ArchiveNovember 22, 2008

Festival of Flavour at Listowel

The Listowel Food Fair, now in its 14th year, is still buzzing.  Jimmy Deenihan and his team were one of the very first to organise a Food Fair to highlight local produce and to celebrate the food traditions of the area.  I arrived early on Friday morning; the Listowel Farmers Market was already underway.  It was an atrocious day; the wind buffeted both the stalls and the stallholders. I know exactly how they felt in that icy cold rain, yet each and everyone was cheery and upbeat. Frenchman Olivier Beaujoran had come from Castlegregory to sell his pates, terrines, Boudin noir, marinated organic salmon and his wife Maya Binder’s Dillisk and Kilcummin farmhouse cheese. I bought some of Olivier’s charcuterie and a cheese studded with black peppercorns.
Just beside his stall Lucy Trant, Owen Carthy and Joe Mannix were selling a selection of herbs, fruit trees and flowers grown by the Kerry Parents and Friends – a very worthwhile project which deserve tremendous support from the community.
Ella O’Sullivan from Listowel was just one of five or six home bakers with a delicious selection of bread, tarts and buns.  Steven Neiling’s Pióg pies with their delicious buttery pastry have also got people queuing and discussing which their favourite is – Beef and Guinness, Kerry Lamb pie, Seafood Pie, Vegetable Pie, Shepherds Pie… The meat all comes from Ashe’s, the local butcher, and the seafood from Paddy Malone in Dingle. That’s what we like to hear – a real taste of Kerry. Sean Daly’s stall was piled high with vegetables including some fine local spuds, carrots, turnips and cabbages.
Sebastian Ridoux, who hails from north of Paris sells crepes at the market.  He came to Kerry to learn English seven years ago and hasn’t been able to tear himself away from there since. It was a struggle to keep his stove alight on that blustery morning but he still managed to cook fresh crepes with a variety of tempting sweet and savoury fillings.
I bought half a dozen duck eggs from Phil Vevsey and was also tempted by the free range chicken wings for €2.00. Phil rears his own Cobb birds for the table and also has a few ducks.
Along the other side of the square in the shadow of St John’s beautiful church, Conor Breheny’s stall was piled high with gorgeous sounding soups, relish, pesto, salad dressings and home made stuffing. I needn’t have cooked for a week. I couldn’t resist a pot of Wild Beara honey, even though I had already bought three other types of local honey.
Stephen and Linda Baker also lost their hearts to Kerry and have lived in Ardfert for over 20 years. They specialise in gluten free produce. Their trifle, ginger cake, Moroccan orange cake all looked enticing.
Bob Summerhayes was out of action with a gammy leg but his stall was looked after by his friends in the generous spirit of the Farmers Market.
Olga Demery had yet more home baking and salads. Close to the perimeter was one of my heroes, pig farmer Caroline Rigney with a selection of products from her own free-range Tamworth pigs, delicious rashers with a decent bit of fat on them, bacon, ribs, white pudding, juicy sausages and beautiful white lard – the very best thing for cooking roast potatoes and adding shortness to pastry. The crubeens and pigs tails were sold out but she promised to get me some.

I met the enthusiastic gang from the Drumcollagher Organic Project with a variety of lovely vegetables and plants. The weather was so appalling that I just hope they managed to sell their produce.

Finally Kerry shellfish producers brought in a delicious selection of mussels, cockles and manila clams for my cookery demonstration.  Local dairy farmer Kate Carmody organised a terrific Slow Food dinner at Listowel Arms on Saturday night.  It was packed to capacity with people from as far away as Dublin coming to taste local food.  One of the big challenges is to get restaurants and hotels to incorporate local food into their menus.  It’s difficult for chefs to resist the temptation to buy everything from one or two catering suppliers – which is so easy and convenient but supporting local producers can make a significant difference to local farmers and fishermen’s livelihood and add extra interest to the menu.  Young chef Noel Keane of Tralee and his team rose to the occasion admirably and even incorporated his grandfather’s apples into the menu.

Eighty four year old Sue McKenna dropped off her bread at the Listowel Arms on Friday morning. She had been up since the crack of dawn, she was entering the Home Baker of the Year Award, and there were over 40 entries. This was just one of the four competitions at the Listowel Food Fair this year. The Irish Food Book of Year Award was won by vegetarian restaurant Cornucopia in Dublin, titled Cornucopia at Home.

Eddie O’Neill from Teagasc in Moorepark, Sara McSweeny technical advisor to the Farm House Cheese Industry, Sarah Bates and I tasted our way through 50 farm house cheeses.  We awarded some gold, silver and bronze medals but the overall winner was a gorgeous aged Coolea Gouda type cheese made by second generation farm house cheese maker Dicky Willems from Coolea near Macroom in West Cork.  HYPERLINK “
Slow Food is all about supporting local food producers, encouraging biodiversity and paying a fair price for the product.  There are 15 chapters in Ireland.  If you would like to know more HYPERLINK “  A gift of Slow Food membership makes a perfect Christmas present.

Clams and Mussels with Lemongrass and Coconut

Noel Keane the head chef at the Listowel Arms hotel shared this delicious recipe with me for my cookery demonstration on Friday night. So easy and tasty, he used local mussels, clams and cockles.

Serves four as a main course

2lbs (900g) mussels
1lb (450g) clams
2 lemon grass stalks, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 glass white wine
1 tin coconut milk
sea salt and cracked black pepper
chopped coriander

Melt 1oz of butter in a wide sauté pan add the shallots, garlic and lemongrass and sweat for 3 – minutes Add the wine and reduce.
Whisk in the coconut milk and lime juice, season with salt and pepper. Reduce by half.
Meanwhile check that the shellfish are tightly shut, wash well in several changes of cold water. Add the mussels and clams to the base with lots of coriander leaves.

Serve either as a starter or with some homemade bread or salad as a light main course.


Warm Salad of Rigneys Bacon with Poached Egg and Beal Farmhouse Cheese

Caroline Rigney rears free range Tamworth, Saddleback and Gloucester Old Spot pigs in Kilcornan, Co Limerick. Their bacon is sweet and delicious. The beautiful Beal Farmhouse organic cheese is made by Kate Carmody, the Chair Person of the Board of Directors for Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA)
Serves 4

A gorgeous little salad which totally depends on good ingredients. Make it with battery produced eggs and indifferent bacon and you’ll wonder why you bothered.

a mixture of organic salad leaves
175g (6oz) smoked Rigney’s streaky bacon, cut into ¼ inch lardons
4 eggs free-range organic
Caesar Salad dressing (see recipe)
25g (1oz) freshly grated Beal cheese

freshly chopped parsley
First make the Caesar dressing – you will have more than you need for this recipe but it keeps for several weeks so save it in the refrigerator for another time.
Fill a small saucepan with cold water, add a little salt.  When the water is boiling, reduce the heat, crack the egg and allow it to drop gently into the water. Cook in the barely simmering water for 4 to 5 minutes or until the white is set and the yolk is still soft. You may cook the eggs separately or together depending on the size of your saucepan.

Meanwhile heat a frying pan, add a little olive or sunflower oil.  Cook the lardons of bacon until crispy and golden.

To assemble the salad

Put a little Caesar dressing on the plate.  Quickly arrange a selection of lettuce and salad leaves on top.  We also add a little freshly cooked asparagus or chicory in season or some chard or beet greens.  Sprinkle the hot sizzling bacon over the salad, top with a poached egg. Drizzle some Caesar dressing over the poached egg and salad leaves.

Sprinkle with freshly grated cheese (use a microplane or a fine grater) and a little chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 x 2oz (50g) tin anchovies
1 clove garlic, crushed
a generous pinch of English mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
6fl oz (175ml) sunflower oil
2fl oz (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
50ml (2fl oz) cold water

We make this dressing in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks; add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

Pig’s Tails with Swede Turnips

Paddy McDonnell’s stall in the Cork market is just one of several which sells pigs tails, skirts and kidneys and bodices. He tells me that he still sells about 200 a week, but he is concerned because they are becoming more difficult to find nowadays. Most pigs reared in an intensive way have their tails docked.
Pigs tails are rather irreverently known in Cork as ‘slash farts’ or ‘pigs mud-guards’!
Only last year I inquired from a customer at one of the stalls what she was going to do with the bag of pigs tails she had just purchased, she replied without a trace of embarrassment or hesitation,  ‘I’ve got ten in family,  I’ll split them in half and boil them up with turnips and then they’ll go further! – the group of Americans I was showing around the market couldn’t believe their ears!

Serves 6

6 pigs tails
1 swede turnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cover the pig’s tails with cold water, bring to the boil, and then discard the water. Cover with fresh water and bring to the boil again.
Add the turnip to the pot, cover and continue to cook until the pigs tails are soft and tender and the turnip fully cooked.
Remove the tails and keep aside. Mash the turnip with a generous lump of butter. Season. Put in a hot bowl and serve the pig’s tails on top.

Kerry Apple Cake with Cinnamon Sugar

2 large eggs preferably free range and organic
225g ( 8 ozs) castor sugar
110g ( 4 ozs )butter
150ml (¼ pint) creamy milk
185g (6½ ozs) plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3-4 Bramley cooking apples
30g (1 oz) sugar

Cinnamon sugar
25g (1oz) castor sugar
¼ teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.
Grease and flour a 20 x 30cm (8 x 12 inch) roasting tin or lasagne dish. Whisk the eggs and the castor sugar in a bowl until the mixture is really thick and fluffy. Bring the butter and milk to the boil in saucepan, and stir, still boiling, into the eggs and sugar. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps of flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared roasting tin. Peel and core the apples and cut into thin slices, arrange them overlapping on top of the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for a further 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cut into slices. Serve with softly whipped cream

Fool Proof Food

Lemon Drizzle Squares

Makes 24

6 ozs (170g) soft butter
6 ozs (170g) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
6 ozs (170g) self-raising flour


freshly grated rind of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
freshly squeezed juice of 1-2 organic lemons
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar

10 x 7 inch (25.5 x 18 cm) Swiss roll tin, well greased

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4. Put the butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well buttered tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen. Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the glaze. As soon as the cake is cooked, pour the glaze over the top, leave to cool. Cut into squares.

Remove the biscuits from the tin if keeping for a few days unless the tin is coated with Teflon.
Hot Tips

O’Connell’s of Ballsbridge
Devoted fans of Tom O’Connell, whose restaurant O’Connell’s in Bewleys of Ballsbridge, (now Morans Hotel) had a national following will be glad to hear that O’Connell’s is now back in operation in the Ballsbridge Court Hotel in Pembroke Road, Dublin 4 Tel:
01 665 5940.

Belvelly Smoke House Shop
Caroline Hederman has opened a tiny shop by the Belvelly Smoke House near Cobh Co Cork, crammed with delicious artisan goodies. You will find the Belvelly Smoke House range of smoked salmon, mackerel, mussels, and baked salmon as well as a variety of hand made relishes, chutneys, mayonnaise and a tempting range of homemade sweets, fudge and peanut brittle… 086 8213984

The Nautilis Restaurant
There’s a little gem of a restaurant called Nautilus overlooking the harbour and lighthouse in Ballycotton called The Nautilis, French chef Lionel Babin is doing delicious food at very fair prices.  Don’t miss his Fondue Savoyarde.  Sunday lunch is unmissable.  After you’ve tucked in, enjoy a walk along the beautiful East Cork coastline all the way to Ballytrasna.
021 4646 768.

Thrifty Tip:
Left over citrus peel make brilliant firelighters when dried.  We just throw them into the cool oven of the Aga and allow them to dry out – a day or two.  Alternatively, dry on top of a radiator or in some warm dry spot – they smell delicious as they burn.


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