Ballyvaughan Farmers Market

This week we ventured off our usual turf and headed North-West to Co Clare. We stayed in a Hidden Ireland house called Mount Vernon close to New Quay, a Georgian gem owned by Ally Raftery and Mark Helmore, son of the last owner Mary Helmore. Built in 1788 for a friend of George Washington, Mount Vernon became the summer home of Sir Hugh Lane and then of his aunt, Lady Gregory, who entertained many of the leaders of Ireland’s Cultural Renaissance there, including Yeats, Synge and Shaw. 
Augustus John designed the brick Arts and Crafts fireplaces, much of the books, furniture and pictures tell a story. There are just five bedrooms so it has the deliciously comfy feel of staying in a country house. We arrived very late and had a delicious lobster salad followed by a wedge of lemon tart with some Summer berries and good cream. 
Next day we drove through the stunningly beautiful countryside of North West Clare. We’d heard that there was a Farmers’ Market in Ballyvaughan on Saturday morning. I’m intrigued by markets, each one has its own personality and speaks volumes about the local area. This one is held in the courtyard of the village hall. By 11 o’clock it was buzzing with about 20 stalls. Rochan and Peter from Fanore sold pickles, beetroot and hummus. Nomalie McDonagh originally from Sri Lanka now living in Co Galway, made a variety of curries and dahls and vegetable pickles to tempt the locals. Marie and Deirdre Hyland who used to run Hyland’s Hotel in Ballyvaughan were there manning their stall selling delicious quiches. They love the social aspect of the Farmers Market, “so convivial and good for the community”. Sean Shannon from Bellharbour who has a particular interest in fruit trees told us it was only his second day on the market, he was enjoying himself hugely as he sold damsons, Victoria plums, Grenadier and Beauty of Bath apples. Such a joy to find these fruit that are absolutely unavailable in the shops and supermarkets – this is what farmers markets are all about. There is no point in selling products that can be bought in local shops, there must be a USP (unique selling point), otherwise they are just a sham. Deirdre and Phyllis Flanagan, mother and daughter living in Clarinbridge, Co Galway baked a variety of cakes including lemon drizzle, coffee cakes and chocolate chip muffins, along with savoury quiches and tarts. Much of the ingredients for these are grown in their own garden. Tracey Kelly is the treasurer of the market, now in its third season, she is a Londoner who now lives in Fanore and has produced a variety of different sweet cakes, tarts, scones and breads since she started in the market three years ago and is now specialising in producing a variety of flavoured yeast breads and flavoured butters. She will also take orders for novelty and all kinds of celebration cakes. Beside her is Mary Hayes who has a well established garden in Ballyvaughan where she harvests a variety of choice vegetables, all kinds of currants and berries and a selection of old apple varieties, all of which she skilfully converts into delicious preserves. Moving around I met Annie Nolan who was selling Kinvara potatoes, onions, carrots and parsnips, freshly pulled and still covered in rich earth. Behind her, local farmer Finola Costello sold luscious cheesecake, porter cake and brown bread alongside new season potatoes. Her stall was complemented by her niece Emma’s handmade greeting cards and homemade jewellery. Tom Tarpey, chairman of the Farmers Market was selling garlic. We bought his entire stock and have it hanging in our kitchen. Aisling Wheeler from Ennistymon, grows a variety of beautiful organic vegetables and offers a selection of local cheese. The Ailwee Caves also had a stall and were offering fantastic local honeycombs and their award winning Burren Gold cheese in several flavours, including cumin, fenugreek, smoked, black pepper, nettle and garlic and plain. There was a tangible bonhomie and camaraderie between the stallholders and a real buzz. Maureen Roche, another newcomer from Kilfenora, grew a variety of healthy shrubs and trees on her farm. Chris Keane, a former café owner, ably assisted by her mother who is visiting from Australia, bakes all kinds of mouth watering cakes, scones and muffins which sell out early. When it comes to keeping it in the family nobody here does like the Fahys from Newquay. Between three generations they produce a variety of products on their farms which include salad leaves, herbs, courgettes, cabbage, kale, carrots and onions, all of which are chemical free, along with freshly baked bagels. A recent addition to their repertoire is dairy ice cream in a variety of flavours. Meriel Francis has a small stall on which she offers home baked breads and cakes along with preserves, plants and homemade crafts. However what she lacks in quantity is made up for in quality. The little jewels and beads on local jewellery maker Mary Keegan’s stall caught the rays of the sunshine which cheered the crowded market. As I moved around the market I met Michael Monks. This retired local publican has a confident stance matched by the pert green leaves of his freshly picked cabbage displayed among the other vegetables and eggs on his stall. Nestled beside him local German goat farmer Gabrielle Koeller displays her exquisite and generous portions of goats cheese quiches and cheesecakes. Her herd of forty goats which eat the sweet grasses and flowers of the Burren produce exceptional quality milk which she expertly turns into cheese. Ballyvaughan Farmers Market is a colourful and multi-ethnic example of local food for local people, congratulations to all concerned.

Compote of Plums or Greengages
Poach the fruit whole, they’ll taste better but quite apart from that you’ll have the fun of playing – he loves me – he loves me not! You could just fix it by making sure you take an uneven number! Greengages are delicious cooked in this way also.

Serve for breakfast or dessert.
Serves 4

400g (14oz) sugar, a bit less if the fruit are very sweet
450ml (16fl oz) cold water
900g (2lb) fresh plums, Victoria, Opal or those dark Italian plums that come into the shops in Autumn or greengages

To serve: whipped cream

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Tip in the fruit, cover the saucepan and simmer until they begin to burst (4-5 minutes). Turn into a bowl, serve warm with a blob of softly whipped cream. Divine!

Tip: Poached plums or greengages keep very well in the fridge and are delicious for breakfast without the cream! 

Lemon Tart with Candied Julienne of Lemon Peel

Serves 8
Shortcrust Pastry (enough for two tarts)
11 ozs (310g) plain flour
6 ozs (170g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
1 oz (30g) icing sugar
1 free range egg

3 eggs and 1 egg yolk
zest of 2 lemons (washed well)
juice of 3 lemons (200ml/7fl oz) and juice of 1 orange (150mls/¼ pint)
3 pint (150ml) double cream
5½ ozs (155g) sugar

Candied Julienne of Lemon Peel
2 lemons

stock syrup made with 6 ozs (170g) sugar and 6 fl ozs (175ml) water, cooked together for 2 minutes.

1 x 8 inch (20.5cm) tin

First, make the pastry. This pastry can be made by various methods. Number 1 is our preferred method.

1. Make in a food processor. Stop as soon as the pastry starts to come together. Flatten, wrap and chill overnight if possible.
2. Make by pâté brisée method. Flatten, wrap and chill overnight if possible.
3. Make by the rubbing-in method. Flatten, wrap and chill for several hours if possible.

If the pastry is needed urgently, divide into 2-3 equal parts. Flatten and chill for minimum 30 minutes, better still an hour.

Preheat the oven to 1801C/3501F regulo 4. 

Line the 8 inch (20.5cm) tin with pastry and bake it blind for 20-25 minutes until it is golden and fully cooked. Remove the beans, paint the base with a little egg white and replace in the oven for 2-3 minutes. When it is cooked, let it cool while the filling is prepared. Lower the oven temperatures to 160C/325F/regulo 3.

Grate the zest finely, (careful not to get any pith).

Whisk all the ingredients for the tart filling together - the eggs, orange and lemon juice, lemon zest, cream and sugar. When the mixture is nice and frothy, pour most of it into the tart shell. The mixture needs to come right to the top, but to avoid spilling it, put the partly filled tart into the oven (with the temperature now reduced) and finish filling it with a spoon.
Bake the tart until the filling has become firm. This should take about 35 minutes. Check by giving the tin a little shake. Take the tart out of the tin when it is lukewarm and leave it on a 
wire rack to cool. Decorate it crystallized lemon rind and tiny mint or lemon balm leaves. Best eaten on day it is made.

Candied Julienne of Lemon Peel

Peel 2 lemons very thinly with a swivel top peeler, be careful not to include the white pith, cut the strips into a fine julienne. Put in a saucepan with 2 cups of cold water and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the pot, refresh in cold water and repeat the process again. Put the julienne in a saucepan with the syrup and cook gently until the lemon julienne looks translucent or opaque. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on bakewell paper or a cake rack. When cold sprinkle with castor sugar.*
* Can be stored in a jar or airtight tin for weeks or sometimes months.

Apple Fudge Cake
From “Rachel’s Favourite Food”by Rachel Allen

This is one of Rachel’s recipes given to her by her sister-in-law, Penny. It's perfect as a dessert or with a cup of tea or coffee. 
Serves 10

2 large cooking apples, such as Grenadier or Bramley
2oz (50g) dark brown sugar

Cake Batter
6oz (175g) butter
6oz (175g) light brown sugar
6oz (175) self-raising flour
4 eggs

Fudge Sauce
4oz (110g) butter
4oz (110g) light brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

You will also need a 10 inch (25cm) sauté pan or a springform tin.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4

Butter the sides of the tin and line the base with a disc of greaseproof paper. Peel and cut the apples into eights and arrange in a single layer in the tin (this will be the top of the cake when it's cooked). Sprinkle over the 2oz (50g) dark brown sugar.

Put all the cake batter ingredients into a food processor and whiz to combine. Pour it over the apples and sugar. Cook in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until the cake is spongy in the centre. Wait for it to cool for 2 minutes before turning out.

Next make the fudge sauce. Combine and melt the butter, sugar and lemon juice. Stir and pour over the cake when it's cool.

Darina's fool proof food

Wild Damson Jam
Damsons, bullaces or wild plums still grow wild in many parts of Ireland, they ripen towards the end of September – we love collecting them, and eat lots freshly picked the surplus we make into damson pies, compotes and jam. They also make a delicious sauce to accompany roast pork with crackling and freeze perfectly.

*The new cultivated varieties are much sweeter so you will need to reduce the sugar to 1.8kg (4 lb) for 2.7kg(6lb) fruit 

Makes 4-4.5 kg/9-10 lbs approx.

2.7 kg/6 lbs damsons
2.7 kg/6 lbs sugar*
900 ml/11/2 pints water

Pick over the fruit carefully, wash and drain well and discard any damaged damsons. Put the damsons and water into a stainless steel preserving pan (greased with butter) and stew them gently until the skin breaks. Heat the sugar in a low oven, add it to the fruit and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil steadily, stirring frequently. Skim off the stones and scum as they rise to the top. Test for a set after 15 minutes boiling. Pour into hot sterilised jars and cover. Store in a cool dry place.
Note: The preserving pan is greased to prevent the fruit from sticking to the bottom.

Hot Tips

West Cork Slow Food Event Sunday 10th September
A Historical Walk and Hog Roast at Dun Lough Castle in partnership with the Mizen Peninsula Archaelogical Society – meet at Barley Cove car park at 1.00pm (car pool will be organised). Food by Food for Thought Catering and wine sponsored by Febvre. Not suitable for children and dogs not permitted. Sturdy footwear required. Cost €25 per person with discount for Slow Food and Archaeological Society Members. Booking essential, Tel Sarah at 087-7528940 or 087-7528945, or Deirdre on 028-28350.

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival 2006, Skibbereen – 14-17th September 2006
Includes ‘A West Cork Feast’ at the West Cork Hotel, story telling at local primary schools, final of schools cookery competition, photo exhibition by John Minihan, West Cork Food Festival Pub Trail, demonstrations and tastings in supermarkets, Farmers Market, Art Workshops, field visits, open air Food and Craft Market and much, much more. Visit  for more information. Food producers contact Kevin Santry at 023-34035 & 086-2672288, Craft makers contact Ivan McCutcheon on 023-34035 or email  

Certificate in Marketing Skills for Tourism 2006/2007
Starting in Cork in September/October 2006, the programme runs till May 2007 with workshops scheduled for 2 days each month. It is tailored specifically to the tourism industry by Failte Ireland and the Marketing Institute of Ireland to develop the professional marketing skills of managers. Information from Josephine O’Driscoll 021-4313058,

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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