Slow Food Cork Festival

Clodagh McKenna makes things happen. This swirling vivacious gastro-dame is the power behind the upcoming Slow Food Cork Festival 23-25 September 2005. In a year where there have been many highlights of the arts and music scene, there has been a serious dearth of foodie events. At last we have the celebration of Cork’s food culture and gastronomic bounty with this Slow Food Event. 
Kay Harte of the Farmgate Café in the Market tells me that another food event will be held in the English Market in October showcasing the best of market foods when they will launch the first book ever written about the market – this will be a historical account of Cork’s English Market written by Donal and Diarmuid O’Drisceoil and published by Con Collins.

Clodagh who was born by the banks of the Lee spent four years doing business studies in NYU in New York City. She was blown away by the variety of eating options in New York, particularly the huge ready-to-go food business. She came back to Ireland full of enthusiasm and ready to open an exciting ‘Grab, Gobble & Go’ outfit, but first she decided to do the Certificate Course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. After 12 weeks ‘indoctrination’ she became even more passionate about the need to source really good quality produce. A stint in Ballymaloe House working closely with Myrtle Allen on her stall at the Midleton Farmers Market followed and she gradually took over the stall from Myrtle and never looked back.

Myrtle who just last week won the Food and Wine Magazine Hall of Fame award would be up at 5am to show Clodagh how to make loaves of traditional soda bread for the market. Clodagh told me how excited she was to discover the Farmers Market ‘community’ and a whole network of new young foodie entrepreneurs, passionate about quality and who were like herself brimming with confidence and pride in the new and traditional artisan food products and local foods. 

She first heard about the Slow Food Movement in 2002 . The philosophy of celebrating differences in flavours, artisanal food production, small-scale agriculture, sustainable approaches to fishing and farming all appealed to her. Slow Food restores cultural dignity to food, promotes taste education and strives to defend biodiversity. 

She was involved in the organisation of the hugely successful Slow Food Weekends in Rosscarbery and Kenmare. Clodagh presented six different proposals for food events to the committee of Cork City of Culture, but much to her dismay food didn’t appear to be a priority. According to Clodagh the official 2005 Year of Culture Guide has about 50 pages on sport and not one mention of Cork’s number one culture – food.
The Slow Food Cork Festival will redress all that with backing and help from Musgraves, Febvre, Cork and Kerry Tourism, Failte Ireland and most of all Liz McAvoy in Cork City Challenge (our Slow Food Guardian Angel!) Slow Food plan to make this an annual event. 

The weekend starts on Friday night 23rd of September with a ‘Cork Schools Dinner’ at the Millennium Hall. The aim of the dinner is to raise awareness and funding for the ‘Cork Edible School Gardens Project’. Saturday morning will be dedicated to workshops, then in the afternoon there will be a huge farmers market on Patrick Street and a Cork City food tour. The ‘Slow Pub Trail’ starts at 7pm in Tom Barry’s Pub and ends at the Franciscan Well. Three of the five pubs will host fantastic Cork Artisan Producers selling plates of their food for €5. There will also be a quiz with a fabulous ‘food’ prize, please ask for further details in the pubs listed. 
Excursions will take place on Sunday to visit producers in Cork County. If you prefer to stay city centered Kino Art House Cinema will be showcasing ‘foodie movies’ all afternoon and further workshops will take place in UCC. The last event will be the ‘Slow Food Cork Awards’ recognising the sterling work and innovative enterprise of Ireland’s leading artisan food producers, chefs and quality food retailers. Additional categories will also acknowledge the work of food journalists and volunteers who work promoting the merits of quality Irish produce. Throughout the festival various restaurants in the city will be offering Slow Food menus – please visit   for more information.

Clodagh and her team or volunteers are hoping that the whole of Cork will slow down and enjoy the convivial weekend that they have organised with something exciting and delicious for everyone to sample.

Farmgate Café Corned Mutton with Caper Sauce

Kay Harte shared this recipe with us – delicious corned mutton or corned beef feature all the time on the menu at the Farmgate Café in the market, otherwise there would be lots of disappointed customers.

Paul Murphy of Paul Murphy butchers in the Market corns the mutton for about 4 days and its absolutely mouthwatering.

1 leg of corned mutton
béchamel sauce – see recipe

Weigh the leg of mutton and boil for approx. 20 minutes per lb in a large saucepan. Remove from the saucepan and place on a serving dish. Keep warm. Keep the cooking liquid.

Make the béchamel sauce making up the liquid with half milk and half mutton cooking liquid. Add a little mustard to the sauce (you could use English mustard or Dijon mustard) and some chopped fresh capers. Slice the mutton and serve with the sauce.

Kay serves it with steamed jacket potatoes and mashed carrot and turnip. She cooks the vegetables in some of the mutton cooking water to give a delicious flavour. 

Well worth a detour for!

Béchamel Sauce

½ pint (300ml) milk or half milk and half meat cooking liquid as suggested by Kay Harte
A few slices of carrot
A few slices of onion
A small sprig of thyme
A small sprig of parsley
3 peppercorns
1½ ozs (45g) roux (see below)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

This is a marvellous quick way of making Bechamel Sauce if you already have roux made. Put the cold milk ( or half and half) into a saucepan with the carrot, onion, peppercorns, thyme and parsley. Bring to the boil, simmer for 4-5 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a light coating consistency. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

4 ozs (110g) butter
4 ozs (110g) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Tripe and Onions
This recipe was given to me by Michael Ryan of Isaacs Restaurant in Cork, for my book on Traditional Irish Cooking, this was how his father cooked tripe and onions.

1 lb (450g) tripe
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
cold milk - sufficient to cover


Put the tripe into a saucepan, with the lid on, place on gas ring for 8-10 minutes approx. 
Discard the liquor in the pot, add the sliced onion and cover with cold milk. Simmer gently for 1 hour approx. until the tripe is tender. Strain off the milk, thicken with roux, season with salt and pepper. Strain the back into the saucepan with the tripe, heat through. Check seasoning, it will take quite a bit of pepper.
Serve on a slice of buttered white bread.

Tripe and Drisheen

After adding the thickened liquor back to the saucepan, you could if you wish add some drisheen to the tripe - peel and slice some cooked drisheen, add it to the saucepan and heat through before serving.
Tripe in Batter

2 lb (225g) tripe
batter - see below

Wash the tripe in hot water. Put it into boiling water and simmer for 20 minutes, skimming well. When quite tender, take out the trip, dry it, cut in pieces about 2 inches (5cm) square and allow it to become perfectly cold. Put the fat into a frying pan, when hot dip the pieces of tripe into the batter and fry at once.


4 ozs (110g) flour
2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoon pepper
5 fl. ozs (150ml) milk

To make the batter, put the flour and salt into a basin, make a hole in the centre, pour in the liquid gradually, beating till the batter is quite smooth.

Pigs Head 

My children were appalled at the unmentionable bits that they occasionally glimpsed while I tested recipes for my Traditional Irish Food book, pigs tails, bodice, tripe, drisheen .... such a lily-livered lot, this generation!

Pigs Head and Cabbage

Half a pigs head
a head of cabbage
a lump of butter

Remove the brain and discard. Wash the pigs head well. Put in a large saucepan and cover with cold water, bring to the boil, discard water and continue to cook in a covered saucepan for 3-4 hours or until the meat is soft and tender and almost lifting off the bones. 

Meanwhile, remove the outside leaves from the cabbage, cut into quarters and remove the centre core. Cut into thin strips across the grain, about 30 minutes before the pig's head is cooked add the cabbage and continue to cook until the cabbage is soft and tender and the pigs head is fully cooked through.

Devotees of pig's head would simply surround the pigs head with cabbage on a plate and serve this. However, for a less dramatic presentation and ease of carving, the bones can be removed and the pigs head cut into slices. Don't forget to give each person a piece of tongue and ear. The Pig's ear is a particular favourite.


The Irish name for salted pigs trotters have long been a
favourite in Ireland the front feet are considered to be sweeter and more meaty and succulent than the back legs which are less meaty and more grisly and best used for their gelatinous quality they give to and pies
Crubeens were regular in pubs, a particular favourite with not only the customer but also the publican who was fully aware of the thirst they provoked!
Serves 6

6 Crubeens
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 bay leaf
5 or 6 parsley stalks
a good sprig of thyme
a few peppercorns
enough cold water to cover well

Put all the ingredients into a large pot, cover with plenty of cold water, bring to the boil, skim. Boil gently for 2 or 3 hours or until the meat is soft and tender. Eat either warm or cold with a little mustard if you fancy.

Ballymaloe Spiced Beef 
Although Spiced Beef is traditionally associated with Christmas, in Cork we eat it all year round! It may be served hot or cold and is a marvellous stand-by, because if it is properly spiced and cooked it will keep for 3-4 weeks in a fridge.
Serves 12-16

3-4 lbs (1.35kg-1.8kg) lean flap of beef or silverside

Ballymaloe spice for beef

This delicious recipe for Spiced Beef has been handed down in Myrtle Allen's family and is the best I know. It includes saltpetre, nowadays regarded as a health hazard, so perhaps you should not live exclusively on it! Certainly people have lived on occasional meals of meats preserved in this way, for generations.
The recipe below makes enough spice to cure 5 flanks of beef, each 4 lbs (1.8kg) approx in size.

8 ozs (225g) demerara sugar
12 ozs (340g) salt
½ oz (15g) saltpetre (available from chemists)
3 ozs (85g) whole black pepper
3 ozs (85g) whole allspice (pimento, Jamaican pepper)
3 ozs (85g) whole juniper berries

Grind all the ingredients (preferably in a food processor) until fairly fine. Store in a screw-top jar; it will keep for months, so make the full quantity even if it is more than you need at a particular time.

To prepare the beef: If you are using flank of beef, remove the bones and trim away any unnecessary fat. Rub the spice well over the beef and into every crevice. Put into an earthenware dish and leave in a fridge or cold larder for 3-7 days, turning occasionally. (This is a dry spice, but after a day or two some liquid will come out of the meat.). The longer the meat is left in the spice, the longer it will last and the more spicy the flavour.

Just before cooking, roll and tie the joint neatly with cotton string into a compact shape, cover with cold water and simmer for 2-3 hours or until soft and cooked. If it is not to be eaten hot, press by putting it on a flat tin or into an appropriate sized bread tin; cover it with a board and weight and leave for 12 hours.

Spiced Beef will keep for 3-4 weeks in a fridge.

To serve: Cut it into thin slices and serve with some freshly-made salads and home-made chutneys, or in sandwiches.

Smoked Cod with Parsley Sauce

O’Connells fish mongers in the English Market tell me that Smoked Cod is a very popular Cork dish at this time of the year.
Serves 6

6 portions of smoked cod (allow 170 g/6 ozs approx. filleted fish per person)
1 tablesp.finely-chopped onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
30 g (1 oz) butter
1 tablesp. freshly chopped parsley
Light cream or creamy milk to cover the fish, approx. 300 ml (½ pint)
Roux – see bechamel sauce recipe.

15 g (½ oz) butter 

Melt the butter in a pan. Fry the onion gently for a few minutes until soft but not coloured. Put the cod in the pan and cook on both sides for 1 minute. Season with salt and freshly- ground pepper. Cover with cream or creamy milk and simmer with the lid on for 5-10 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Remove the fish to a serving dish. Bring the cooking liquid to the boil and lightly thicken with roux. Whisk in the remaining butter, add the chopped parsley, check the seasoning. Coat the fish with sauce and serve immediately with floury potatoes or some creamy mash.

This dish can be prepared ahead and reheated and it also freezes well. Reheat in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4, for anything from 10-30 minutes, depending on the size of the container.

Carrigeen Moss Pudding

Carrigeen moss is bursting with goodness. I ate it as a child but never liked it as it was always too stiff and unpalatable. Myrtle Allen changed my opinion! Hers was always so light and fluffy. This is her recipe, it’s the best and most delicious. We find that visitors to the country are fascinated by the idea of a dessert made with seaweed and they just love it. The name comes from little rock.
Serves 4-6

8g (¼oz) cleaned, well dried carrigeen moss (1 semi-closed fistful)
850ml (12pint) milk 
1 tablespoon castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free range
2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence or a vanilla pod

Soak the carrigeen in tepid water for 10 minutes. Strain off the water and put the carrigeen into a saucepan with milk and vanilla pod if used. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently with the lid on for 20 minutes. At that point and not before, separate the egg, put the yolk into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla essence and whisk together for a few seconds, then pour the milk and carrigeen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture whisking all the time. The carrigeen will now be swollen and exuding jelly. Rub all this jelly through the strainer and beat it into the milk with the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla essence if used. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine. Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently. It will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with soft brown sugar and cream and or with a fruit compote eg. Blackberry and apple or poached rhubarb

Foolproof Food

Compote of Blackberry and Apples with Sweet Geranium Leaves

A delicious Autumn dessert.
Serves 3 approx.

225g (8 ozs) sugar
450ml (16fl ozs) water
4 large dessert apples eg. Worcester Pearmain or Cox’s Orange Pippin
275g (10 ozs) blackberries
8 large sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

Put the sugar, cold water and sweet geranium leaves into a saucepan, bring to the boil for 1-2 minutes. Peel the apples thinly with a peeler, keeping a good round shape. Quarter them, remove the core and trim the ends. Cut into segments 5mm (1/4inch) thick. Add to the syrup. Poach until translucent but not broken. Cover with a paper lid and lid of the saucepan. 

Just 3-5 minutes before they have finished cooking, add the blackberries, simmer together so that they are both cooked at once.

Serve chilled, with little shortbread biscuits.

Hot Tips

Cork Coffee Roasters is a new, gourmet coffee micro-roaster owned and operated by Master Coffee Roaster, John Gowan. He specialises in small batch coffee roasting, using only the highest quality Arabica beans. 
The company offers for sale a number of specialty roasts, but is best known for their Full City Blend Espresso. Orders are taken online at  or it can be purchased at the Bubble Brothers located in the English Market.
Try some today and taste the best and freshest coffee currently available in Ireland.

Congratulations to Myrtle Allen on receiving a Hall of Fame Award from Food and Wine Magazine –‘ For her outstanding contribution to Ireland’s gastronomic development.’

AstroPuppees ‘Sugar Beat’
Singer-songwriter-producer Kelley Ryan’s fourth album ‘Sugar Beat’ was released on 26th August. Kelley fell in love with Ireland and particularly with ‘The People’s Republic of Cork’ during her time attending the 3 month Cookery Course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School some years ago. In addition to the cookery classes she found time to compose songs for the first AstroPuppees album as well as play at local pubs. She now divides her time between Co Cork and Los Angeles and is as much at home in the kitchen as the recording studio.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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