The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

WASi founder Claire O’Sullivan and her partner, Eli Tanner, on the shores of Bantry Bay, where they harvest seaweed for WASi’s range of seaweed pestos.

Chef mate

One of The Menu’s highlights of 2018 was the advent of Chef Collab, a brilliant initiative conceived by Killarney-based Dublin chef Chad Byrne (Gleneagle Hotel Group), aimed at mentoring young commis chefs or even general kitchen operatives with an interest in, and potential to become, a chef.

Linking up with the country’s top chefs, Byrne pairs each with an aspiring young chef to prepare a course for multi-course pop-up dinners.

The first Chef Collab event to hit Cork (January 28) takes place in Sober Lane gastropub, on Sullivan’s Quay, with chefs on the night as follows: Paul Brogan (Forest & Marcy) and Yvonne Coughlan; Gaz Smith (Micheal’s) Daniel O’Sullivan; Gavin McDonagh (Rustic Group) and Amy Ryan Quinlan; Alberto Rossi (InterContinental) and Marcin Wisenswiki; and Liam Kirwin (Montenotte) alongside Tadgh Crowley.

All monies raised (a steal at €35 a head) pay for the non-profit event itself and, judging by previous events —when the local hospitality sector invariably turns out in large numbers to cheer on the young chefs — it is a night not to be missed.

Food Award Scheme

The splendid Cork Food Policy Council (CFPC) returns with the 2019 iteration of its Food Award Scheme, with a prize of €500 donated by SuperValu Ireland, acknowledging and rewarding those excelling when it comes to healthy, sustainable food practices.

In a food system that sees one in 10 Cork people experiencing food poverty, according to Colin Sage, chair of CFPC.

The awards recognise those who support the important position and value that food has within the city and county, acknowledging its capacity to improve our health, strengthen communities, and make the local economy and ecological systems more resilient.

Applicants (Cork city or County based) may apply in the following categories: Private business; non-profits; educational institutions; and primary and secondary schools.

Cork Food Policy Council is a partnership between representatives of the community sector, food retailing, farming, fishing, restaurant/catering, food markets, education, environmental and health agencies and local authorities, working together towards a fairer, healthier and more sustainable local food system.

Application deadline is January 30.

Cheesy course

UCC’s Food Industry Training Unit offer a highly comprehensive industry-standard Cheese Science and Technology Training Course (January 16-18) which sounds ideal for those hoping to work in the sector, either as a serious hobbyist or, better still, as a budding young cheesemaker — The Menu reckoning, you can never have enough cheesemakers!

The €795 course fee includes tuition, course manual, lunches, refreshments, and a Digital Badge Award, and may be part-funded for eligible applicants.

Today’s special

The rise in interest in the incredible culinary potential of our native ‘seaweeds’ is yielding wonderful added-value food products.

The latest to cross The Menu’s palate is Wild Irish Seaweed Pesto from WASi (Wild Atlantic Seaweed Ireland).

In pointed contrast to the proposed mechanical kelp harvesting of the Bantry Bay Kelp Forests (the latest egregious example of the State’s ongoing and utterly shortsighted food policy, flogging off yet another precious native food resource to the highest bidder with no consideration whatsoever for the future environmental sustainability, be it land or sea), WASi founder Claire O’Sullivan and her partner, Eli Tanner, ethically hand-harvest seaweed on the shores of Bantry Bay, then convert it into a range of pestos.

Not only are these pestos laden with health-giving minerals and nutrients but they pass the taste test with flying colours.

The Menu enjoyed the Lemon & Garlic version, a creamy, ‘nutty’ silken puree, exquisite marine umami notes lurking below the surface, which he added to a homemade mayonnaise to be served up with fresh whiting, dusted in flour and butter-fried in the pan.

Beer of the week

Boyne Brewhouse Winter Ale, 8% ABV; 330ml — €4.25

Stockists: O’Donovans, O’Briens, Carry Out, Selected Next Door, Molloys, and Centra.

Boyne Brewhouse released three limited edition beers late in 2018 including a new version of their rich textured, coffee and dark fruit flavoured Imperial Stout (10.8%) aged in former Whiskey (Oloroso Sherry) casks from their distillery.

The whiskey flavours come through on the middle palate and on the finish and add a spicy vanilla character to an already well crafted stout.

Also in the range is a bright juicy Belgian Dubbel and a traditional English Winter Ale which was my favourite of the three.

Pouring a dark amber with a warming spicy character including raisins, dark fruits and a complex dry finish, it’s a good match for leftover Christmas cake.

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