The Menu is delighted to continue to bring glad tidings of innovations from the Irish food world as businesses seek alternative routes to market during these challenging times.
The country’s most iconic food market, The English Market, remains open for daily trading, with the 30-plus independent food businesses continuing to offer a superb range of fresh Irish produce including freshly-caught fish and seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables, local farm reared meat and poultry, and a cornucopia of finest Irish specialty produce and an equally attractive range of imported delicacies.
Free city centre parking and keenly observed social distancing, and safety and security measures in the market itself all make for comparatively stress-free food shopping in fraught times.
For those entirely confined to barracks, many market traders have also introduced home delivery and online ordering and contactless collection services. (Open, Monday to Saturday, 8am-6pm. www.englishmarket.ie and @theenglishmarketcork on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.)
With the entire country having turned into one great big sourdough starter, anyone looking for a few pointers might well be interested in logging on for Chicco Foods’ new Zoom Sourdough bread baking classes.
Chicco post out a starter kit including a jar of their own starter, rye flour feeder and 1500gm of Strong Bread Flour (sufficient for three loaves) and a step-by-step instruction leaflet.
Classes are then conducted as four short interactive sessions over two days. Starter kit available from Neighbourfood Kinsale (€22) or directly by post (€25). Email: email@example.com
One of the original Irish craft butchers to offer a national online shopping service delivered to the door, James Whelan Butchers are offering a variation on that theme with a new local next-day delivery service (Tuesday to Saturday), free on all offers over €50, to anyone within a 15km radius of any JWB shop in Ireland, an special boon for those cocooning and hankering after, say, some fine Irish beef but unable to go to the shops. www.jameswhelanbutchers.com
COOKING THE BOOKS
Dearbhla Reynolds’ The Cultured Club (Gill Books) is no venerable classic from the vaults — indeed, it is still basking in the glow of the very warm welcome that greeted its publication in 2016 — but its central themes of preserving and even improving on the nutritional potency of fresh produce is especially appropriate for the times we are currently living through.
Equally, fermenting food opens up a new world of flavours, tastes and textures, elevating familiar ingredients and, in the process, creating superfoods that truly realise the potential of food as medicine.
If ever there was a book to guide novices into broadening their culinary horizons, it is TCC as Reynolds exhibits her passion for her chosen metier with a friendly charm that leaps off the pages in clear, concise and easily comprehended prose.
She is equally adept as a teacher, starting each chapter with clear, concise explanation, delivering recipes that commence with the ‘ur-recipe’, then building on that foundation.
Recipes range far and wide: sauerkrauts; vegetable ferments; condiments, dips, and tapenades; dairy and nut milk ferments; grains; beverages and vinegars. The list goes on, for an entirely fermented menu: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between.
TCC is far from the only book I’ve read on fermentation but the first to truly place it in an Irish context and, were I to compile a list of ten essential books for the Irish cook, professional or domestic, it would be one of my very first choices — I think that is pretty much the definition of a classic cookbook.
Read the extended version of this review at https://josephd mcnamee.com/2020/04/28/cook book-review-the-cultured-club/
Even if the jar contained no more than gravel, guts and smelly old garters, The Menu was always going to fall for the name, ‘Irish Black Butter’ stirring up all manner of wild and random notions but, of course, there is no dairy produce involved at all, fruit butter being fruit cooked down to a pureed paste.
But that still didn’t prepare The Menu for his first sampling of Alistair Bell’s extraordinary creation, produced in his home in Portrush, in Co Antrim, and starring justly renowned Armagh Bramley apples.
It begins with the magnificent mouthfeel, a gratuitously sumptuous liquid fudge, that almost immediately threatened to have a rapidly glazing over Menu irretrievably and most blissfully mired forever in intoxicating treacly toffee-like notes spiked with liquorice until the taste finally resolved with a gentle wake up call courtesy of Bramley tartness and softly bracing heat of brandy.
Naturally, The Menu took to running the metaphorical streets with his tail on fire, unhinged with wild-eyed enthusiasm, his mind racing over potential epicurean pairings, beginning with the obvious: ice creams and confectionaries, meats and cheeses, that class of thing.
Then he began to explore the far fringes: how would a miniscule dab marry with the silky, saline purity of a fresh scallop? What would it add to a whiskey cocktail? If he smeared it all over his arm, would he eat it through to the bone?
The Menu compiled quite a list by the time he had finished the entire jar, one remorseless spoonful after another until the metal implement scraped right through the glass at the bottom. (www.irishblackbutter.com)
Contact The Menu at themenu@ examiner.ie
Also, download the entirely free EatForIreland app connecting the Irish food world (independent producers, growers, hospitality outlets and food retailers) to prospective food shoppers, especially those cocooning at home.(eatforireland.ie)