The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

Here’s what’s going on in the world of Irish food... 


Regular readers will be well aware of The Menu’s grá for GIY, a most splendid organisation, so he is pleased to announce details of the Get Ireland Growing fund (in partnership with Energia), this year, boasting €75,000 in the kitty and open for applications (until Jan 19) from throughout the 32 counties, with funding available to enable and promote food growing by community and voluntary groups, with up to 85 different organisations expected to benefit.

The Menu very much enjoyed hosting a panel discussion of young farmers from around the world at the last Ballymaloe Litfest, so is looking forward to the return of one panel member, Alice Holden, and her co-farmer, Hannah Schlotter, of Dagenham Farm, in inner city London, for an East Cork Slow Food event (Nov 30), to talk about the trials and tribulations involved in setting up a successful urban farm. (Tel. 021 4646785/email


Congratulations to two young Irish chefs who may well be ones to watch out for in the future. Conor Halpenny (of Chapter One) recently became outright winner of the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year, while Killian Crowley (Chef de partie at Aniar, Galway) beat all comers in the Irish & British heats of the San Pelligrino Young Chef 2018 and will represent Ireland and Britain at the global finals in Milan next year.


One of The Menu’s most beloved food emporiums, O’Driscoll’s, of Ballinlough, is having its annual Taste of Christmas (Dec 8, 3-7pm), sampling much of the fine fare on offer, with topping sipping to be done, courtesy of Liberty wines ( Thursday Tidings (Dec 7, 14 & 21) at The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, in Co Limerick, is a perfect excuse to get in some practice for the Christmas festivities by stretching out in front of a roaring fire with a glass of bubbly before wining and dining the evening away in the restaurant, with the option of full B&B ( Carmel Somers, chef/proprietor of Good Things@ Dillon’s Corner, in Skibbereen, offers a Christmas Class (Dec 2 or 3), a surefire way of acquiring some top tips for gussying up the Yuletide vittles (

Carmel Somers hosts a Christmas Class at Good Things in Skibbereen on December 2 and 3.
Carmel Somers hosts a Christmas Class at Good Things in Skibbereen on December 2 and 3.

The Mallow Castle Christmas Family Food & Craft Fair (Dec 2) promises to be a good opportunity to pick up some early presents for under the tree with plenty of edible options available on the day, including Longueville House Cider and Bluebell Falls Goat’s Cheese, while the family friendly event is chock-a-block with children’s entertainment, including the Christmas Choo Choo Train.


The demure floral-themed label on the Primrose Cottage Preserves jar may suggest its contents are some fruity condiment for spreading atop scones rather than a bright and perky Homemade Spicy Chilli Jam, a preserve that would have Great Aunt Menu spraying crumbs and clotted cream right across the parlour were she to make such an error.

However, it remains well removed from the more extreme end of the shelf, that space occupied by masochistic thrillseekers seeking a nuclear chilli burn, and is ideal for adding a little last minute kick to various one-pot wonders, daubed on fish and chicken for grilling, and a teaspoon added to homemade aioli makes for a lovely companion for a chorizo and bean stew.

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