HOW fortunate we are here in Ireland to have such an abundance of artisan products and more emerging virtually every week. This sector is incredibly creative and has helped to enhance the diversity and image of Irish food hugely, both at home and abroad. Visitors to Ireland are thrilled to taste the farmhouse cheese, charcuterie, preserves, pickles, ferments, smoked fish, and increasing real bread from the growing number of artisan bakeries who are making real natural sourdough bread free of the 20 additives, enzymes, improvers, and processing aids, which can be legally included without being on the label. No wonder so many people are finding they have a gluten intolerance.
In their 25 years, several awards recognise the efforts and creativity of this sector: Eurotoque, Dingle; and the Food Writers Guild.
The latter awards were held recently at Glovers Alley restaurant in Dublin. The selection process is meticulously conducted. Nominations are in confidence, received from Guild members, shortlisted, tasted, and chosen individually to a carefully agreed list of criteria.
An Irish Food Writers Guild award is much coveted by the recipients. This year three of the eight biggest awards went to Cork — just saying! One of the awards went to Hegarty’s Cheese for its new Teampall Gael. The Hegarty family are fifth-generation dairy farmers in Whitechurch. To add value to the milk of their large Friesian herd, they experimented first with yogurt and cheese and eventually launched a traditional cloth-bound truckle of Cheddar in 2001. Jean-Baptiste Enjelvin, from Bordeaux, joined them in 2015 and a Comté style cheese, Teampall Gael, is the result of this collaboration. This sweet, delicate, nutty, Alpine-style cheese is made only from the raw milk of pasture-fed cows (no silage). The huge 40kg wheels are matured for at least nine months — a really exciting addition to the Irish farmhouse cheese family.
Mike Thompson’s beautiful Young Buck Cheese from Down also won an award. This raw milk, Stilton-type blue cheese, comes from a single herd and was the first artisan cheese to be made in Northern Ireland.
The Irish Drink Award went to Killahora Orchards near Carrigtwohill, for its Rare Apple Ice Wine. A really exciting ice wine, delicious to serve with desserts or made into a granita. Andy McFadden and his team at Glovers Alley served it with a sheep’s yoghurt mousse, honey, and lime.
David Watson and Barry Walsh grow over 130 varieties of apple used to make craft cider, and 40 pear varieties to make Perry. Look out for their apple port also. It tastes like the best white port, delicious to sip on its own or with a good tonic water (killahoraorchards.ie).
The Community Food Award went to Cork Penny Dinners which was founded during the Famine. This much-loved charity provides up to 2,000 nourishing hot meals every day of the year in a safe and nurturing environment for all those in need. Catherine Twomey and her team also run five classes a week, the Cork Music Dojo, High Hopes homeless choir, the Food for Thought mental health initiative for students, mindfulness classes, and French classes. It is about to expand its facilities to include other educational opportunities, plus a clinic run by GPs who donate their expertise for one day a year. A third accolade for Cork and a hugely deserving winner of the Community Food Award.
If you would like to donate your time or money, go to corkpennydinners.ie.
The Outstanding Organisation Award went to 3fe Coffee in Dublin. What most impressed the Irish Food Writers Guild about 3fe is not only the fact that the brand has become synonymous with the best quality coffee in Ireland, but also the company’s commitment to sustainability in the areas of waste and energy use, purchasing
principles, staff welfare, and community. Colin Harmon and his team have recently opened an all-day restaurant, Gertrude, to their portfolio — add it to your Dublin list.
The Environmental Award went to Charlie and Becky Cole of Broughgammon Farm in Ballycastle, Co Antrim. The Irish Food Writers Guild recognises them for their exceptional commitment to the environment and for rescuing male kid goats who would normally have been put down at birth. They now rear free-range rose veal and seasonal wild game as well and make an exceptionally good rose veal salami. There’s also an eco-farmhouse, on-site butchery facility, and farm shop that use solar thermal heating, low-flow appliances, and photovoltaic solar panels.
The inspirational Workman family of Dunany Farm, Co Louth, have been growing heirloom wheat varieties and milling their own organic flour for four generations. Recently they recognised a gap in the market for spelt, a challenging crop to grow and harvest but nutrient dense and low in gluten, high in fibre and B vitamins, and rich in essential fatty acids and amino acids.
Dunany organic spelt grains are my new best find and we enjoyed spelt risotto for lunch at Glovers Alley in the Fitzwilliam Hotel. I can’t wait to experiment more.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Peter Hannan of Hannon Meats near Moira, Co Down, in recognition of his continued work as one of Ireland’s most dedicated food champions. Peter has dedicated his life to producing superb quality beef and is 50% stakeholder in the renowned Glenarm Southern Beef Scheme. Hannon Meats are dry aged in four Himalayan salt chambers for an average of 35-45 days but they provide an extra aged product for special clients who want 80-100 days. Peter was a worthy recipient of this award, one of numerous awards he has deservedly won over the years.
For the salt-baked celeriac:
Take the beef out of the fridge and put it on a tray without any covering or cling film. Allow it to sit at room temperature for at least two hours before you intend to start working with it so that it has a dry surface and is not too cold when cooked.
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Place the celeriac in a roasting tray. Mix the table salt, egg whites and rosemary together in a large bowl until the mixture forms a paste. Cover the celeriac in a 2cm-thick layer of the salt paste, ensuring there are no gaps. Bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes.
Remove from the oven, chip away the salt crust and scoop out the baked celeriac. Portion into nicely sized wedges and reserve until ready to plate.
A little while before you’re ready to start cooking, season the beef with plenty of salt. As it is a very big piece you will need more salt than you think. You will find that if you let the salt dissolve a little, the meat will brown more easily and uniformly.
Melt a large spoon of butter in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. When the butter has lightly browned, add the beef and cook until the first side is perfectly caramelised. The meat and the pan need to be kept moving at all times so that no part of the pan warms up too much, causing the fat in that part to burn, and so that no part gets too cold and stops the meat from browning.
When the first side is perfect, repeat the process with the second side, adding a little more butter as you turn it. Let the meat rest somewhere warm but not hot, brush with some butter and leave it to rest.
While the meat is resting, pour the butter and fat that have rendered out of the beef through a fine mesh sieve into a container and clean the pan. When the meat is no longer hot to touch, fry it once more in the clean pan, brush it with butter and leave it to rest again. Repeat this process until the meat is cooked to your liking.
To finish the meat, reheat the frying pan and put back the fat strained from the pan earlier. Fry the beef on both sides once more and add some more butter. Let the new butter brown, then immediately lift the meat out and place on a preheated chopping board.
Cut it into four strips straight away using a very sharp knife and serve with the salt-baked celeriac, toasted hazelnuts and some shaved truffle.
To make the chutney, wrap the cloves, star anise, bay leaves and cinnamon stick in a piece of muslin. Put the rhubarb, apple, sugar, balsamic vinegar, water and the muslin of spices in a pan on a medium heat. Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and cook until thick and syrupy and the rhubarb and apple have softened. Stir in the orange zest and allow to cool.
Serve the Teampall Gael and Young Buck cheese on a cheeseboard with the rhubarb and apple chutney alongside.
For the granita:
For the sheep’s yogurt mousse:
To make the yogurt mousse, bloom the gelatine in a bowl of cold water. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt and sugar. Lightly whip 400g of the cream and boil the remaining 100g of cream (weigh the cream instead of measuring it by volume). Dissolve the gelatine in the boiled cream, then pour onto the yogurt. Fold in the whipped cream and allow to set in the fridge.
To make the granita, place the sugar, lemon juice and water in a pan and heat just until the sugar dissolves. Add the apple ice wine and warm until the mix comes together. Pour into a baking tray or large plastic container. Place in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until it’s becoming icy around the edges. Stir with a fork and place back in the freezer for another 90 minutes, stirring it every 20 or 30 minutes with a fork to scrape the granita into icy crystals, until the granita is completely frozen. This can be made a day ahead and kept tightly covered in the freezer.
To serve, pipe the yogurt mousse into the centre of a serving bowl. Drizzle the honey over the top. Spoon the granita on top and finish with freshly grated lime zest.
All recipes created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2019 by executive chef Andy McFadden of Glovers Alley, 128 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.
Pies, pastries and one pot feeds…
Who doesn’t love a pie? This two-and-a-half day course will cover fish, meat and vegetable pies and a couple of one pot dishes to serve family style. You’ll learn some brilliant techniques and have a repertoire of delicious recipes — both demonstration and hands on sessions in the kitchen — not to be missed. For more information call 021-4646785 or go to www.cookingisfun.ie
Check out Neighbourfood
The most exciting food development in Cork is Neighbourfood. Brilliant for busy people who want to source fresh artisan products and speciality foods. Collection depots are in Barrack Street, Cork, on a Tuesday between 5pm and 7pm and a new branch just opened at The Pigs Back Café in Douglas on Wednesdays between 5pm and 7pm. See www.neighbourfood.ie.
Sow your own
It’s time to think about planning a little vegetable plot. Sow some broad bean seeds soon, and you’ll have delicious broad bean shoots, furry pots and lots of beans by the end of May or early June. Buy organic seeds from The Organic Centre in Leitrim, find out more on www.theorganiccentre.ie.