Saturday used to be the quietest day of the week in Midleton, when people traditionally went to Cork to do their shopping; now it is the reverse.
Eager shoppers crowd into the Farmers' Market from outlying areas and they continue their purchases in the town.
Supermarkets in the US and Britain have been aware of this fact for some time and many have encouraged markets to set up in their car parks.
The management of the Mahon Point shopping centre in Cork had the same idea.
They invited local artisan and specialist food producers to set up outside their main entrance on Thursday morning.
The first market opened on June 16.
Not even the early morning mist could dampen the spirits of new recruits Rikki McCowen, Rory O'Connell, Pippa Corbin and Arun Kappil. By 6 am, Patrick Whelan was already on his way from Kilmore Quay with a van load of fresh fish, Peter and Olga Ireson had travelled from Knockatee organic dairy in south Kerry.
By the time I arrived at around 11am the market was in full swing, the clouds had given way to clear skies and Yom and Lorcan were playing a rousing air in the centre of the plaza, creating a carefree holiday atmosphere.
Everyone seemed thrilled to discover that this wasn't a once-off and that there would be a Farmers' Market at Mahon Point every Thursday.
There were nearly 40 stalls including several seasoned marketeers from Midleton and other markets. Frank Hederman from Belvelly Smokehouse was doing a brisk trade with his smoked wild salmon, eel, mussels, mackerel and patés. Local organic farmer Dan Ahern has also developed a loyal customer base for his beef and free-range chickens.
Siobhán and David Barry from Ballintubber farm, who also sell at Midleton had a fantastic supply of new season vegetables white turnips, cauliflower, chard, green gooseberries and elderflower. They also encourage people to grow their own by selling little vegetable plants in peat moss plugs.
Jan and Claire de Neubourg from Kerry had home baking and fruit, vegetables and herbs from their all-organic Wishbone Farm. The Organic Garden and Ballycotton Organics also had stalls piled high with produce, including their wonderful mixed leaf salads.
Deirdre Hilliard calls her company Just Food. She does a range of organic soups, salads, dips, biscuits and ready meals and has already built up a loyal following at Midleton.
Rikki McCowen and Arun Kappil former Ballymaloe Cookery School students were on their maiden market voyage. Rikki made a selection of sandwiches using Arbutus bread and produce from the other stalls.
Pippa Wood was selling a selection of her mum's Thursday Cottage homemade jams. Arun had spent several days weighing up whole spices which he imports fresh from the spice gardens of Kerala in south India.
Rory O'Connell, former head chef at Ballymaloe House was busy cooking sizzling steak sandwiches and also offered a range of seasonal desserts. Frank Krawczyk the father of the Irish artisan cured meat industry was there with a selection of cured meats, salami, delicious kassler, brawn and pastrami.
His prize pupil Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen Smokehouse who has also built up a cult following, had a huge selection of cured meats, olives and Gubbeen cheese.
Inner Pickle Jamaican-style pickles and condiments are worth looking up, too. Don't miss Mella's fudge either and look out for Joup Foods' scones, soups, juices and salads.
The success of the farmers markets illustrates the desire for a different type of shopping experience. Many people are desperate to find forgotten flavours duck eggs, green gooseberries, carrageen moss. Others want real artisan food from small producers and really fresh vegetables grown slowly in someone's garden or farm.
All of this and more is available at Mahon Point and Midleton and at numerous farmers' markets around the country.
1 lb onions, peeled, sliced
2 oz butter, clarified butter or 3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 packet of Sugar and Spices
1 oz garlic, finely chopped
2 oz ginger, grated
2 lb stewing lamb, cut into cubes
1 pt or 4 small pots natural, plain yoghurt
1 tin tomatoes, whizzed smooth
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pt lamb stock (or water)
Heat the butter (or clarified butter, oil) in a large casserole dish or saucepan on medium. Next, add the packet of Rogan Josh mix and fry until you hear crackling. Then add the sliced onions and fry until golden. Stir in the garlic and ginger and fry for a couple of minutes.
Now add the lamb cubes and fry for a further 15 minutes. Add the yoghurt, tomatoes, sugar and cover.
Simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes.
Finally, increase the heat and stir. Then add in the stock and cook until the lamb is tender (approx 2 hours).
Serving suggestion: Sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander and serve with basmati rice. An alternative suggestion is to replace the lamb with 2 lbs of chicken breast cut into mouth-size pieces, but cook the sauce for about one and a half hours then add the chicken and cook for about a further 30 minutes otherwise the chicken will be really tough.
Tip: It really doesn't matter if you don't stick to the exact measurements. So long as you end up with a tasty meal, who cares? And with the Sugar and Spice Mixes, you can't go wrong so says Arun.
Crudités with Aoili is one of my favourite starters. It fulfils all my criteria for a first course: small helpings of crisp vegetables with a good garlicky home-made mayonnaise.
Cut the vegetables into bite-sized bits so they can be picked up easily. You don't need knives and forks because they are usually eaten with fingers.
A typical plate of Crudités might include the following: 4 sticks of carrot, 2 or 3 sticks of red and green pepper, 2 or 3 sticks of celery, 2 or 3 sticks of cucumber, 1 mushroom cut in quarters, 1 whole radish with a little green leaf left on, 1 tiny tomato or 2 quarters, 1 Brussels sprout cut in quarters, and a little pile of chopped fresh herbs. Wash and prepare the vegetables. Arrange on individual white side plates in contrasting colours, with a little bowl of aoili in the centre.
2 free range egg yolks
¼ teaspoon salt
pinch of English mustard or ¼ teaspoon French mustard
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
8 fl ozs (250ml) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) We use 6 fl ozs arachide and 2 fl ozs olive oil
Put the yolks in a bowl with mustard, salt and white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens add the oil a little faster, but don't get too cheeky or it will curdle. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.
If the Mayonnaise curdles it will suddenly become thin, and if left sitting the oil will float to the top of the sauce. To rectify this by add another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled Mayonnaise, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.
as above with 1-4 cloves of garlic and 1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Crush the garlic and add to the egg yolks as you start to make the mayonnaise. Add parsley and season to taste.
Mahon Point Farmers' Market: Thursdays, 10-2pm, plaza in front of main west entrance.
Tipp FM Food Fair: 12-6pm on Sunday, July 3, at Thurles Greyhound Track. Booklet called Savour Tipperary detailing the artisan food producers/processors in Tipperary will be launched on the day by Alan Dukes TD.
Artisan Foods of Meath have produced a tempting booklet telling the story of 11 food producers in the area, the group is a voluntary membership group composed of like-minded people from different backgrounds, while the range of food they make extends from chutneys to chocolates, bread to cheesecakes and soups to sausages, they share the ethos of producing locally to the highest standards of quality.
Meath Leader shares in the group's objectives and fully supports their efforts to promote and aid the development of artisan food enterprises in Co Meath. email@example.com; tel: 046-9249338. Michelle O'Brien is the food specialist with Meath Leader.