While initially becoming a household name for playing Maggie Riordan in The Riordans, her public profile soared again in recent years as she hosted the Irish version of the Bake Off cookery series.
Though it may have appeared to fans of the rural iconic soap that Biddy had fallen away as an actress in the interim, she in fact had fallen into an entirely new career as one of the most prolific of Irish food authors and as a fine supporter of culinary Ireland in general.
It was through affairs of the belly that The Menu first encountered Biddy, specifically, through time spent together on a week-long trip to the Terra Madre, the international Slow Food movement’s biennial world assembly in Turin.
While her commitment to the Irish food world and her kindness to those in that sphere and beyond were unquestionable, The Menu had equal time for her roguish sense of humour and ability to cut sharply through faff and waffle, and enjoyed more than a few belly laughs in her company.
She will be greatly missed by all her colleagues in the Guild and beyond and The Menu extends special sympathies to her family and friends.
The Cork Character Café Series, a fine initiative by Ruth Healy, of Urru Culinary Store, in Bandon, in tandem with Taste Cork, continues with a wonderful seasonal Celebration of Spiced Beef.
This traditional cured, salted meat has long been entwined with Cork’s culinary heritage, dating back to the days when the city provisioned ships destined for the furthest reaches of empire and while empire is, thankfully, no more, spiced beef remains one of Leeside’s finest food offerings.
The involved cafes will create special dishes, mount relevant historical displays and tell the story of spiced beef, its producers and attendant traditions.
The East Cork Xmas Market (Dec 10), at Garryvoe Hotel, returns, in aid of Cork ARC Cancer Support House, featuring food and craft stalls, including The Menu’s beloved Ballycotton Free Range Poultry, and Darina Allen, Rory O’Connell and Rachel Allen will be signing copies of their latest culinary tomes.
The Winter Wonderland Christmas Experience (each Sat until Dec 16) at The Franciscan Well Brewery, on Cork’s North Mall, offers original handmade gifts from local artists along with in-house Pompeii Pizza and splendid craft brews, proceeds going to Cork’s homeless, all very much The Menu’s idea of civilized Christmas shopping.
The Menu wasn’t quite bellowing for his bearskin and a freshly broached hogshead of mead, but there was certainly a medieval cast to recent proceedings in his Great Dining Hall as he served up a fine repast of braised Wild Boar, using meat procured from Ballinwillin House, Mitchelstown, in North Cork, where the Mulcahy family not only run a fine hospitality enterprise, but operate a business supplying the restaurant sector with venison and wild boar from herds raised and processed on their own lands.
While savvy chefs may procure the lion’s share of their output, canny domestic punters will avail of the Ballinwillin online shopping service.
Having begun the meal with their very excellent venison salami, The Menu’s slow braising of the boar was greatly chivvied along by the addition of a tincture of Wildwood Vinegar’s Aged Blackberry Balsamic, and further supplemented with splendid seasonal veg procured at the Coal Quay Market from top grower Caroline Robinson.
A great feast indeed and as sweet, tender meat melted in the mouth, a suitably fine Burgundy easing its passage down, all was very much right in The Menu’s world.
Beer of the Week
Castle Tralee, Bradleys, Redmonds, McHughs and every decent bar and off-licence in Mayo.
Mescan was founded by an Irish-Belgian duo of Vets on a farm near Croagh Patrick in County Mayo and I think this may be my first time featuring them– a terrible omission on my part. The focus with Mescan’s beers is not on hop-bombs or fashion – think flavour and tradition.
The Westport White is one of four beers in their core range (watch for specials) and is a traditional wit beer packed with classic wheat beer flavours.
It pours with a light frothy head and a hazy golden colour and has rich floral and tropical fruit aromas and a fine refreshing balance and elegance on the palate.