Just like The Menu, all smart bunnies out there will have placed their orders for finest Irish free range bronze turkeys and the very best of whatever Irish and locally-sourced meats are to grace their table this Christmas, but the even smarter bunnies will have done something similar with all other produce for the festive feast.
The finest local, seasonal veg is to be had from the farmer’s markets, of a quality the multiples can only ever dream of and, invariably, at a lower price. The Menu hopes to be picking Theresa Barry’s splendid brussel sprouts straight from the stalk, then will totter over to Willie Scannell’s sister, Margaret, for some of the finest spuds in the land, both regulars at Douglas Farmer’s Market. At Mahon Market, he’ll swing by Dave Barry of Ballintubber Farm for some winter squash before a last-minute pillaging of whatever fine produce Derek Hannon of Greenfields’ has brought from his tunnels. Beautiful root veg (spuds, carrots and parsnips, etc) from the markets mostly come caked in residue of the earth from whence they came. This is normally sprayed off for the shops but the coating of soil acts as one of Mother Nature’s finer preservation tricks, sealing in exquisite flavour. Furthermore, markets offer all manner of last-minute gift items in the form of jams, preserves, chutneys, oils, spices, cookies, biscuits, charcuterie, cheeses, etc.
While today will be final outing of the year for most of markets, the mother of all farmer’s markets, Midleton, in East Cork, will be winding down their year with a late showing on Dec 23 with The Menu hoping to get down for a little shopping, particularly for some of Frank Hederman’s impossibly fine smoked salmon, Arbutus breads and some Ballyhoura Mushroom’s Cep Oil for under the Christmas tree — all with The Menu’s own name scribbled on the tag!
A great man for the multi-tasking, The Menu is capable of reading and eating and loves nothing more than a glass of fine Burgundy, a tasty nibble and a decent cookbook in which to bury himself. It was a wonderful year for Irish cookbooks with choices for all ages from Donal Skehan, Rachel Allen, Catherine Fulvio, Lilly Higgins, Darina Allen, Ross Lewis, Neven Maguire, Nessa Robins and from the chefs who feed the Irish rugby team, Carton House Cookbook: Bringing the Taste Home. Support local Irish bricks-and-mortar retailers when buying books and check out the selections available in Urru, in Bandon, Liam Ó Ruiseal and Vibes & Scribes in Cork, Café Rua, in Castlebar, Whyte’s, in Schull, and secondhand treasure from The Menu’s excellent friend, Adrian Connolly, in his Paul St ‘Biblio-Palace’.
Should your Secret Santa be a fanatic for the culinary gadgets, try Brennans, on Oliver Plunkett St, Delia’s Kitchen Shop, Carey’s Lane, and, once again, Urru. Have a very happy, local, Irish Christmas!