The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

By Joe McNamee

Fair festive food

The return of the Contemporary Craft and Design Fair (Dec 5-9) to the RDS offers the opportunity to procure some edible extras for the stocking at the Christmas Food Emporium with over 100 small speciality food producers displaying their wares. They include Menu faves such as Ballyhoura Mushrooms, Burren Smokehouse, Burren Balsamics, biscuit/confectionary from Lismore Food Company, and delicious preserves from the Wild Irish Foragers and Preservers. There’s even a chance to pick up the Christmas turkey from Hogan’s Turkey Farm. (

Learning the job

Dairy farmer’s daughter Cait Healy, inaugural winner of the CIT Market Lane Scholarship 2018, with Conrad Howard, Market Lane Restaurant Group, and Dr Noel Murray, CIT.

In a bid to address a cheffing shortage, a national sous chef apprenticeship has been introduced in what is being dubbed an ‘earn and learn’ honours degree programme, combining their current professional careers with a programme of academic study in an institute of technology. This ensures chefs de partie, currently on the apprenticeship programmes, are brought to a higher level. Applicants must hold a level 7 ordinary degree in culinary arts or equivalent relevant industry experience. ( and

The CIT Market Lane Scholarship, worth €3,000, an annual bursary to aid culinary students with their future studies, returns with the successful candidate to be announced in January. The theme is: Provenance, partnership and promotion. For more, email

Mince pies at Mustard Seed

The wonderful Mustard Seed Country House, in Ballingarry, Co Limerick, offers a December package including mince pies on arrival, four-course dinner, overnight accommodation, and one of the finest breakfasts to be found throughout the land (


The Menu puts last weekend’s sterling triumph over the All Blacks down to steak, specifically, steak from legendary butcher Peter Hannan, whose Himalayan Salt-Aged Beef has achieved justified international renown and top awards for its unique taste and texture, on foot of a 35-day hanging and dry-aging process in specially constructed ‘salt caves’, made from rocks of pure Himalayan salt. Hannan was born and raised in Kildare but Hannan Meats is based in Moira, Co Down. His beef has only recently become more widely available down south through a partnership with James Whelan Butcher, which has just opened a new outlet in Bishopstown Court Shopping Centre.

So how exactly did this beef contribute to this performance for the ages? Well, while The Menu can’t say with certainty that any of the Glorious Gaels at Lansdowne were fuelled by Hannan’s beef, The Menu, two doughty comrades, and a clatter of their progeny most certainly were, courtesy of their own pre-match meal, Chez Menu: Hannan’s salt-aged rib-eye steaks of extraordinary quality, delightfully caramelised exterior, pink and oozing juice within, meat, impossibly tender and most fulsome of flavour, served up with homemade aioli, crisp fries of Tom Clancy’s second setting floury Ballycotton Queens, steamed purple sprouting broccoli, from Ballintubber Farm, all washed down with a majestic Nebbiolo D’Alba, from Curious Wines. 

On foot of that great feast, The Menu and his mob, were worked up to such a fever pitch, that it undoubtedly added a further savage surge of energy to the great national cosmic cyclone that appeared to infuse the players on the night, driving them on to one of the greatest victories in the history of Irish rugby. Well, that’s how The Menu views it at any rate though he fancies he’ll have to eat an entire salt cave’s worth of Hannan’s beef to achieve similar results with the current and greatly benighted Irish football team. (,

Spirit of the week

Teeling Batch No. 1 Single Pot Still Whiskey, 46% ABV, 70cl - €55.00

Stockists: The Loop, Celtic Whiskey Shop, Independents.

Teelings opened their distillery in 2015 in Newmarket Square, a space laid out in Hernry VIII’s time, and this is the first release of a Dublin made whiskey in half a century — “we milled, mashed, fermented, distilled and aged it all ourselves” as Master Blender Alex Chasko put it.

Made from 50-50 malted and unmalted barley and aged in virgin oak, bourbon, wine and sherry casks and with a limited run of just 6,000 bottles and an affordable price of €55. Bright tropical and citrus aromas with a kick of toasted oak mixed with characterful and rounded flavours showing good depth as well as breadth despite its spirity youth. Warmly recommended.

Send food news/events/products to

More on this topic

Bake with Michelle Darmody: Afternoon pick-me-ups

Eat & Move: Derval O'Rourke's healthy, on-the-go, lunch recipes

The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

Cheltenham chippy announces ‘fish and chips bouquet’ as Valentine’s Day special

More in this Section

A fear of regret can lock us into bad relationships, jobs and habits – here's how to break free

Victoria Beckham’s London Fashion Week show was a love letter to femininity

Outside the box: A tale of two Calais and suffering beyond reason

Opening Lines: I feel sorry for the dogs. Even they have a sense of shame about having to poo in public

Latest Showbiz

Demi Isaac Oviawe opens up about losing both her parents after DWTS elimination

Popular RTÉ broadcaster John Murray has become a grandfather for the first time

BBC announces Chinese adaptation of Life On Mars

Moon And Me creator: How I signed up Michael Buble to sing a ‘silly song’

More From The Irish Examiner