As cooks and chefs, we are totally dependent on the quality of the raw materials we can source to make beautiful fresh tasting food.
We are super fortunate in Ireland to have many fantastic artisan and specialist producers – since Covid even more seem to be popping up every week.
There’s a growing entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude around the country and the brilliant thing is that many of these start-ups are situated in rural areas, creating extra employment in the countryside.
Recently we had a Celebrate our Producers Day here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School to introduce our students to some of the food heroes behind the ingredients they cook with.
Rod and Julie Calder Potts came from Kilkenny and Eunice Power from Dungarvan in Co. Waterford. There was also quite a representation from West Cork where many of the pioneers got started.
Sally Barnes from Woodcock Smokery overlooking Castletownsend harbour has been smoking fish for over 40 years.
She learned her trade by trial and error…her initial fish smoking efforts were a desperate attempt to preserve four beautiful brown trout that had been caught in Ballyalla Lough, now devoid of trout.
She shared her passion for wild caught fish, fire and smoke and her deep knowledge of the state of the seas, lakes and rivers and the tragic demise of fish stocks around our coasts.
Sally, one of Ireland’s most iconic and feisty artisan producers is now teaching master classes in an attempt to pass on the skills she painstakingly acquired smoking award-winning wild salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and other white fish over the years. The herrings and sprats have now all but disappeared, much of the catch transformed into pellets for farmed fish.
Anthony Creswell’s Ummera Smokehouse is also in West Cork. A second generation multi award-winner who also smokes duck and chicken breast and traditional cured rashers as well as organic salmon. Ummera Smokehouse ships smoked salmon all over the world and they too are happy to have visitors to the smokehouse close to Timoleague in West Cork.
Toby Simmons, known to many from his stall in the English Market in Cork city but also based in West Cork where he and his lovely wife, Jenny Rose have transformed the Toonsbridge Dairy close to Macroom into a destination café with a woodfired oven, shop and dairy that produces five or six types of Italian filata style cheeses to supply his many Olive stalls around the country.
Toby’s story which started with olives is also intriguing. He set up the Real Olive Company in 1993. Toby imported a herd of buffalo into Ireland to make mozzarella, burrata, stracciatella, caciocavallo, halloumi, smoked scamorza, ricotta and Cheddar – also worth a detour…
Rupert Hugh Jones produces both native and gigas oysters in Cork Harbour close to Carrigtwohill in East Cork where his father David established oyster beds in the 1960’s. Rupert shared the intriguing story of the life cycle of the oysters, and the challenges and rewards of producing one of Ireland’s most prestigious products.
Rupert is also founder of the award-winning Mahon Point and Douglas Farmers Markets. Students were intrigued to hear about the many opportunities the farmers markets present to do market research and sell their artisan and specialist products.
Rupert does many exciting corporate events and bespoke tours of Rossmore Oysters.
Eunice Power from Dungarvan in Co. Waterford is another totally inspiring and seemingly unstoppable entrepreneur with a ‘can do’ attitude in spades. She enthusiastically regaled the 12 Week Certificate Course students with tales of her life in food…restaurants and gourmet catering, everything from weddings to huge rock concerts in the O2 Arena and delectable picnics for the Lismore Opera Festival. Always highlighting local ingredients, local fish and shellfish and meat from her treasured local butcher Michael McGrath from Lismore.
Her fish and chip restaurant in Dungarvan named ‘And Chips’ established in 2019 draws devotees from far and wide. This is no ordinary chipper……
And last, but certainly not least, lovely Rod and Julie Calder-Potts, from Highbank Nurseries in Co Kilkenny, an extraordinary couple of passionate entrepreneurs who farm with nature to produce a variety of beautiful apples, from which they make 15 plus organic products… apple juice, apple cider vinegar, several ciders, apple syrup, apple treacle, Calvados (apple brandy) and more recently a sensational rum (and I don’t use the word sensational lightly) Dark Doyle Apple Rum, created to celebrate their daughters marriage to Jamie Doyle last year.
Seek out their products in various locations all over the country (listed on their website) and online and watch out for events at the Highbank Farm.
A Plate of Locally Smoked Fish with Horseradish Sauce and Sweet Dill Mayonnaise
We have fantastic smoked fish in Ireland. Artisan smokers like sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery in West Cork, Anthony Cresswell of Ummera and Frank Hederman of Belvelly near Cobh who have developed a cult following for their smoked Irish salmon and other fish.
A section of smoked fish – smoked salmon, smoked mussels, smoked mackerel, smoked trout, smoked eel, smoked tuna, smoked hake and smoked sprats.
Sweet Dill Mayonnaise (see recipe)
Cucumber and Dill Pickle (see recipe)
Horseradish Sauce (see recipe)
segments of lemon
sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves
First make the horseradish sauce and sweet dill mayonnaise.
Slice the smoked salmon into thin slices down onto the skin, allow 1 slice per person. Cut the mackerel into diamond shaped pieces, divide the trout into large flakes. Skin and slice the eel. Thinly slice the tuna and hake.
Choose four large white plates, drizzle each plate with sweet dill mayonnaise, divide the smoked fish between the plates. Arrange appetizingly, put a blob of horseradish sauce and cucumber pickle on each plate. Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves.
Sweet Dill Mayonnaise
1 large egg yolk, preferably free range
2 tbsp French mustard
1 tbsp white sugar
150ml groundnut or sunflower
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp dill, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.
Cucumber and Dill Pickle
Cucumber pickle keeps well for up to a week in the refrigerator.
1kg thinly sliced unpeeled cucumber
3 small onions thinly sliced
225g granulated sugar
1 tbsp salt
225ml cider vinegar
2 tbsp dill, chopped
Combine the cucumber and onion sliced
in a large bowl. Mix the sugar, salt and
vinegar together, stir in the chopped dill and pour over cucumbers. Place in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator
and leave for at least 1-2 hours or overnight before using.
This is a fairly mild sauce. If you want to really clear the sinuses, increase the amount of horseradish! Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel.
3-6 tbsp freshly grated horseradish
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
1 tsp sugar
225ml softly whipped cream
Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not over mix or it will curdle. The sauce keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days, covered, so that it doesn’t pick up other flavours.
Stracciatella with Raisins, Toasted Almonds, Preserved Lemons and Marjoram
Stracciatella is soft creamy cheese made from Buffalo milk in Bergamot near Puglia. It has a similar texture to the centre of Burrata.* Look out for Toby Simmond’s stracciatella.
110g toasted almonds, coarsely and unevenly chopped (pistachio nuts can also be used)
75g plump raisins
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
35-50g preserved lemon, coarsely diced
Espelette or Aleppo pepper
350g stracciatella – 3 mozzarella
flaky sea salt
fresh annual marjoram leaves
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
Blanch and peel the almonds, spread out on a baking tray and toast in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. (You can also do this in a frying pan on a medium heat.) Set aside to cool, then chop coarsely and unevenly.
Put the raisins into a little bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to plump up for 10-15 minutes.
Drain and dry the raisins, put into a bowl with the toasted almonds and diced preserved lemon. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, toss gently.
Put a couple of tablespoons of stracciatella onto a serving plate, spoon some of the raisin, almond and preserved lemon mixture on top. Scatter with annual marjoram leaves. Sprinkle with a little pinch of Espelette or Aleppo pepper and flaky sea salt. Serve with a few pieces of sourdough toast. Repeat with the other plates.
*Note: If stracciatella is difficult to source, buy
the best mozzarella you can find, coarsely chop and cover with 2-3 tablespoons
of rich cream. Marinade for an hour or so.
Highbank Orchards Mussels in Cider
Ruth Calder-Potts kindly shared this recipe with us.
4 rashers, dry-cured bacon
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2kg Irish mussels
1 bay leaf
50ml Highbank Proper Cider
freshly ground black pepper
handful of fresh parsley
crusty bread (for soaking up all the sauce)
Fry or grill the bacon until crispy then set aside. When they have cooled, cut them into strips.
Wash the mussels in cold water. Discard any open mussels.
Fry the shallots, until translucent along with the garlic.
Place the mussels, bay leaf and cider into a large pot. Add the onion and garlic and cover with the lid.
Place on the hot for about 5 minutes, shaking the pot a couple of times during cooking. The mussels should all have opened, remove the closed ones.
Add the cream, pepper and chopped parsley and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the bacon.
Serve with the crusty bread to mop up all the
Eunice Power’s Raspberry Coconut Cake
Every now and then you want to make a cake for someone special and push the boat out! This is one of those cakes. The addition of coconut makes for a deliciously damp cake, the raw coconut on the exterior introduces an element of fun. It’s worth putting a little planning into the cake. Firstly, organise your ingredients, never underestimate the importance of a shopping list! I suggest making the coconut filling the day before so that the cake can be assembled when it’s fresh.
275g self-raising flour
70g desiccated coconut
1 tbsp rosewater
375g caster sugar
175g butter, melted
Coconut Cream Filling
300g white granulated sugar
6 egg whites
350g salted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
160g coconut milk
2 tbsp of raspberry jam
100g raw coconut (available in health food shops, I buy mine in Blasta Health Food Store, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford – 058 23901)
a tiny drop of red food colouring
Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3.
Lightly grease a 20.5cm tin with high sides and line with parchment paper.
Add all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir until mixed, then add in all of the wet ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 1 hour. This cake is moist and dense.
Coconut Cream Filling
Place egg whites and sugar in a saucepan and whisk until almost simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the egg white and sugar mix into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed for about 10 minutes, until the sides of the bowl are cool, and the mixture has about doubled in volume. Add the butter chunks, a few at a time, and beat until incorporated. It may look curdled but keep beating until the butter is well incorporated and the frosting is glossy.
Add the vanilla, salt, and coconut milk. Whip for another couple of minutes until smooth.
If you make this ahead of time, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Before using, bring it back to room temperature and whip it for a few minutes until smooth.
To assemble the cake.
Slice the cake into three equal size layers, the cake may be quite dense in the middle, don’t be alarmed – this is fine. Spread a tablespoon of raspberry jam over the first layer, then pipe lightly with a quarter of the coconut cream filling and sprinkle with half of the raspberries. Place the next layer on top and repeat with the jam, coconut cream and raspberries. Put the third layer on top.
Using a spatula, spread the remainder of the coconut cream evenly over the cake and decorate with raw coconut.
To make the coconut pink in colour, add a tiny drop of red food colouring to a bowl of water, then stir in the coconut. Leave for about 10 minutes until the coconut turns pink and strain the water off using a sieve. Pat the strained coconut with a tea towel before spreading on a sheet of baking parchment and allowing it to dry overnight.