Irish Food Writers Guild Awards 2017

Awards are two a penny nowadays but it really has to be said, that some are scarcely credible, depending as they do on the number of people you can get to vote for you, by fair means or foul – not a particularly popular thing to say but sadly pretty close to the mark.
There are however, a few exceptions – Awards that really are worth winning. Amongst those are the Irish Food Writers Guild Awards established in 1990. These were one of the first of the kind in the country and remain unique. No one can enter their own company or their product into the awards and so they are unaware that they have been nominated or shortlisted. The Guild is the sole nominating and decision making body and as Georgina Campbell, president of the guild explained, the decisions are arrived at by a PR system and it’s “all incredibly correct”.

Products must be made with Irish produce or the main ingredient must be manufactured in Ireland. The announcement of the 2017 winners was made at a celebratory lunch at Patrick Guilbaud, two star Michelin restaurant in Dublin where head chef Guillaume Lebrun wove the winners products into a special menu with great panache.

This year’s IFWG awards went to a series of artisan producers . In no particular order The Friendly Farmer – Ronan Byrne from Galway who has been producing high quality chickens since 2007 when he identified a strong local demand from chefs and mothers desperate for tasty chicken. He produces 115 Hubbard chickens a week on a grass based system and has developed an onsite abattoir. He also rears, free range pigs, beef, cattle, turkeys, geese and ducks in season. How wonderful would it be to have a Friendly Farmer in every parish in Ireland? He sells direct to his customers through a farm shop in Moycullen and another in Galway. http://thefriendlyfarmer.blogspot.ie/

Smoked Duck from Anthony Cresswell at Ummera Smokehouse near Timoleague won another well-deserved award. A second generation smoker, Anthony is also famous for the quality of this smoked salmon, dry cured bacon, chicken and recently developed picanha a Brazilian style cut of meat. Anthony chooses his raw materials carefully, he favours Silver Hill duck from? for its tenderness, delicate flavour and its generous layer of fat that keeps the hot smoked duck moist – the result, a delicious versatile product, ready to use, that is the combined creation of two exemplary Irish producers.
www.ummera.com

A third award went to Cuinneóg Irish farmhouse country butter and natural buttermilk from Co Mayo. Tom and Sheila Butler started to make this traditional butter in their family kitchen in 2009 and have since won numerous awards. Cuinneóg means ‘churn’ and once again this artisan produce is being made by the next generation – Breda who inherited the skills from her parents. www.cuinneog.com

Another award for Cork, the county that has produced so many superb artisan producers. This time it went to an artisan beverage, Bertha’s Revenge – a highly original craft gin made at Ballyvolane House by old friends, Justin Green and Anthony Jackson.
Bertha’s Revenge is distilled with whey alcohol sourced from the local Carbery dairy plant and the milk of dairy from cows milk produced by Co Cork dairy farmers. The spirit is distilled three times with specially chosen botanicals including coriander, bitter orange, cardamom, cumin and clove as well as some locally foraged plants like alexander seeds, elderflower and sweet woodruff. This truly Irish gin continues the field to fork tradition that has long been at the heart of Ballyvolane House, a former dairy farm turned award winning country house hotel. www.ballyvolanehouse.ie
Mag Kerwin of Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Co Kilkenny is quite a force of nature and she won an IFWG award for her notable contribution to the Irish food and deservedly so. She is a tireless innovator and continues to add to her Eat Trout range of product and to promote Irish food in general. www.goatsbridgetrout.ie
The (brilliant) Little Milk Company were also awarded but more about them in another column. www.littlemilkcompany.ie

Hot Tips

Bake your own Bread and Bring it Home
There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread wafting out of your OWN oven – one of life’s simple pleasures and it’s sooo easy. On this half day course, a combination of demonstration and hands-on session, you’ll learn how to make several different bread recipes from traditional white and brown soda and multi seed to a really simple brown and white yeast bread technique and super quick scones. After a short demonstration, it’s into the kitchen for a hands-on session to bake your chosen loaves to bring home to share proudly with your family and friends. Friday May 12th2017, www.cookingisfun.ie

East Cork Slow Food Event
Lady Balfour founder of the Soil Association once said “the health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible”. David Beecher will give a talk on soil, life beneath our feet on Thursday May 11th, 7pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Tickets €6/€8. Phone 021 4646785 or www.slowfoodireland.com for further information

Litfest 2017 is ramping up now and Litfest HQ is in its fifth year. The theme for this year’s Litfest is ‘Local Hero, Global Hero’. Join us for two days of foraging walks, lunches; pop up guest chef dinners, panel discussions, free fringe activities and cookery demonstrations. Check out Sunil Ghai’s cookery demonstration at the BCS on Saturday May 20th at 9.30am. Sunil is the leading Indian chef in Ireland, winning an impressive array of awards including FOOD&WINE Magazine’s Chef of the Year 2009. He is currently at the helm of his own Venture at Pickle Restaurant Eating house & Bar on Camden Street in Dublin. Sunil’s food philosophy is inspired by the rich culinary traditions of his homeland, Gwalior in Central India using the very best local, fresh ingredients and the world’s finest spices. For Sunil “each plate is a journey, a delight for the eye and the palette.”

Wrappies – have you discovered these environmentally friendly food wrappers. They do the same as clingfilm except you can wash, dry and reuse them and they’re altogether pretty. They are made from cotton dipped in beeswax tree resin and jojoba oil. So you can feel like you’re saving the planet during day to day tasks like making packed lunches and putting things in the fridge. After use just wash in cool water with some soft soap (not detergent) rinse and hang up to dry. Available from Madeline McKeever, tel: 028 381 84and the Skibbereen Farmers Market.

Salad of Ummera Smoked Silver Hill Duck Breast with Beetroot and Horseradish

Serves 4

4 cooked beetroots cut into small cubes
olive oil
Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Ummera Smoked Silver Hill Duck Breasts, thinly sliced
2 ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced
prepared horseradish sauce, to serve
pistachios, to garnish
micro herbs, to garnish

Dress the cooked cubed beetroot in a little olive oil and Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place the beetroot on a cold plate and add a few dots of olive oil and vinegar. Neatly arrange the thinly sliced smoked duck and pears on top. Finish with a small quenelle of horseradish sauce and garnish with a few halved pistachios, micro herbs and a little coarsely ground black pepper.

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2017 by executive chef Guillaume Lebrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

Goatsbridge Cold Smoked Trout with Bertha’s Revenge Gin and Tonic Foam and Pickled Ginger

Serves 8

For the tomato jelly
3 leaves of gelatine
500g ripe plum tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of caster sugar
dash of Tabasco sauce

For the gin and tonic foam
2 leaves of gelatine
400ml tonic water
0.5g agar agar
100ml Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin

To assemble
1 large piece of Goatsbridge Cold Smoked Trout, cut into bite-sized pieces
pickled ginger, cut into bite-sized pieces

To make the tomato jelly, soak the leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes. Blend the tomatoes in a food processor, then pass through a fine muslin cloth. Season the tomato water with salt, pepper, sugar and Tabasco sauce. Gently warm the tomato water, then add the hydrated gelatine. Leave to set.

To make the gin and tonic foam, soak the leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes. Boil the tonic water briefly with the agar agar. Remove from the heat and add the hydrated gelatine and the gin. Leave to cool, then place in a cream siphon charged with one carbon dioxide canister.

To assemble, place 1 tablespoon of the tomato jelly in a small cup or shot glass. Add one or two small pieces of smoked trout, then one small piece of pickled ginger. Finish with the gin and tonic foam and serve straight away.

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2017 by executive chef Guillaume Lebrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

Friendly Farmer’s Pasture-Reared Chicken with Lemon Viennoise and Sweet Potato Purée

Serves 4

1 x Friendly Farmer pasture-reared whole small chicken

For the sweet potato purée
rock salt
6 sweet potatoes
100g butter, diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the lemon viennoise
500g fresh white breadcrumbs
400g butter, diced
70g grated Parmesan
2 egg yolks
zest of 3 lemons
pinch of saffron powder

To serve
wilted pak choi
roast red pepper
roast chicken jus

Preheat the oven to 230°C.

Pour a thick layer of rock salt in a baking tray. Scrub the unpeeled sweet potatoes well, then pat them dry and nestle them into the bed of salt. Cover the tray with foil and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, split them open and scoop the flesh into a Thermomix or food processor along with the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Blend to a smooth purée and keep warm.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C.

To make the lemon viennoise, simply mix all the ingredients together in a food processor.

Remove the legs and wishbone from the chicken so that you’re left with just the crown. Stuff the lemon viennoise under the skin, then place the chicken on a large baking tray. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until completely cooked through. Set aside to rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

Serve the carved chicken on top of a spoonful of sweet potato purée. Finish with wilted pak choi and a few small strips of roast red pepper and drizzle with roast chicken jus.

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2017 by executive chef Guillaume Lebrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

Cuinneog Buttermilk Ice Cream with Pear and White Chocolate Café au Lait

Serves 12

For the ice cream
2 litres Cuinneog Buttermilk
450g egg yolks
360g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out

For the pear sorbet
1kg pear purée
360g caster sugar
10ml Poire Williams
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
100g white chocolate, melted

For the marinated pears
2 ripe pears
100ml freshly brewed espresso, cooled

To serve
chocolate biscuits, crushed

To make the ice cream, bring the milk to the boil in a large saucepan, then immediately remove from the heat. Mix the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla seeds together in a large heatproof bowl. Pour over the scalded milk and whisk to combine. Allow to cool, then churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions and freeze.

To make the pear sorbet, place the pear purée and all sugar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the Poire Williams and vanilla seeds. Allow to cool, then churn most of it (save a little for decorating the finished dish) in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions and freeze.

When the sorbet has frozen solid, break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Scoop the sorbet into 20g balls and dip them in the melted white chocolate, then place back in the freezer until needed.

Peel and core the pears and use a Parisienne scoop to make balls. Pour the cooled espresso in a bowl and add the pears. Allow to marinate for at least a few hours or overnight.

Serve a quenelle of ice cream on a spoonful of crushed chocolate biscuits with balls of the pear sorbet, marinated pears and dots of the remaining pear purée alongside.

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2017 by executive chef Guillaume Lebrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.