There have been many mixed blessings during lockdown for the small and medium-sized producers of finest Irish fare and while many suddenly found their route to market either interrupted or sometimes ended altogether, a wonderful combination of determination and innovation found many finding alternative routes but it is good to report that one of the primary sources for the very best of Irish food, the farmers’ markets have begun the slow, careful process of reopening for business once more.
It will of course take time, probably a long time indeed, before they ever return to business as entirely usual but that same aforementioned spirit of innovation and determination will ensure that creative solutions are found to provide a safe shopping environment for all.
Mahon Point Farmers’ market, in Cork city, resumed trading last Thursday, and the Coal Quay Market, Bantry market, Macroom market and Skibbereen market are also back on track with others around the country, including the very wonderful Limerick Milk Market, are also resuming restricted trading.
Check online to see if your local market is back and open but if you are still nervous about venturing out or restricted through health reasons, neighbourfood.ie continues to offer a very viable alternative.
A good bottle is never far from hand whenever The Menu sets to putting on the nosebag so he is happy to point out that The Wine Buff are offering free nationwide delivery on any order of more than three bottles, from their range of sustainably farmed wines from family-run vineyards.
In addition, they offer a pre-pay collection service, with all transactions conducted over the phone and then delivery direct to your car boot from any of their nationwide chain of wine stores. www.thewinebuff.com/Our-Shops
There has been a huge surge in ‘home education’ over the last couple of months and amongst current offerings is a Digital School of Food, courtesy of Local Enterprise Offices, an online food programme entrepreneurs expert advice and guidance, an e-learning initiative commencing with idea conception through to start-up and getting to market and then the various stages of growing a successful food business.
Various experts address product development, finance, sales growth and business expansion and each course is bolstered by a real producer offering tips and advice, as well as contributions from trade buyers and the very wonderful Domini Kemp of ITSA Food Group along with other food producers who have previously been through the system.
On completion, participants are then able to move on the the LEO Food Starter programme and subsequently the Food Academy. www.digitalschooloffood.ie
Cappagh Hospital Foundation, which fundraises for the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh’s development, research, education, teaching, training and the provision of strategic patient support programmes, has launched a new social media fundraising campaign ‘Kitchen Creations for Cappagh Kids’, calling on the home cooks to share their own creations on social media for a good cause.
Dishes, sweet or savoury, must include some dairy to be in with a chance of winning prizes from the National Dairy Council, with all participants asked to donate €5 to the fund, with a €500 One4All voucher as first prize. (www.chf.ie/support-us/kitchen-creations-for-cappagh-kids/)
Urru Culinary Store, in Bandon, a place that The Menu is most especially fond of, in no small part due to proprietor Ruth Healy’s wide-ranging knowledge and passion for food, reflected in a store that provides an excellent range of locally sourced produce, always splendid cheeses and some very tasty deli treats, as well as cooking equipment and a most judiciously selected library of cookbooks.
Urru has continued to trade throughout the crisis, adapting to the current restricted trading guidelines and also ensuring an increased online presence for online browsing. www.urru.ie/collections/kitchen-cupboard
Midleton-based Green Saffron have long traded online, selling their various spice blends, but have now added Green Saffron Curry Feast Boxes to the collection with a Vegetarian Box (€20) containing all the necessaries (rice, vegetables, spices etc) for a vegetable curry (six blends to choose from) and a ‘Meat Box’ (€20) containing all needed to turn your own meat into a meat curry (Korma, Madras and Tikka). Also check out proprietor Arun Kapil’s online cookery classes. www.greensaffron.com/product/curry-in-a-box
As is well known to one and all, The Menu is part man, part bread and since the beginning of lockdown has become ever more so, baking, on an almost daily basis, sourdough loaves, yeast breads, baguettes and other specialty breads.
He puts his ever increasing success down to his discovery of Durrow Mills’ organic sprouted flours, a range of flours produced by Lisa Larkin whereby grains are first hydrated to begin ‘sprouting’, in other words, beginning the process of germination which breaks down certain toxins and in the grain and increases the bio-availability of minerals and other nutrients, as it becomes more akin to digesting plants rather than grain, making it especially beneficial for those who normally struggle with eating wheat.
The range also includes sprouted buckwheat flour which makes for extraordinarily good savoury crepes, now a regular breakfast item Chez Menu, but it is the Baker’s Mix, a blend of flours that is superb in breads and pizza bases, with The Menu always employing at least some in his own flour blends to ensure a gorgeously springy crust and an unsurpassable depth of flavour. www.durrowmills.com