I just spent what I like to think are the last few days of summer in West Cork but of course in reality it’s most definitely Autumn no matter how hard I try to kid myself.
My ‘last hurrah’ before I throw myself into the Autumn term coincided with the Taste of West Cork festival, an extraordinary fortnight of random events dreamed up by a small committee of super charged individuals who are determined to celebrate and highlight what is unique about West Cork and lengthen the tourist season for as many people as possible in the greater area.
I’ve watched this festival develop gradually over the past six years, ebbing and flowing, but this year there were 188 events taking place in 32 towns and villages and on eight islands, an inspired mix of themed dinners, cookery demonstrations, storytelling, foraging, cocktail making, and Ilen River cruises with afternoon tea.
You could roam with the buffalo on Johnny Lynch’s Farm near Macroom and taste the tender mozzarella, good enough to rival anything coming out of Italy.
You can learn how to smoke fish in Ummera or Union Hall smokehouse who scooped the top awards at the West Cork Artisan Food Awards.
I learned how to save seeds with the seed saving hero Madeline McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds.
Over 400 people turned up to St Patrick’s National School in Skibbereen to hear Mary Clear, the dynamic founder of the Incredible Edible project in Todmorden.
I went along to visit and met Alan Foley and Brian Granaghan, the people behind the school’s impressive and award- winning garden.
John Desmond of Island Cottage gave a demonstration of how to make a classic chocolate mousse on the pier on Heir Island.
The artisan food producers flung open their doors and travelled to share their stories and their produce with their many fans.
In the midst of it all the prestigious West Cork Artisan Food Awards winners included Gubbeen Farmhouse and Woodcock Smokery, joint overall winner of the awards.
Union Hall Smoked Fish took the top award, West Cork Pies were also award winners, and the Newcomer Award was West Cork Eggs, Mella’s Fudge, O’Neill’s Allihies Sea Salt, Claire’s Hummus, Thornhill Organics, Tess and the Glebers at Glebe Gardens, John and Sarah Devoy, Rosscarbery.
See www.atasteofwestcork.com for the full list.
Susan Holland and Ian Parr late of the Custom House in West Cork came back from France to cook a dinner at the Boat House at Inish Beg – a sell out of course and a nostalgic trip down memory lane for their many fans.
Glebe Café hosted Danni Barry from EIPIC in Belfast; I loved the meal she cooked as a celebration of the food from Glebe Gardens and superb beef from Walsh’s butcher shop in Skibbereen.
Visitors flocked into the West Cork area. Many events were totally sold out, over 400 people turned up to a tour of the West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen.
‘An Afternoon of Michael Collins’ included a demonstration of griddle baking over the open fire.
There were visits to farms – Glen Ilen and Devoys organic farm, fermentation and pickling workshops, beekeeping including an inspirational workshop at Gurranes with Trevor Dannann, a certified natural beekeeper at the age of 16 and owner of 12 hives.
With so many brilliant events to choose from, it was impossible to get to more than two or three into a day.
Every town from Clonakilty to Bantry, Rosscarbery to Sherkin Island, Castletownshend to Bandon and everywhere in between was ‘rocking’.
There are food fairs, festivals and carnivals all over the country nowadays so it’s really tough to have a USP to attract an almost jaded public but the Taste of West Cork is certainly a model worth looking at.
Congrats to each and everyone involved.
Danni cooked a deliciously simple meal at Glebe Gardens during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival
- 2 large red beetroot
- 2 large golden beetroot
- 200g Leggygowan Farm goat’s curd
- For the salt and rye crust
- 300g strong flour
- 200g rye flour
- 200g coarse sea salt
- 6 juniper berries
- 1 orange zest
- 200-250ml cold water
- For the beetroot and raspberry dressing
- 120ml Broighter Gold rapeseed oil
- 30ml raspberry vinegar
- 50g red beetroot trim
- Rainbow chard
- For the toasted seeds
- 60g sunflower seeds
- 50g brown linseeds/flaxseed
Heat the oven to 200C.
For the salt dough, crush the juniper seeds and add to the flours, salt and orange zest.
Make a hole in the middle and add the water in three stages, mixing until a dough forms. Wrap in cling film and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Wash the beetroots and dry them thoroughly.
Roll out the dough and wrap around each beetroot individually, place on a baking tray and put straight into the hot oven.
(It is important not to leave the dough wrapped beetroots sitting for too long before baking, as the salt will start to draw out moisture from the beetroot and the dough will breakdown.)
After eight minutes, turn down the oven to 180C and continue to cook for 40 minutes.
When ready, crack open the crust and peel the beetroots while still warm. Cut into five-inch discs and place 50g of the excess in a saucepan with the raspberry vinegar.
Warm gently for ten minutes and pass through a sieve. Mix with the rapeseed oil while warm to make the dressing.
Toast the seeds on a tray in the oven and season.
To assemble the plate, layer the beetroots and goats curd, and dress generously.
Wilt some rainbow chard in a hot pan with a little oil and dress with the raspberry vinegar.
Place on top of the beetroots, then spoon over the toasted seeds.
Danni Barry from EIPIC Restaurant in Belfast
We greatly enjoyed Takashi’s simple Japanese cooking at the Riverside Café during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival.
- Teriyaki Sauce
- 10ml mirin
- 10ml sake
- 30g brown sugar
- 50ml Kikkoman dark soy sauce
- 1 whole mackerel (fillet)
- 10ml oil
- 3g ginger (finely chopped)
- 50ml teriyaki sauce
- 1 pinch white sesame
Place mirin, sake, brown sugar and soy sauce into sauce pan and turn heat on until boiled.
Turn off the heat when the sauce boils and place sauce into container.
Heat the pan over medium high heat and pour oil on the pan.
Put the mackerel fillet (skin side down) onto the pan and fry until skin gets crispy.
Flip mackerel over and turn heat down until cooked.
When the mackerel is cooked, pour teriyaki sauce over mackerel and toss chopped ginger.
Cook as low heat until sauce gets thick.
Place mackerel on the plate and pour sauce over the mackerel, garnish with white sesame.
- 750ml water
- 5g Irish sugar kelp (dried)
- 100g miso paste
- 50g silken tofu (diced)
- 20g Atlantic dillisk
- 5g fresh chives, chopped
Place water and sugar kelp into the pot and bring to a boil.
Turn heat down to low when it reaches a boil, take sugar kelp out from pot (sugar kelp stock).
Add miso into sugar kelp dashi stock and mix with whisk until miso dissolved.
Add tofu and dillisk.
Pour miso soup into soup bowl and sprinkle freshly chopped chives on top.
- 125g dark chocolate
- 125g milk chocolate
- 50g unsalted butter
- 5 eggs yolks
- 8 egg whites
- 50g sugar
- 1 espresso cup of strong coffee
- Cleaning of Copper bowl
- 5g salt
- 10 ml red wine vinegar
Break up the dark chocolate and the milk chocolate, put into large bowl with the unsalted butter, place over a larger bowl of boiling water.
Separate 8 eggs, keeping 5 yolks and 8 whites for the mousse.
If using a copper bowl, thoroughly clean it with salt and vinegar, rinse and dry.
Put 8 egg whites into whatever you are using and whisk until stiff, add 50g sugar, keep whisking until sugar has dissolved.
Add espresso coffee and 5 egg yolks to the chocolate mixture, and gently whisk until incorporated.
Then add a quarter of the beaten egg white mixture, whisk thoroughly, and gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture.
Put into a flat bottom container and refrigerate overnight. It can also be put into individual bowls. It will keep refrigerated for a few days.
As anyone who is coeliac, or who cooks for someone who has gluten intolerance, will testify it can be challenging to produce really delicious, balanced meals.
Finally, help is to hand – on Saturday, October 8, this intensive half-day course is ideal for those on a gluten-free diet who face the dilemma of longing to taste ‘real’ food.
You’ll learn about a whole range of tasty and easy-to-prepare dishes including gluten-free sweet and savoury pastry, crackling salmon with coriander pesto and gluten free raspberry muffins.
Suddenly, cooking for coeliacs will become a pleasure not a chore. Advice on alternative ingredients and lots of baking tips will help take the mystery out of successful gluten-free cooking. www.cookingisfun.ie
Is there anything more comforting than the perfect Sunday roast? The very words conjure up evocative images of family and friends gathered together around the kitchen or dining-room table with delicious aromas of roasties and gravy permeating the house.
Every good cook takes pride in being able to produce a delicious roast dinner with all the trimmings, and it’s no mean feat!
On Friday, October 14, we will show you how to choose and turn the best cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and pork into the most impressive roast dishes; plus whip up gravies and sauces bursting with flavour; and hone your carving skills as well.
After the cooking session, we will all sit down together to enjoy the Sunday roasts with all the trimmings.
Food lovers who want to keep on top of the Irish food scene check out The Taste which has won best digital food magazine at the Gourmand Awards 2016 and best online magazine at the Irish bloggers association awards 2016.