Midleton and Mahon Farmers Market

The growth of the Farmers Market Movement within that period has been nothing short of phenomenal. There are now well over 100 Farmers Markets in Ireland and others are opening at the rate of one a week at present. Their success illustrates a deep craving at grass roots level for a different type of shopping experience. Customers want to be able to source fresh naturally produced local food in season.
Many people are desperate to find forgotten flavours – duck eggs, green gooseberries, carrageen moss …… Others want real artisan food from small producers and really fresh
vegetables grown slowly in someone’s garden or farm.

After initial misgivings, many businesses in market towns have realised that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. 

Saturday used to be the quietest day of the week in Midleton, people traditionally went to Cork to do their shopping, now it is the reverse, Saturday is the busiest day. Eager shoppers crowd into the Farmers Market from outlying areas and they continue their purchases in the town. Supermarkets in the US and UK particularly have been aware of this fact for some time now and many have encouraged Farmers Markets to set up in their car parks, realising that this arrangement will be mutually beneficial. 

The management of the new Mahon Point shopping complex in the suburbs of Cork City also had the vision to see the potential of a Farmers Market and invited local artisan and specialist food producers to set up outside their main entrance on Thursday morning. The first market started on 16th June.

We had a very busy morning here at the cookery school but I was determined to go along, lured by the promise that there would be 40 stall-holders.

The early morning was miserable – misty and blowing a gale, I thought of the stall holders loading their produce and umbrellas into their vans, the new recruits like Rikki McCowen, Rory O’Connell, Pippa Wood and Arun Kappil, excited and apprehensive as they head off in the drizzle complete with stall and produce. It hadn’t occurred to them that it would be a wet day.

By 6am Patrick Whelan was already on his way from Kilmore Quay with a van load of fresh fish. Peter and Olga Ireson from Knockatee organic dairy in South Kerry had also arrived with their organic cheese, butter and yogurt. By the time I arrived at around 11am the market was in full swing, the clouds had given way to clear skies and Yom and Lorcan were playing a rousing air in the centre of the plaza, creating a carefree holiday atmosphere.

Customers were wandering from stall to stall exploring, tasting, seemingly mesmerized by the variety of produce. Everyone seemed thrilled to discover that it wasn’t a once off and that there would be a Farmers’ Market in Mahon Point every Thursday.

There were nearly 40 stalls including several seasoned Farmers’ Marketeers from Midleton and other markets – Frank Hederman from Belvelly Smokehouse was doing a brisk trade with his smoked wild salmon, eel, mussels, mackerel and pates, local organic farmer Dan Ahern has also developed a loyal customer base for his beef and free-range chickens. Siobhan and David Barry from Ballintubber farm also sell at the Midleton Farmers Market on Saturday. They had a fantastic supply of new season vegetables, the first white turnips, caulis, chard, beetroot, green gooseberries and elderflower… Siobhan and David also do their best to encourage people to grow their own by selling little vegetable plants in peat moss plugs. Jan and Claire de Neubourg from Co Kerry had home baking and organic fruit, vegetables and herbs from their all organic Wishbone Farm. The Organic Garden and Ballycotton Organics all had stalls piled high with organic produce, including their wonderful mixed leaf salads. Deirdre Hilliard called her company Just Food, she does a range of organic soups, salads, dips, biscuits and ready meals and has already built up a loyal following at Midleton Market.

Rikki and Arun, former Ballymaloe Cookery School students were on their maiden voyage, Rikki made a selection of sandwiches using Arbutus bread and produce from the other stalls, Pippa was selling a selection of her mum’s Thursday Cottage homemade jams. Arun had spent several days weighing up whole spices which he imports directly fresh from the spice gardens of Kerala in South India.

Rory O’Connell, former head chef at Ballymaloe House was busy cooking sizzling steak sandwiches and also offered a range of seasonal desserts. Frank Krawczyk the father of the Irish artisan cured meat industry was there with a tantalizing selection of his cured meats and salami, as well as delicious kassler, brawn and pastrami. His prize pupil Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen Smokehouse who has also built up a cult following, was delighted with his new toy – a state of the art refrigerated trailer unit which had just arrived from France to house his growing selection of cured meats, olives and Gubbeen cheese. There are no less than three farmhouse cheese stalls, all with beautifully matured gems from Fiona Burke, the Happy Cheese Salesman and local Ardsallagh goat cheese and yogurt. Ollie and Sean O’Driscoll were there with their famous €5 bags of fish straight from their boat in Schull.

Old Mill bank Smokehouse are there with more great smoked fish, Inner Pickle Jamaican style pickles and condiments are worth looking up. Don’t miss Mella’s fudge either and look out for Joup foods scones, soups, juices and summer salads.

Declan Ryan will be there with his much loved Arbutus breads, and O’Flynn’s Butchers with their famous sausages and speciality meats. Riccardo McSweeney has his Baile Bella range of traditional Italian dishes to go and gourmet Italian coffees to refresh the shoppers. Roisin McAlpine of Juicy also provides delicious refreshment by producing her delicious freshly prepared fruit juices and smoothies on the spot.

Keane’s Garden Centre have a tempting array of plants and if you feel like a little bubbly look out for champagne occasions who import direct both champagne, wine and oils from the vineyards.

Sugar and Spice
Korma (mild)
Serves 4 - 6 people

1 lb onions, peeled, sliced
2 oz butter, clarified butter or 3 tblsp vegetable oil
1 oz garlic, crushed
1 oz ginger, grated
1 packet of “‘Sugar and Spices’” Korma Mix
1 tin coconut milk
1 tin tomatoes, chopped
1 tblsp sugar
2 lb stewing lamb, cut into cubes 
½ pt (or 2 small pots) natural, plain yoghurt

How to make your meal:

Sweat the onions in the butter (or clarified butter, oil) in a large casserole dish or saucepan 
Turn the heat up to medium, add the garlic and ginger and stir for a couple of minutes. 
Next, add the packet of Korma Mix and stir for a minute or so 
Turn the heat up slightly, add the tomatoes and sugar, stir and reduce the mixture for approx. 5 minutes 
Add the coconut milk and stir thoroughly 
Add the meat, the yoghurt and cook until tender (approx. 2hr)…simple! 

Serving suggestion:

- sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander and serve with Indian Basmati rice

Alternative suggestions:

- Try replacing the lamb with 2 lbs of chicken breast cut into mouth-size pieces, but remember to only cook it for about 30 minutes otherwise the chicken will be really tough.

- Fish could also be used instead of lamb. Monkfish is recommended as it has a firmer texture. Again, remember to only just cook the fish. This could take as little as 15 to 20 minutes.

Rogan Josh (medium)

Serves 4 - 6 people – another one pot wonder

1 lb onions, peeled, sliced
2 oz butter, clarified butter or 3 tblsp vegetable oil
1 packet of “Sugar and Spices’” Rogan Josh Mix
1 oz garlic, finely chopped
2 oz ginger, grated
2 lb stewing lamb, cut into cubes
1 pt (or 4 small pots) natural, plain yoghurt
1 tin tomatoes, whizzed smooth
1 tblsp sugar
1 pt lamb stock (or water)

How to make your meal:

Heat the butter (or clarified butter, oil) in a large casserole dish or saucepan on medium 
Next, add the packet of Rogan Josh Mix and fry until you hear crackling, then add the sliced onions and fry until golden 
Stir in the garlic and ginger and fry for a couple of minutes 
Add the lamb cubes and fry for a further 15 minutes 
Add the yoghurt, tomatoes, sugar and cover. Simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes
Finally, increase the heat and stir. Then add in the stock and cook until the lamb is tender (approx. 2hr) …simple! 

Serving suggestion:

- sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander and serve with Indian Basmati rice

Alternative suggestions:

- Try replacing the lamb with 2 lbs of chicken breast cut into mouth-size pieces, but cook the sauce for about one and a half hours then add the chicken and cook for about a further 30 minutes otherwise the chicken will be really tough.


- It really doesn’t matter if you don’t stick to the exact measurements. So long as you end up with a tasty meal – who cares?!! And with the Sugar and Spice Mixes, you can’t go wrong!! – so says Arun!

Cucumber and Coriander Riata – side dish
Serves 4 - 6 people


1 pt (or 4 small pots) natural, plain yoghurt
1 tblsp of “Sugar and Spices’” Garam Masala Mix
2 tblsp freshly chopped coriander
½ cucumber, thinly sliced or diced
Juice of half a lime
pinch of salt and pepper

How to make the riata:

Combine the above ingredients…simple!

Serving suggestion:

– use as an accompaniment to the “Sugar and Spice”, One Pot Wonder curries
Foolproof Food

Cruditees with Garlic Mayonnaise

Get yourself a selection of delicious fresh summer vegetables at the Farmers Market and make some cruditees.

Cruditees with Aoili is one of my favourite starters. It fulfills all my criteria for a first course: small helpings of very crisp vegetables with a good garlicky home-made Mayonnaise. The plates of Cruditees look tempting, taste delicious and, provided you keep the helpings small, are not too filling. Better still, it’s actually good for you – so you can feel very virtuous instead of feeling pangs of guilt!

Another great plus for this recipe I’ve discovered is that children love Cruditees. They even love Aoili provided they don’t hear some grown up saying how much they dislike garlic, and you can feel happy to see your children polishing off plates of raw vegetables for their supper, really quick to prepare and full of wonderful vitamins and minerals.

Cruditees are a perfect first course for Winter or Summer, but to be really delicious one must choose very crisp and fresh vegetables. Cut the vegetables into bite-sized bits so they can be picked up easily. You don’t need knives and forks because they are usually eaten with fingers.

Use as many of the following vegetables as are in season:

Very fresh button mushrooms, quartered
Tomatoes quartered, or let whole with the calyx on if they are freshly picked
Purple sprouting broccoli, broken (not cut) into florettes
Calabrese (green sprouting broccoli), broken into florettes
Cauliflower, broken into florettes
French beans or mange tout
Baby carrots, or larger carrots cut into sticks 5 cm/2 inches long, approx.
Cucumber, cut into sticks 5 cm/2 inches long approx.
Tiny spring onions, trimmed
Red cabbage, cut into strips
Celery, cut into sticks 5 cm/2 inches long approx.
Chicory, in leaves
Red, green or yellow pepper, cut into strips 5 cm/2 inches long approx., seeds removed
Very fresh Brussels sprouts, cut into halves or quarters
Whole radishes, with green tops left on
Parsley, finely chopped
Thyme, finely chopped
Chives, finely chopped
Sprigs of watercress

A typical plate of Cruditees might include the following: 4 sticks of carrot, 2 or 3 sticks of red and green pepper, 2 or 3 sticks of celery, 2 or 3 sticks of cucumber, 1 mushroom cut in quarters, 1 whole radish with a little green leaf left on, 1 tiny tomato or 2 quarters, 1 Brussels sprout cut in quarters, and a little pile of chopped fresh herbs.

Wash and prepare the vegetables. Arrange on individual white side plates in contrasting colours, with a little bowl of aoili in the centre. Alternatively, do a large dish or basket for the centre of the table. Arrange little heaps of each vegetable in contrasting colours. Put a bowl of aoili in the centre and then guests can help themselves.

Instead of serving the aoili in a bowl one could make an edible container by cutting a slice off the top of a tomato and hollowing out the seeds. Alternatively, cut a 4 cm/1½ inch round of cucumber and hollow out the centre with a melon baller or a teaspoon. Then fill or pipe the aoili into the tomato or cucumber. Arrange the centre of the plate of Cruditees.

Note: All vegetables must be raw.


Mayonnaise is what we call a ‘mother sauce’ in culinary jargon. In fact it is the ‘mother’ of all the cold emulsion sauces, so once you can make a Mayonnaise you can make any of the daughter sauces by just adding some extra ingredients.

I know it is very tempting to reach for the jar of 'well known brand' but most people don't seem to be aware that Mayonnaise can be made even with a hand whisk, in under five minutes, and if you use a food processor the technique is still the same but it is made in just a couple of minutes. The great secret is to have all your ingredients at room temperature and to drip the oil very slowly into the egg yolks at the beginning. The quality of your Mayonnaise will depend totally on the quality of your egg yolks, oil and vinegar and it's perfectly possible to make a bland Mayonnaise if you use poor quality ingredients.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch of English mustard or ¼ teaspoon French mustard
15 ml/1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
8 fl ozs (250ml) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) - We use 6 fl ozs (175ml) arachide oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml) olive oil, alternatively use 7 fl oz (200 ml) arachide to 1 fl oz (25 ml) olive oil.

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don't get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

If the Mayonnaise curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled Mayonnaise, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.


ingredients as above
1-4 clove of garlic, depending on size
1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Crush the garlic and add to the egg yolks just as you start to make the Mayonnaise. Finally add the chopped parsley and taste for seasoning.

Note: Here is a tip for crushing garlic. Put the whole clove of garlic on a board, preferably one that is reserved for garlic and onions. Tap the clove with a flat blade of a chopping knife, to break the skin. Remove the skin and discard. Then sprinkle a few grains of salt onto the clove. Again using the flat blade of the knife, keep pressing the tip of the knife down onto the garlic to form a paste. The salt provides friction and ensures the clove won't shoot off the board!

Arun Kapil of Sugar and Spice kindly shared some of his recipes with us.

Arun suggests using the spice mixes which he freshly grinds and packages for his stall to make these ‘one pot wonders’ – he will be delighted to offer other suggestions to customers.

Hot Tips

Mahon Point Farmers Market – Thursdays 10-2 plaza in front of main West entrance. 

More One Pot Wonders at Ballymaloe Cookery School on 18th July – Tel 021-4646785

Tipp FM Food Fair - 12-6 on Sunday 3rd July at Thurles Greyhound Track. Booklet called ‘Savour Tipperary’ detailing the artisan food producers/processors in Tipperary will be launched on the day by Mr Alan Dukes TD. Mr Dukes chaired the Agri-Vision 2015 Task Force. 

Artisan Foods of Meath – The Artisan Food Producers of Meath have produced a tempting booklet telling the story of eleven food producers in the area, the group is a voluntary membership group composed of like minded people from very different backgrounds, while the range of food they make extends from chutneys to chocolates, bread to cheesecakes and soups to sausages, they share the ethos of producing locally to the highest standards of quality. Meath LEADER shares in the group’s objectives and fully supports their efforts to promote and aid the development of artisan food enterprises in Co Meath. info@meathleader.ie  Tel 046-9249338 - Michelle O’Brien is the Food Specialist with Meath Leader. www.meathleader.ie 

Artisan Food Producers of Meath c/o Ger O’Sullivan, tel 01-8257761 wellfieldfoods@eircom.net

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


Past Letters

  • Recipes