People are flocking to food fairs around the country. They have become a magnet for those who like to source local and artisan foods. Coupled with the growing number of farm shops and markets, it creates an opportunity for food producers to add value to their produce so they can continue to live on the land that they love or the area they have settled in rather then enduring the long daily commute to the nearest large town or city.
In this challenging economic climate, local Environmental Health Officers and dairy inspectors are anxious to support and encourage these enterprises. I recently visited the Four Rivers Slow Food event at Goatsbridge Trout Farm near Thomastown Co. Kilkenny. Generations of the Kirwan family have produced trout beside the mill stream which was originally dug by the monks of nearby Jerpoint Abbey. The trout ponds are fed by gravity feed from three springs of ice cold water.
Still with a twinkle in his eye, Padraic Kirwan, at 82 years of age, is the patriarch of the family. He started the business with his wife Rita in 1962. Padraic explained the life cycle of the trout from green ova to alevin fry to fingerlings and market size fish. His son Gerard scooped them up in a fishing net so that we could see them as we moved from pond to pond. Success, Padraic told me, depends on both God and nature. Weâ€™d already tasted fresh tout and smoked trout pate in four or five different ways cooked by Alan Cullen of Jerpoint Catering.
Several local farmers and food producers have come to display their wares. Joy Moore from Oldtown Hill Bakehouse in Tullaroan has been in business for ten years. For GAA fans Tullaroan is famous for the Lowry Maher centre housed in an 18th Century thatched cottage which one person mentioned to me was more important then visiting the Vatican for Irish hurling fans. Joy had a terrific selection of breads, cakes, buns and biscuits which she bakes from flour milled in Mosses of Bennelsbridge from local wheat. The milk comes from her dairy farm. www.goodfoodireland.com. For information on Slow Food events around the country see www.slowfoodireland.com
The Brambley cooking apples for the tarts and crumble come from Phillip Littleâ€™s orchard in Pilltown, Co. Waterford which gives Oldtown Hill Bakehouse products a low carbon foot- print. Oldtown Hill Bake House employ fifteen people and sell all its cakes locally – an inspirational example of rural enterprise. (056) 7769263.
Bronagh Boyd who also loves to bake recently started Little Cakes of Happiness. One bite of her confections certainly produced a flow of compliments. Pecan, lemon drizzle and oatmeal squares were all absolutely delicious and sang of butter and fine ingredients. Bronagh sells in local farmers markets, 087 2841928
I also met Willy Dolan who rears mountain sheep near Leamlara in the Comeragh Mountains. Those who, like me, have a hankering for the occasional mutton or haggot as well as sliced lamb should contact Willy directly on 086-8583605.
Local cheese maker Helen Finnegan, whose cheese Knockdrinna many of you will know, was there with her range of cow, goat and sheep milk cheese. Helen also makes Lavistown Cheese originally made by Roger and Olivia Goodville.
Helenâ€™s newest venture is a farm shop and cafÃ© right in the centre of Stoneyford, Co.Kilkenny. A perfect stop on the road from Kilkenny to Waterford. Not only can one have a delicious slice quiche or a piece of orange drizzle cake they can also stock up on Helenâ€™s home cured bacon, local fruit, preserves, fresh herbs and of course Knockdrinna Farmhouse cheese. Helenâ€™s farm shop and Goatsbridge Farm will all be part of the Good Food Ireland food tourism trail in that area
Smoked Trout with Cucumber Salad and Horseradish Sauce
8 fillets of smoked trout (either smoked sea trout or rainbow trout)
2 Irish cucumbers
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1 teasp. chopped fresh fennel or 2 teasp. chopped fresh dill
a sprinkle of wine vinegar
fresh dill or fennel
First make the horseradish sauce. Thinly slice the cucumber (with peel on). Sprinkle with a few drops of vinegar, season with salt, sugar and a little freshly ground pepper and stir in some finely chopped fennel of dill.
To assemble the salad: Place a fillet of smoked trout on each individual serving plate. Arrange the cucumber salad along the side and pipe some fresh horseradish sauce on top of the trout. Garnish with a segment of lemon and some fresh herbs.
This makes a mild horseradish sauce, if you would like something that will really clear the sinuses, just increase the quantity of grated horseradish.
8 fl ozs (250ml) softly whipped cream
2 teasp. wine vinegar
1 teasp. lemon juice
3 teasp. mustard
3 teasp. salt
a pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teasp. sugar
Â½ tablesp. grated horseradish
Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the softly whipped cream, do not over mix or the sauce will curdle.
This sauce keeps for 2-3 days and may also be served with roast beef; cover so that it doesn’t pick up flavours in the fridge.
Pear and Almond Tart
This is certainly one of the most impressive of the French tarts, it is wonderful served warm but is also very good cold and it keeps for several days. Old Town Hill Bake house made a similar one which was absolutely delish
4-5 ripe pears, poached
200g (7oz) flour
110g (4oz) cold butter
1 egg yolk, preferably free range and organic
pinch of salt
3-4 tablespoons cold water
100g (31/2oz) butter
100g (31/2oz) castor sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 egg yolk, preferably free range
2 tablespoons kirsch
110g (4oz) whole blanched almonds, ground or 1/2 ground almonds and 1/2 blanched and ground
25g (1oz) flour
150ml (1/4pint) approx. apricot glaze
23cm (9inch) diameter flan ring or tart tin with a removable base
First make the shortcrust pastry,
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop. Whisk the egg yolk and add the water.
Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper shorter crust.
Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes or better still 30 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.
Next poach the pears and allow to get cold. Preheat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/gas mark 4. Roll out the pastry, line the tart tin with it, prick lightly with a fork, flute the edges and chill again until firm. Bake blind for 15-20 minutes.
Next make the frangipane. Cream the butter gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and soft. Gradually add the egg and egg yolk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the ground almonds and flour and then add the kirsch or calvados. Pour the frangipane into the pastry case spreading it evenly. Drain the pears well and when they are cold cut them crosswise into very thin slices, then lift the sliced pears intact and arrange them around the tart on the frangipane pointed ends towards the centre. Arrange a final half pear in the centre.
Turn the oven up to 200Â°C/400Â°F/gas mark 6. Bake the tart for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is beginning to brown. Turn down the oven heat to moderate 180Â°C/350Â°F/gas mark 4 and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the frangipane is set in the centre and nicely golden.
When the tart is fully cooked, paint generously with apricot glaze, remove from the tin and serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.
Coffee and Walnut Biscuits
Makes 8 full biscuits
175g (6oz) flour
75g (3oz) butter
50g (2oz) castor sugar
25g (1oz) butter
50g (2oz) icing sugar (sieved)
1 teaspoon Irel Coffee essence
110g (4oz) icing sugar (sieved)
scant Â½ tablespoon. Irel Coffee essence
1 tablespoon boiling water approx.
Fresh walnut halves to decorate
Sieve the flour into a bowl. Rub in the butter, add sugar, and mix well. Beat egg. Mix dry ingredients to a stiff dough with beaten egg. Turn out onto a floured board and roll out to 3mm (1/8in) thickness. Cut into 9cm (31/2in) rounds.
Bake in a moderate oven 180ÂºC/350ÂºF/gas mark 4 until golden brown, 8 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Allow to get cold. Meanwhile, make the coffee filling.
Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar and the coffee essence. Continue to beat until light and fluffy. To make the icing â€“ sieve the icing sugar and put into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water to make it the consistency of a very thick cream. Beat until smooth and glossy. Sandwich the biscuits together with coffee filling and spread a little thick coffee icing on top, decorate each biscuit with Â½ a walnut.
Irish Apple Cake
This is something mummy used to make with new seasons apples, try it, it will bring back memories.
Serves 6 approx.
8 ozs (225g) white flour
Â¼ teaspoon baking powder
4 ozs (110g) butter
4 1/2 ozs (125g) castor sugar
1 egg, preferably organic and free-range
2 – 4 fl. ozs (50-125ml) milk, approx.
1-2 cooking apples – we use Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
2-3 cloves (optional)
Ovenproof Plate (10 inch/25 1/2 cm)
Preheat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/Gas Mark 4.
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs, add 3 ozs (75g) castor sugar, make a well in the centre and mix to a soft dough with the beaten egg and enough milk to form a soft dough. Divide in two. Put one half onto a greased ovenproof plate and pat out with floured fingers to cover the base. Peel, core and chop up the apples, place them on the dough and add 1 1/2 ozs (45g) sugar, depending on the sweetness of the apples. Roll out the remaining pastry and fit on top, this is easier said than done as this ‘pastry’ is more like scone dough and as a result is very soft. Press the sides together, cut a slit through the lid, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes approximately or until cooked through and nicely browned. Dredge with castor sugar and serve warm with Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream.
Fool Proof Food
Trout with Cream and Dill
Little rainbow trout are available in virtually every fish shop. This combination is surprisingly delicious and very fast to cook. If dill is difficult to find use a mixture of fresh herbs.
4 fresh trout
salt and freshly ground pepper
8g (3 oz) butter
175ml (6fl oz) cream
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
Gut the trout, fillet carefully, wash and dry well. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Melt the butter in a frying pan, fry the trout fillets flesh side down until golden brown. Turn over on to the skin side, add cream and freshly chopped dill. Simmer gently for 3 or 4 minutes or until the trout is cooked. Taste the sauce to check the seasoning and serve immediately.
Chef Mickael Viljanenâ€™s food is really making waves at Greganâ€™s Castle at the edge of the Burren in Co Clare â€“ he recently won an award in the Irish Food and Wine Magazine awards. Itâ€™s well worth making the detour to taste his food and while you are there stay the night in the lovely country house hotel
www.gregans.ie telephone 065 7077005
Slow Food Limerick celebrates free range pork at Curragchase, Limerick on Sunday 27th September 12pm to 5pm with a Tamworth pig on the spit. Entry fee includes demonstrations on bee keeping, bread making and pig keeping. Contact Caroline Rigney on 087 2834754 for more details
Details of this years National Organic Week from 14th to 20th September can be found on the Bord Bia website