Artisan Food Producers take the Limelight

Food is hot and at last the farmers and fishermen and artisan producers are emerging from the background and into the limelight and getting the recognition they deserve.    

Virtually every county has a food festival, and at last we are beginning to celebrate and value our indigenous and traditional local foods.

Recently we participated in the hugely successful Taste of Dublin Food Festival now in its third year.

Over thirty thousand people poured into the Iveagh Gardens to eat, drink and be merry.   The organizers who had been unlucky with the weather in 2006 & 2007 beamed, as the sun shone and the public queued up to enjoy the much-enlarged event.  This year there was lots of covered seating and free plastic macs ready to hand out if the ‘heavens’ opened.   They were scarcely necessary, just one shower on Sunday evening.

Twenty two of the capital’s most celebrated chefs cooked their signature dishes.   Good Food Ireland had six stalls where their members dished out tastes of their products to eager foodies.

Peter Ward of Country Choice in Nenagh, (067-32596), couldn’t keep up with the demand for his wife Mary’s salad dressing, chutneys and legendary marmalade, for which she roasts the orange peel in the Aga.  Ralph Haslam’s organic Mossfield cheese from near Birr, Co Offaly,  sold out, as did Dick and Anne Keating classic and smoked Baylough cheese made near Clogheen in the foothills of the Knockmealdown Mountains (052-65275).  Traditional butcher Jack McCarthy from Kanturk, Co Cork,  and his team were offering tastes of their rashers and sausages, biggest hit was a large Ardrahan and smokey bacon sausage wrapped in one of their home-cured rashers on a skewer.   The curing skill has been passed down through the generations since 1862.  Tom O’Connell of O’Connells Ballsbridge, and Kenneth  Kelly, son of Sean Kelly of  Kelly’s of Newport, Co Mayo couldn’t keep up with servings of black and white puddings with Bramley Apple and Grainy Mustard Sauce.

Kellys of Newport are award-winning artisan butchers who have won All-Ireland Gold awards every year since 2003, as well as a slew of  international awards for their hand-made black puddings and putógs, ( )   One of the rare butchers to use fresh blood from their own abattoir in their products, hence the delicious crumbly texture.

Another innovative butcher, T.J. Crowe from Dundrum in Co Tipperary, (062-71137)  had a wide range of products including crubeens and organic bacon.

Birgitta Curtin from Burren Smokehouse in Co Clare ( was inundated for tastes of her smoked fish.   Maxine Hyde and her pals were handing out tastes of Ballymaloe Country Relish and their new range of pasta sauces as fast as they could ( .  All are members of Good Food Ireland, an organization whose members are dedicated to using Irish, local and artisan food produce, ( 

Altogether there were lots of great artisan food producers and wine, and Gerard Coleman from Artisan du Chocolat ( in London brought his hand made chocolates  to gauge the Irish reaction – his company is the only company to conch their own chocolate from scratch and his innovative flavours have won plaudits from chocoholics all over the globe.   The green tea chocolate was simply divine and the liquid salted caramels in the words of Jay Rayner are ‘to die for’.  

I also met Grégoire Saint Olive of L’Oustaou who was selling very interesting flavoured vinegars and flavoured oils. ( 

Top Irish and UK chefs were demonstrating in the Drumm’s Chef Theatre- Antony Worrall Thompson, Ross Lewis, Angela Hartnett, Rory O’Connell, Rachel Allen, Arun Kapil, Derry Clarke, Clodagh McKenna and dozens more.

We were all kept busy in the first Ballymaloe Cookery School at the Taste of Dublin, sponsored by Falcon Cookers and run by Pamela Black and Debbie Shaw  – 16 cookery classes in four days – all terrific fun.

This weekend the event is coming to our very own capital – Taste of Cork will be held in the Cork Gaol ,(Convent Avenue, Sundays Well)  from Friday 27th to Sunday 29th.   Twelve Cork restaurants and sixty eight food and drink producer stalls will entice us to taste, sip and enjoy the best that Cork has to offer.   There’s a terrific line of celebrity chefs, including Antony Worrall Thompson, Mercy Fenton, Ross Lewis, Clodagh McKenna, Rachel Allen, mé féin……..

As in Dublin there will be lots of live music and fun. Don’t  miss it!

For further details check out Tickets from Cork Midsummer Festival Office in Merchants Quay, or Tel 021-5005055

Hot Tips
Charleville Agricultural Show runs this weekend – 28/29th June –
Sunday’s main feature is ‘Flair for Food’ an exciting event that will seduce everyone’s taste buds with the main attraction Clodagh McKenna giving three cooking demonstrations throughout the day,  there will also be Farmers Markets, Artisan Producers, Food Tastings etc.
The Blackboard Bistro, The Basement, 4 Clare Street, Dublin 2. Tel 01-6766839
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Friday and dinner Saturday night.  Closed Sunday and Monday – a few yards from the Mont Clare Hotel, facing the entrance to the new wing of the National Gallery – take in a visit to the Impressionist Interiors Exhibition at the Gallery – running till 10th August (pre-book) 
Eat Sherkin! A Celebration of Island Food 2008 takes place next weekend on Saturday and Sunday 5th and 6th July.  Saturday sees a host of food and drink tastings and gourmet workshops including keeping a few hens in the garden, – with Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen,   and a cookery demonstration on  making the most of garden vegetables in summery salsas and relishes by Karen Austin of Lettercollum Kitchen Project, Clonakilty.  In the evening enjoy a gastronomic treat of fresh fish cooked on the barbecue by food writer Dianne Curtin and artisan producer Iain Flynn.  On Sunday, browse the stalls of Ireland’s first ever off shore artisan food market.  Guest of honour Darina Allen will be in attendance, and there will be a lovely lunch including Sherkin Oysters, mussels and prawns, whole roast hog on the spit and much more.  For workshop bookings and more details call Matt Stephens, Sherkin Island Development Society on 028 20802 

All recipes published on this website are copyright Ballymaloe Cookery School.    



 Ardrahan and Ballygiblin Sausages wrapped in Smoked Bacon
 Jack McCarthy linked up with Mary Burns of Ardrahan Cheese in Kanturk, Co Cork to make these terrific sausages with Ballygiblin outdoor free-range pork.
Easy peasy casual food – great for a summer barbecue.Serves 8
 8 fat sausages
8 rashersThread the sausage onto a satay stick.Wrap a rasher around the sausage, secure with a cocktail stick.
Preheat a George Foreman grill.

Cook the sausages for 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally until the bacon is crisp and the sausages are cooked through.

Eat immediately.

Black and White Pudding with Grainy Mustard and Apple Sauce
 Serves 12 for canapés, 4-6 as a starter
Butter or extra virgin olive oil
6 slices best quality black pudding approx. 1cm (1/2 inch) thick and 6 slices of white pudding
Bramley Apple Sauce:
1 lb (450g) cooking apples, e.g. Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
1-2 dessertsp.  water
2 ozs (55g) sugar, depending on how tart the apples are




Grainy Mustard Sauce:  also delicious with pork

8 fl. oz (250ml) cream
1 dessertsp. smooth mustard
1 dessertsp. grainy mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper



Flat parsley or watercress

Make the apple sauce – Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the pieces into two and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan with sugar and water. Cover and put over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, beat into a puree, stir and taste for sweetness.
Make the mustard sauce – Put the cream and both mustards in a small pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally.  Taste and season if necessary.
Melt a very little butter in a frying pan and fry the pudding on both sides on a medium heat until cooked through. Remove the skin from the pudding.
Make a bed of apple sauce on the serving plate or plates.  Lay the pieces of hot pudding on top of the apple.  Spoon a little Mustard Sauce carefully over the top.Garnish with flat parsley and serve immediately.Chargrilled Chicken Paillarde with Aoili and Roast Cherry Tomatoes
 Serves 4
4 (150g/6oz) free range chicken breasts (skinless)2 tablespoons olive oilMaldon sea salt and cracked pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped

2 egg yolks, preferably free range
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard
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 7/1
1-4 cloves of garlic, depending on size
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
4 branches of cherry vine tomatoesfresh rocket leaves

Fist make the aioli.
Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the crushed garlic, 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.  Finally add the chopped parsley and taste for seasoning.
 Next prepare the chicken paillarde, remove the fillet from each chicken breast and save for another dish.  With a sharp knife slice each chicken breast from top to bottom, so that you can open it out like a book. Press flat with the palm of your hand to ensure a good flat shape.  Drizzle with Extra virgin olive oil.  Season the chicken paillardes with salt, freshly ground pepper and some chopped rosemary.
Just before cooking season with Maldon sea salt.  Preheat the grill-pan.  Cook the chicken for approx. 4 minutes on each side, turning each after a few minutes to give a nice criss-cross effect.To ServeServe the chicken on hot plates garnished with a bunch of roast cherry tomatoes, rocket leaves and a dollop of aioli.Roast Cherry Tomatoes
 Preheat the oven to 250°C/400°F/Mark 6.
Lay the cherry tomatoes on the vine on a baking tray.  Drizzle with extra virgin oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and roast for 8 – 10 minutes until the tomatoes just burst.Foolproof Food
How To Crush Garlic
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!  Alternatively use a microplane.

Mushroom Bruschetta with Parsley Pesto and Parmesan Shavings

Serves 2This is a poshed up version of mushrooms on toast. Virtually all fungi are delicious on toast so this can be very humble or very exotic depending on the variety chosen.2 slices of crusty country white bread, 1/2 inch (1cm) thick
1 clove garlic
Extra virgin olive oil                                             
4-6 flat mushrooms or large oyster mushrooms
marjoram, thyme or rosemary

1 clove garlic (optional)

rocket leaves

freshly grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano if possible

parsley pesto

Toast or chargrill the bread on both sides and rub immediately with a cut clove of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.Heat a little olive oil or olive oil and butter in a frying pan. Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and place them skin side down on the pan in a single layer, put a little dot of butter into each one or better still use garlic or marjoram butter.  That is made quite simply by mixing some chopped garlic and parsley or some annual marjoram into a little butter. Alternatively, sprinkle with freshly chopped marjoram and some crushed garlic if you like. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook first on one side (the length of time will depend on the size of the mushroom: it could be anything from 3-6 minutes), then turn over as soon as you notice that the gills are covered with droplets of juice. Cook on the other side until tender.  Meanwhile, rub the surface of the warm crostini with a cut clove of garlic, put on 2 hot plates.  Arrange a few fresh rocket leaves on each one, top with overlapping mushrooms.  Drizzle with a little parsley pesto.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan shavings and serve immediately.  If there are any buttery juices in the pan, spoon every drop over the mushrooms for extra deliciousness.Foolproof food

Parsley Pesto

25g (1oz) flat parsley leaves (no stalks)

1‑2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

40g (1 1/2ozs) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

25g (1oz) pine kernels

125-175ml (4-6 fl ozs) extra virgin olive oil



Put all the ingredients except the oil into the food processor.  Whizz for a second or two, add the oil and a little salt.  Taste and correct seasoning.


About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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