The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

The Menu only ever believes the season proper has begun with the annual advent of the West Waterford Festival of Food (April 26-28), in delightful Dungarvan.

The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

Festival of Food

The Menu only ever believes the season proper has begun with the annual advent of the West Waterford Festival of Food (April 26-28), in delightful Dungarvan.

Dinner at the Castle, the showcase festival dinner, sees Michelin-starred chefs Ross Lewis (Chapter One) and Danni Barry (formerly Eipic, Belfast) along with Paula Stakelum (executive pastry chef, Ashford Castle) take over the kitchens of Lismore Castle.

A packed programme ensures something for everyone over the weekend.

Events include: Waterford Way Tapas Trail; Chocolate Masterclass; Picado Pop-up Mexican dinner with chef Anthony O’Toole and Lilly Ramirez-Foran; Kid’s Trail includes cooking classes; food treasure hunt; growing demos; and Susan and Judith Boyle’s always thrilling Science of Food demo for both younger and older children.

Emma Walsh of Food Cloud gives a Sustainable Eating demo while Michelin-starred English chef Jason Atherton (Pollen Street Social) delivers this year’s guest chef dinner at The Tannery.

Chef Jess Murphy (Kai) serves up brunch at the Tannery’s cookery school.

A visit to any of the town’s lovely pubs is always advisable, most especially, a late night scoop or three in Downey’s, now near de rigour festival practice, and the whole schemozzle reaches a climax with the humongous festival market that takes over the entire square from early Sunday.

VegFest at Cork City Hall

While The Menu will probably never become a full-blown vegan, he appreciates the impact veganism has had on the national food conversation, particularly around the environmental impact of industrial agriculture, for the global food system is failing on many levels and fixing it requires all of us to alter our current eating habits.

It is for this reason that The Menu welcomes Cork Vegfest (April 27) to Cork City Hall for a day-long exploration and celebration of vegan food including cheeses, falafels, burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, chocolates, healthy salads, cakes and drinks, along with cruelty-free cosmetics, talks on diet and nutrition and a panel discussion with some of the world’s foremost ultra-athletes who are vegan.

Culinary inspiration

Speaking of vegans, The Menu would like to give a shout out to Jacques Brennan, keen domestic vegan cook and also author of Hungry Soul (Matador), a prettily illustrated cookbook designed to offer culinary stimulation to budding young vegans on the hunt for recipes.

Sunday Sessions

In the next outing (April 28) of Sunday Sessions, the splendid collaborations at multi-award-winning Pot Duggan’s, in Ennistymon, Co Clare, Grainne O’Keeffe (Clanbrassil House) delivers up a dinner of fine local produce in the pub’s beautifully restored 19th-century barns.

Today’s special

The Menu loves Ballinrostig cheeses, especially the deeply flavoursome mature Gouda, but some recent culinary experimentations has him now intrigued by the potential of their halloumi.

Made from cow’s milk, it a tad sweeter and less forceful than the more usual sheep or goat’s milk halloumi but its compact and firm finish makes it ideal for cooking on the pan.

Dredging slices first in a mixture of plain flour, maize and paprika, The Menu then shallow-fried them yielding crisp fritters, of fine flavour and lovely chewy texture to be served with the last of the redcurrant jelly and some lovely fresh crisp salad leaves with a nice piquant dressing.

Whiskey of the week

Dingle Distillery Batch No 4, 46.5% ABV; 70cl — €70.00

Stockists: Bradleys, JJ Fox Grafton St, Celtic Whiskey Shop, Drink Store,

Dingle Distillery Small Batch No. 4 was released on April 8 — a limited edition of 30,000 bottles with 12,000 staying in Ireland plus an additional 500 bottles of Cask Strength for the UK and Irish markets.

Batch No 4 is aged in Oloroso, Bourbon, and Port casks and has all the classic creamy sweet Dingle hallmarks.

Light gold in colour, rounded ripe fruit aromas with noticeable sherry cask, citrus, sultanas, and a hint of spice and vanilla.

Creamy and supple on the palate with caramel and orange zest, rounded and full with spice touches on the long finish.

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