The Sixth Birthday of Midleton Farmers Market

At the Whit weekend we celebrated the sixth birthday of Midleton Farmers Market. The market has gone from strength to strength since that first weekend when a handful of local farmers and food producers first set up their stalls with a mixture of apprehension and excitement.

Willie Scannell borrowed a moulded plastic garden table and piled it up with his floury Ballycotton spuds. Frances Burns who had traded outside the mart for years was a dab hand at setting up a stall with help from her grandson. She sells local vegetables and some plants. Local goat cheese maker Jane Murphy arrived with her beautiful freshly made Ardsallagh Goat cheese.
Siobhan and David Barry from Carrigtwohill have now greatly added to the range of home-grown vegetables they started with and also offer vegetable plugs for ‘wannabe’ vegetable gardeners.

The next stall was erected by local councillor Ted Murphy who sells home grown plants and shares his patch with the Country Market ladies who pile their tables high with delectable confectionery, jams and chutneys. 

Wendy England set up a stall with her mother-in-law Hester and her neighbour Mary O’ Connell. They sell delicious home made cakes, bread, jams and pickles 

Fiona Burke sold a wide variety of fine cheeses, olives, tapenade, pesto and Gubbeen bacon. Local farmers Dan and Anne Aherne from Ballysimon outside Midleton, sold their organic beef and are now also famous for their free range organic chicken. 

The indomitable fish smoker Frank Hederman was also one of the original farmers market pioneers – his traditionally smoked eel, salmon, mackerel, sprats, mussels and hake were, and still are a magnet for discerning customers.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm and Gardens Stall sells a selection of homemade vegetables, fruit and herbs, jams, pickles, free-range eggs from our happy lazy hens and occasionally our own home cured pork.

Kate O’Donovan was also there from the very beginning, selling her homemade salad dressings and marinades. She also barbecues juicy sausages and serves them with her relishes in crusty Arbutus Bread.

Margaret Keane sells a variety of savoury tarts and quiches, biscuits and cakes and jams and onion marmalade. Arbutus Breads made by ‘master-baker’ Declan Ryan have been one of the star attractions from the early days. People queue for the crusty soda, yeast and sour dough loaves.

Some of the early stall-holders like Clodagh McKenna have moved on but Barry Tyner stepped into her place. Catriona Daunt sells a huge variety of organic fruit and vegetables and fat Agen prunes. Margaret Martin mans Tim York’s stall with lots more organic vegetables and salad leaves. Deirdre Hilliard from Cobh joined the market in 2001, she does a range of delicious organic breakfast cereals, soups and salads. Beside her, Brian Cott and Chris Cashman sell a delicious range of cakes and cookies.

O’Connaill’s Chocolates have now added sublime hot chocolate and coffee to their tempting array. Orin Little of The Little Irish Apple Company drives down from Piltown in Co Kilkenny with his apple juice early every Saturday morning, he sells delicious apples in season and warm apple juice on chilly Saturday mornings.

Hail, rain or snow, customers pour in to fill their shopping bags and enjoy the music and the vibe.

Here are some suggestions for a Market Menu

Green Pea Soup with Fresh Mint Cream

This soup tastes of summer. If you are using fresh peas use the pods to make a vegetable stock and use that as a basis for your soup. Having said that, best quality frozen peas also make a delicious soup, either way be careful not to overcook. This soup may also be served chilled but serve smaller portions.
Serves 6-8

1 oz (30g) lean ham or bacon
½ oz (15g) butter
2 medium spring onions, chopped
1½ lbs (675g) podded peas, fresh or frozen
Outside leaves of a head of lettuce, shredded
A sprig of mint
1½ pints (900ml) light homemade chicken stock or water
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
2 tablesp. thick cream

Whipped cream
Freshly chopped mint

Heat the chicken stock.

Cut the bacon into very fine shreds. Melt the butter and sweat the bacon for about 5 minutes, add the spring onion and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then add the peas, lettuce, mint and the hot chicken stock or water. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Bring to the boil with the lid off and cook for approx. 5 minutes until the peas are just tender. 
Liquidise and add a little cream to taste. Serve hot or chilled with a blob of whipped cream mixed with some freshly chopped mint. 

If this soup is made ahead, reheat uncovered and serve immediately. It will lose its fresh taste and bright lively colour if it sits in a bainmarie or simmers at length in a pot.
Be really careful not to overcook this soup or you will lose the fresh taste and bright green colour. Add a little extra stock if the soup is too thick

Chicken Salad with Mango and Roasted Cashew Nuts

Serves 8-10
1.35kg (3 lb) cooked free range organic chicken
1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 mangoes peeled, stoned and cut into 1cm (2 inch) pieces
225g (6-8oz) chopped celery
4 chopped scallions including green part
110ml (4fl oz) natural yoghurt
110ml (4fl oz) homemade Mayonnaise 
1½ teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
140g (5oz) roasted cashew nuts 
2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander, optional

Mix the cubed, cooked chicken in a large bowl with the freshly squeezed lemon juice, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the diced mango, celery and scallion.

Whisk the yoghurt with the homemade mayonnaise, heat the cumin and curry powder gently on a pan, add to the mayo and yoghurt. Mix everything together.
Taste and correct seasoning. Just before serving add the roasted cashew nuts, scatter with chopped coriander or parsley and serve.

Pickled Beetroot Salad

Serves 5-6
1 lb (450 g) cooked beetroot
8 oz (225g) sugar
16 fl oz (475 ml) water
8 fl oz (250 ml) white wine vinegar

Dissolve the sugar in water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the vinegar, pour over the peeled sliced beets and leave to cool.

Potato and Thyme Leaf Salad
Serves 6 approx.

Scant quart cooked potatoes peeled and cut into 2 inch (5mm) dice
4 fl ozs (120ml) fruity olive oil
1-2 tablespoons thyme leaves and thyme flowers if available
Salt and pepper to taste

Coat potatoes in a good oil. Season to taste and sprinkle liberally with fresh thyme leaves and flowers.

Fresh Apricot Tart

Serves 10-12
225g (8oz) plain flour
175g (6oz) butter
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons icing sugar
A little beaten free-range egg or egg yolk and water to bind

Apricot Glaze
6 tablespoons Apricot jam
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

8-10 fresh apricots
300ml (½ pint) cream
2 large or 3 small eggs
2 tablespoons castor sugar 
1 teaspoon pure Vanilla essence 

1 x 12 inch (30 cm) diameter tart tin or 2 x 7 inch (18cm) tart tins with removable bases

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.

Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way and leave to relax in a refrigerator for 1 hour. Roll out the pastry and line a tart tin with a removable base. Chill for 10 minutes. Line with kitchen paper and fill with dried beans. Bake blind in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans. Paint the tart base with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes. Leave to cool.

In a small stainless steel saucepan, melt the Apricot jam with a squeeze of lemon juice, push the hot jam through a sieve and then brush the base of the tart with a little of this glaze. 
Halve the apricots and remove the stones. Arrange one at a time cut side upwards inside the tart, the apricots should slightly overlap in the inside. 

Whisk the eggs well, with the sugar and Vanilla essence, then add the cream. Pour this mixture over the apricots and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the apricots are fully cooked. Brush generously with the Apricot glaze. Serve warm with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

Foolproof Food

Smoked Mackerel Pâte

4 ozs (110g) Frank Hederman’s undyed smoked mackerel, free of skin and bone

2-3 ozs (55-85g) softened butter
¼ teaspoon finely snipped fennel
½ teaspoon lemon juice
½-1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Melba toast

Sprigs of fennel 

Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste, add more lemon juice and garlic if necessary, it should be well seasoned. Put into little individual pots, or set in a loaf tin lined with cling film.

Alternatively, this pate can be piped in rosettes onto ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices of cucumber, melba toast, crostini or savoury biscuits. Garnish each one with a sprig of fennel. 
Serve with cucumber pickle and crusty bread.
Cooked fresh salmon, smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, trout or herring can be substituted in the above recipe.

Hot Tips

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Carrigaline Smoked Cheese
Lovers of Carrigaline Cheese will be glad to hear that they are now doing a Smoked Carrigaline cheese – its delicious so watch out for it. 

Ballycotton Arts Festival 
From Friday 23rd June to the evening of Sunday 25th Ballycotton in East Cork will be buzzing with a huge variety of fun filled workshops and family events for the 2nd Annual Ballycotton Arts Festival. There will also be a food stall on the pier on Sunday.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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