The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee
Kevin Aherne, Sage, with Niamh Smith, Colbert & Co, Midleton, at the fEast Cork food and drink festival launch dinner at Jameson Experience Midleton ahead of the festival taking place on September 1st - 8th. Picture: Joleen Cronin

A feast of good food

The birthplace of Irish hospitality is undoubtedly east Cork thanks to Myrtle Allen and her Ballymaloe House and the market town of Midleton, long time host of one of the country’s original farmer’s markets, is the very natural HQ for the upcoming fEAST food festival (September 1-8) although events span the region. 

The superb week-long programme includes Pickle supremo Sunil Ghai cooking at Sage Midleton, the Local Wild Food Challenge, the fEAST Street Food Market and An Chistin: Conversations around the Kitchen Table, featuring top chefs including Paul Flynn, Martin Shanahan, Jess Murphy, Enda McEvoy, Takashi Miyazaki, Bryan McCarthy, Ali Honour, JR Ryall and The Menu will be rejoining his old mentor, Ciaran Scully, executive chef at Bayview House Hotel, in Ballycotton, for a Dads’ Cookoff. 

SECAD: Celebrating Multiculturalism Through Food is a free event featuring the food of over 15 different nationalities now resident in east Cork and the festival finishes in fine style with Sunday Night Festival Wind-down in the Sage Courtyard. (

Reap the harvest

This year’s Waterford Harvest Food Festival (September 6-8) has over 70 events including cooking demos, grow-it-yourself workshops, local food markets and plenty of child-friendly events. 

Check out chef Sham Hanifa (The Cottage Restaurant) collaboration at Everett’s while GROW HQ chef JB Dubois joins Food Space executive chef Conor Spacey to host a zero waste dinner to to launch Grow HQ as the Irish hub for Chefs’ Manifesto, the very vital global community of chefs working towards facilitating vital change in the hospitality sector around sustainability and world hunger.

Into the west

A Taste of West Cork food festival (September 6-15), this year boasts a humongous programme of over 250 events, spanning the towns, villages and islands of west Cork, and is an always excellent means of taking the current culinary temperature of the region. 

This year’s highlights include a culinary collaboration between west Cork chefs and four indigenous Australian chefs, including twins Luke and Samuel Bourke of Sydney’s renowned Rockpool restaurant who will be foraging for an Irish take on their traditional native ‘bush tucker’. 

The Menu of course will be hosting that annual favourite, Singing for Your Supper, in Levis Corner House pub in Ballydehob with Michael Quinn as this year’s guest chef while The Menus is also greatly intrigued by Land Talks #3: Harvest, a talk presented by artist William Bock exploring the relationships between the people and ecology of west Cork. 

Pick of the bunch though has to be A Taste of Turkey, which sees the very splendid Ahmet Dede, Michelin Star Chef, of Mews Baltimore, cook his favourite Turkish dishes at Baltimore’s newest restaurant, The Customs House. (

Today’s special

Mitzi’s Mezze Dukkah with za’atar is a pleasant version of what is a real workhorse of a condiment and a classic Middle Eastern recipe, highly adaptable across a broad range of dishes as a topping for added spicey flavour and nutty texture and though The Menu will always plump for the freshly homemade version, it is a fine introduction for anyone new to the concept. 

However, The Menu was greatly taken by the ‘sister’ dukkah in the Mitzi’s Mezze family, a Vegan Raspberry & White Cacao dukkah, made from almonds, sesame seeds, peanuts, white cacao, coconut sugar, desiccated coconut, chia seeds and freeze-dried raspberries, a most addictive sweet condiment. 

Experimenting in the lab, he was soon crowning a caramelised banana with whipped cream and a sprinkling of the sweet dukkah, adding texture and nutty bite to the soft fruit while the mild acidity of the raspberries put some adult manners on the somnolent sweetness of this classic childhood dish.

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