Ballygowan, and the irish guild of food writers awards

Silke Cropp’s Corleggy Cheeses from Co Cavan were chosen as the Supreme winner of the 2003 Ballygowan / Irish Food Writers Guild Food Awards, which took place on Tuesday 23rd September at L’Ecrivain Restaurant, Dublin. 

The Awards, sponsored by Ballygowan, are now in their tenth year and have become one of the most anticipated dates in the Foodie calendar. The Awards are unique, in the sense that no one can enter; producers are nominated and judged for their quality, excellence and consistency by the Irish Food Writers Guild. 

There were four finalists –Belvelly Smokehouse, Cobh Co. Cork,

O’Doherty’s Butchers, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, McGeoughs Butchers, Oughterard, Co Galway and Corleggy Cheese.

Another award for Belvelly Smokehouse, Cobh, Co Cork, for its range of smoked and cured wild and organically cultivated fish and shellfish
For the past 20 years down in Belvelly Smokehouse in Cobh, Co Cork, Frank Hederman has cured and smoked naturally only locally caught wild fish, or organically cultivated fish and shellfish. What he has on offer at any given time depends on local catches and seasonal availability. His produce, known and appreciated by discerning chefs, includes salmon, mackerel, eels, haddock, halibut, kippers, roll mop herrings, mussels, and trout. He makes pates and, occasionally, in season (when the wind is in the right direction) offers the most wonderful smoked sprats which we tasted at the Awards Lunch.

Frank is passionate about good food and forthright about the difficulties small producers face. He has been in the business long enough to develop a sound base of wholesale and corporate business without neglecting the ordinary consumer who may buy the products from Frank's own retail shop in the English Market in Cork, order them on the web through his e-mail service, or in specialist shops in Ireland, Spain, Italy and the UK, in Fortnum & Mason's in London and Rick Stein's in Cornwall, and at food markets. He has long been known as a dedicated worker in supporting, promoting and selling at the farmers and producers markets all over this country and beyond. His fish has been sold at Midleton Farmers Market right from the beginning; he was also in at the start of Temple Bar, of Macreddin, of Dun Laoghaire, and of the newest-outside the walls of Kilkenny Castle. Frank was one of a group of artisan producers who set out to reclaim an old right-successfully I'm glad to report.    Back to Top

Another winner was Pat O'Doherty, O Doherty's Butchers for his Oak-smoked Irish Lamb
O'Doherty's have been a respected family butcher in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, for over 40 years. The shop in down-town Enniskillen is always busy and always an object lesson in how to attract customers. Customers get a friendly welcome and are offered a balanced mix of traditional cuts of meat and innovative products. They have long been well known for their Aberdeen Angus beef and for venison and other game in season. O'Doherty's have won numerous awards for their sausages. 

Some years back, Pat set out on a mission: to recreate real, traditional dry-cured bacon, naturally matured. Working with farmers to increase production of breeds like saddleback, known to produce excellent bacon, the result was a range of dry-smoked bacons, one of which, O'Doherty's Black Bacon, won an Irish Food Writers Guild/Ballygowan Award in 2000.       Back to Top

Since then Pat has continued to expand his innovative range of speciality meat products and this year the guild members were intrigued by a product unique in Ireland-Oak Smoked Irish Lamb-an imaginative spin on a premium local product. 

The lamb is very lightly and slowly smoked for up to 30 hours. The most popular cut in the shop is thin escalopes, which can be speedily flash-grilled or used in stir-fries. Full legs, saddle and rack of lamb, which were served at the Awards Lunch are also available. The product is sold vacuum-packed with a shelf-life of up to 20 days. As well as being on sale in Pat's own shop you may buy his products in Harrods, in Cosgrove's in Sligo, in specialist shops in the UK and Ireland, and they may be ordered via his e-mail service-a service many restaurants avail of.

An award went to James McGeough, McGeoughs Butcher's, Oughterard, Co Galway, for the high quality of his meat and his range of speciality pork, lamb and beef products
After training for four years in Germany, working in both butchers shops and restaurants, James returned with his German wife to the family business in Oughterard-a much loved and highly respected family butchers for many a long year and one of the few craft butchers who still operate their own abattoir-a sparkling, shining place.
James, inspired by his training in Germany, set out to create a range of salamis, sausages, air-dried ham and lamb, pates, and corned beef. He has also won awards at the Irish Craft Butchers sausage, pudding and speciality meat products competitions. 

He makes a delicious air-dried and smoked ham, an innovative air-dried and smoked lamb made from a nine-month old Connemara lamb (which means it has lots of flavour). His salamis have an Irish spin, one being flavoured with rum and one with whiskey. He makes excellent pates and corned beef; his sausages include traditional pork (plain and smoked), Chilly-Willie frankfurter-style and Connemara lamb and bacon, which were also served. 

His products are used by discerning chefs, are on sale in the shop, and may be ordered by e-mail. McGregor’s is a shining example of what a modern craft butcher should be. He has the ambition, dedication, and ability to move with the times, offering a range of high quality ready-to-eat speciality meat products, alongside beautifully matured and prepared traditional cuts of meat from carefully sourced animals supplied by local farmers.     Back to Top

And the supreme award went to Corleggy Cheeses, Belturbet, Co Cavan for their range of cheeses and support of the Producer’s Market Movement

Silke Cropp left her native Germany in 1982 to settle in a small holding on the River Erne at Corleggy, near Belturbet, Co Cavan. For over 20 years she has been committed to producing high quality cheeses made from the milk of goats, sheep and cows. Silke is a dedicated member of the Slow Food Movement with which she has been associated since it was set up and is tireless in promoting, in a practical way, the farmers and small producers markets. 
Over the years she has developed a range of cheeses, all made using raw milk, each with a distinct personality and a superb flavour; and all are beautifully presented-reflecting her original career as an art teacher. Corleggy is her flagship cheese, a natural rind, hard goats cheese. Her Drumlin range is made from cows milk and, as well as producing traditional and smoked versions, there are a number of flavoured cheeses in the Drumlin range: garlic and red pepper, and cumin and green peppercorn. The latest addition to her range and one that was especially popular at the Guild's tasting meeting for these awards is a sheeps milk cheese with a wonderful texture and flavour.

What started as an experiment to use excess milk from her goats has grown into a successful artisan food business and she now makes 8 tonnes of cheese a year. The winner of many specialist cheese awards Silke's cheeses are on sale in Neal's Yard in London and are exported to Europe and the US. They are available throughout Ireland, wholesale, in specialist shops, and at many Farmers and Small Producer Markets including Temple Bar and Macreddin and may also be ordered on the web though her e-mail service.

Speaking at the Awards, Mary Flynn, Marketing Manager of Ballygowan, commented; “ Over our long association with the Irish Food Awards, we have been privileged to experience some of the most innovative foods which have been brought to the Irish market. Through dedication and care, more and more Irish producers are providing us with outstanding produce, which are being sold locally, nationally and internationally”. 

Mary Flynn and Irish Food Writers Guild Chairwoman, Nuala Cullen, presented the Awards and Derry Clarke, award winning chef and patron of L’Ecrivain, prepared a truly delicious six-course lunch for guests incorporating all of the winning produce, plus an apple dessert plate with Penny Lange’s delicious apples from her orchard in Kiltegan, Co Wicklow.      Back to Top

Silke Cropp, Corleggy Cheeses, Portruan, Belturbet, Co Cavan. 
Tel: 049 952 2930
Frank Hederman, Belvelly Smoke House, Cobh, East Cork, Co Cork  Tel: 0214 811089
Pat O’Doherty, O’Doherty’s Butchers, Belmore Street, Enniskillen. Tel: 048 66322152
James McGeough, McGeough’s Butchers, Camp Street, Oughterard, Co Galway. Tel: 091 552 351

Here are a couple of the dishes which were served at the Awards Lunch at L'Ecrivain

Sweet Potato and Lemongrass Soup, Scented with Coconut

From L’Ecrivain Restaurant
3 medium sweet potatoes
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 sachet creamed coconut, made up as instructed on the packet
1 pint chicken stock
2 stems of lemongrass, cut into one inch pieces
25g butter

Sweat the onion and garlic in butter until soft.
Peel potatoes and cut into cubes
Add potatoes and lemongrass which has been bruised with a knife.
Add chicken stock, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer
Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the potato is soft
Remove lemongrass from the soup and liquidise until smooth
Pass through a fine sieve and return to the heat
Add creamed coconut, stir and serve.

James Mc Geough’s Lamb & Bacon Sausage, Whipped Potato & Celeriac, Pimento Chutney, Bordelaise Gravy

4 Lamb & Bacon Sausages
Potato & Celeriac Whipped Potato:
1 small rooster potato, peeled & quartered
1 small celeriac, peel & chop
1 shallot, finely diced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
25g/1oz butter
¼/150ml cream

Pimento Chutney:
4 red peppers
2 shallots
2 cloves garlic
3 whole cloves 
1 sprig thyme
½ cup/3oz/85g brown sugar
4tbsp white wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Bordelaise Sauce:
5 shallots, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
3½ fl. oz /100ml port wine
½ pt / 280ml veal jus

Lamb & Bacon Sausage:
Seal sausage on frying pan, cook on moderate heat until done through.
Whipped Potato & Celeriac:
 Boil potato in salted water until tender, strain & add butter and milk while mashing.
 Sweat the shallot & thyme in butter, add the celeriac, and gently sweat.
 Add the cream, cover with round of greaseproof paper and simmer until tender. 
 Pass through sieve or mouli, add warm smooth potato purée. 
 Season to taste.

Pimento Chutney:
 Finely dice the peppers & shallot. 
 Place in a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. 
 Bring to the boil. 
 Reduce to a jam-like consistency. 
 Remove from the heat.
 Serve at room temperature.

Bordelaise Sauce:
 Sweat shallot & garlic in saucepan, add port wine, and reduce by half. 
 Add the veal jus & reduce by half again. 
 Ready to serve.

Foolproof Food                    

Apple and Tomato Chutney

This is a basic recipe for chutney, use windfall apples or even some crab apples which are now in season.

Makes 10 x 1 lb (450 g) pots
7-8 lbs (3.2-3.4 kg) ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped 
1 lb (450 g) onions, chopped
1 lb (450 g) eating apples, peeled and chopped
3 lbs (1.35 kg) sugar
1½ pints (900 ml) white malt vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 teaspoons all spice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper
8-12 oz (225-340 g) sultanas
Prepare all the ingredients. Put into a large wide stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer steadily and gently until reduced and slightly thick - 1 hour, approx. Pot immediately in sterilized jars. Cover and store in a cool dry place.

Top Tips 
Cahir Farmers Market – was recently launched - open every Saturday morning from 9.00-1.00 in the Granary Craft Centre Car Park on Church Street. Details from Pat O’Brien 086-6482044

Ireland’s First Fair Trade Town - Clonakilty in West Cork has another title to add to its enviable collection – it has just been launched as Ireland’s first ever official Fair Trade Town – fair trade is a means of empowering people in developing countries to improve their own lives and environments through fair prices for their produce.
Skibbereen and Kinsale are also currently working towards achieving Fairtrade Town status.
Fairtrade Exhibtion at Clonakilty Library from 23 September – 7th October  e-mail:  Tel 01-4753515 

Slow Food East Cork presents - VERMONT FARMSTEAD CHEESE
Saturday, October 18th, 3pm at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry
Jeffrey Roberts and Paul Kinstedt from Vermont, who will be spending a week in Ireland as part of an initiative through UCC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to compare farmhouse cheesemaking techniques and collaborate with our Irish 
Cheesemakers, will make a presentation on American farmhouse cheeses. For details contact Meredith Benke 087 961 3600.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


Past Letters

  • Recipes