/500F
Divide the dough in 12g (½oz) or 7.5g (¼ozs) balls. Roll each piece into a 25cm (10 inch) or 12cm (5 inch) long piece. Scatter some extra caraway seeds and Maldon sea salt on the worktop and roll the bread stick lightly. Transfer to a heavy baking tray and continue until the tray is full. Spray lightly with a water mister and bake for 7 – 8 minutes or until crisp and golden. Transfer the bread sticks to a wire rack and continue until all the bread sticks are baked.
Dunany’s Irish Soda Bread
275 g (10oz) Dunany wholemeal flour
80g (3oz) strong plain flour
1 tsp bread soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
280ml (½ pint) buttermilk
50g (2oz) mixed seeds — linseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
You will need 1 well-greased 450g (1lb) loaf tin.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190C/375F. Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then beat the egg and buttermilk together and add to the dry ingredients. Mix together well until you have a wet consistency. Transfer the dough into the tin, level the top, sprinkle with seeds and bake in the centre of the oven for 50 – 60 minutes.
Turn it straight out onto the wire rack to cool.
Dunany’s Spelt Bread
700g (1½lb) Dunany’s organic spelt flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp bread soda
400ml (14fl oz) buttermilk
200ml (7fl oz) water
You will need 2 well-greased 500g loaf tins.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C/329F
Combine all the dry ingredients together. Beat the egg into the buttermilk and water and mix into the dry ingredients to a dropping consistency.
Divide the mixture into the loaf tins and put into the pre-heated oven. After 15 minutes turn down the heat of the oven to gas mark 4/150C/302F and bake for a further 30 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Dunany’s Rye Bread
500g (18oz) Dunany organic rye flour
200g (7oz) strong white flour
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp bread soda
350ml (12 fl oz) buttermilk
300ml (12fl oz) water
You will need two well-greased 500g (1lb) loaf tins
Preheat oven to gas mark 7 / 220C / 478F. Mix all dry ingredients together. Beat egg into the buttermilk and add to the dry ingredients. Mix together to make a dropping consistency.
Divide mixture into 2 x 500g (1lb) loaf tins and leave to stand for 30 minutes. Place in a pre-heated oven and bake for 35 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Darina’s Book of the Week
The Food Our Children Eat by Joanna Blythman.
Recent announcement that advertising junk food is banned during children’s programmes on TV is to be welcomed, but it’s only part of the solution to the drastic deterioration in the national diet and the overall cost to the exchequer and taxpayer of the growing obesity problem.
And it starts with our children, so how can we produce children who prefer a mandarin to a gummy bear? The avalanche of clever marketing of supposedly healthy food causes a nightmare scenario for parents who want to escape the junk food treadmill.
Despairing parents of new-borns and toddlers will find award-winning journalist Joanna Blythman’s book The Food our Children Eat inspiring, informative and, best of all, empowering.
It’s published by Harper Perennial for Circa and in my opinion is a ‘must have’.
Follow Joanne’s excellent food blog http:// www.guardian.co.uk/profile/joannablythman
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