From San Diego to Stuttgart, Sydney to Wales, there seems to be a growing focus on using local produce. Local is no longer a derogatory term, it’s the coolest word in the foodie’s dictionary.
In California, top restaurants are vying with each other to source the freshest local produce for their menus. Some are proudly highlighting that the salad greens, vegetables or fruit were picked just 5-6-7 hours earlier. Dan Barber at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York, has a greenhouse beside the restaurant, he regularly serves tiny raw vegetables as s starter, miniscule carrots, beets, fennel… plucked from the soil in the minutes earlier, specially to thrill his guests.
On my last trip to the West Coast everyone seemed to be talking about sourcing the ‘food of their neighbourhood’. Farmers Markets are thriving and most have a very strict local food policy, the wonderful climate during the growing season ensures abundance and a wide variety of produce. Everyone seemed to be talking about food, not just the latest restaurant, but where to source the best heirloom tomatoes, beets, artichokes, free range chickens, rare breed pork, day boat fish. … Everywhere, restaurants, delis, food shops were highlighting local, seasonal produce and educating their customers about variety and breed. There seemed to be a hunger to learn more about how food was grown and produced and at last the farmers’ and food producers’ names are coming to the fore and they are getting the long overdue credit for producing quality. Restaurants are serving their local food proudly, a rare enough occurrence here in Ireland where we have plenty to be proud of.
As I travel around the country I despair that so few country hotels and restaurants highlight any local food or producers on their menus. On a recent trip to Kilkenny, I ate in a city centre hotel, the menu gave me no clue where I was, I could have been in Italy, Thailand or Sydney. There was certainly no indication that I was even in Ireland, where was the meat from the local farmers, is there any fish in the Nore any longer, or even Dunmore East? How about a little Irish soda bread instead of the ubiquitous par-baked bread and doughy rolls. When I asked about the provenance of the meat there seemed to be confusion, and the waiting staff didn’t seem to even recognize the word Lavistown when I asked if I might have a little piece of the farmhouse cheese made just a few miles outside the city by Roger and Olivia Goodwillie.
In the Farmer’s Diner in Vermont in the US, the menu says ‘Food from here’ – How wonderful it would be to travel around the country and taste the food of that place, the hinterland of Abbeyleix, Ballina, Enniscorthy, Tullamore … Most chefs now, virtually buy all their food from a central distribution system, most of it pre-packed and portioned, even vegetables come peeled and packed in a chemical solution. This is not only for economic reasons but also because it means less hassle with HACCP paperwork to satisfy the health inspectors.
Those of us who are in the hospitality business depend on our local customers to support us throughout the year, why should we expect them to support us if we don’t put at least some money back into our own community and buy the produce of our local farmers and food producers and support local butchers and bakers.
Time for all of us to become proactive and ask more questions about the menus. Each and every one of us can make a difference to the Irish economy, by how we choose to spend our euros.
Patrick Walsh 021-4646836, Bill Casey 021-4646955, Frank Hederman 021-4811089
James Veale 021-4661362, James Howard, Sunnyside Fruit 025-36253, Siobhan Barry, Midleton Farmers Market – 021-4883034, Ballycotton Seafood, 021-4646522, Cuthberts Bread widely stocked in East Cork – 021-4634181
Nautilus Restaurant at the Inn by the Harbour, Ballycotton
Leo and Nessa Babin are serving delicious food on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6.30-9.00 and lunch on Sunday from 12.30-5pm – overlooking the harbour in Ballycotton – Steak and Chips, Boeuf Bourgignon, Fish and Chips, Butternut Squash Risotto, Indian Lamb Curry …. Crème Brulee, Chocolate Brownie, Apple Tart –
Booking recommended Tel 021-4646768, 087-6135897
Good Things Café, Durrus, Co Cork
Carmel Somers at Good Things in Durrus received great praise in the 2008 Bridgestone Guide for her delicious ham sandwich – made with local ham and crusty bread – one of the restaurants around the country that does highlight local. Congratulations also to Good Things for having been recognised with a Michelin Bib Gourmand Award for the third year in a row, only one of twelve restaurants in Ireland to receive the award which recognises ‘good food at moderate prices’. Tel: 027-61426 www.bridgestoneguides.com
Lafont Porcelain Enamelled Cast Iron Cookware available from URRU shops in Mallow and Bandon – Round French oven, Oval au Gratin , Buffet Casserole, Skillet, Pan Grill – in wonderful colours with hardwood knobs. Mallow – 022-53192, Bandon 023-54731 – nip in for a look and enjoy a delicious coffee and sweet bite or a light lunch.
Pangrilled Ballycotton Herrings with Grainy Mustard Butter
Serves 6 as a starter
Herrings have been scarce this year but I keep hoping for a delicious feast.
6 fresh herrings, gutted, scaled and washed
Grainy Mustard Butter
1 teaspoon grainy mustard eg. Moutarde de Meaux
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
3 ozs (85g) melted butter
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
First make the Mustard Butter. Cream the butter in a bowl, add the mustards and the finely chopped parsley, a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. Form into a roll in pure clingfilm or greaseproof paper and allow to harden or make into pats. Refrigerate until needed.
Preheat a cast iron pangrill over a medium heat until quite hot. Slash the herrings at an angle in three places on each side. Coat with well seasoned flour, spread a little soft butter over one side of each herring. Lay the herrings butter side down, not touching on the hot pan, they should sizzle. Reduce the heat immediately and cook for approximately 3 minutes on that side before turning over. Continue to cook until golden on both sides. Serve immediately on hot plates with two slices of Grainy Mustard Butter per fish. Garnish with a sprig of flat parsley and a segment of freshly cut lemon.
James Veale’s Roast Guinea Fowl with Potato and Parsnip Crisps and Sunnyside Farm Red Currant Sauce
1 Guinea fowl
45g (1½oz) butter
85g (3oz) chopped onions
65 g (generous 2½oz) breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon freshly chopped herbs, e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram
salt and freshly-ground pepper
Potato and Parnsip Crisps
Gut the Guinea fowl if necessary and remove the ‘crop’ which is at the neck end; wash and dry well.
To make the stuffing: Melt the butter and sweat the onions until soft but not coloured, then remove from the heat. Stir in the soft white breadcrumbs and fresh herbs, season with salt and freshly-ground pepper and taste. Unless you are about to cook the bird right away, allow the stuffing to get quite cold before putting it into the bird. Season the cavity with salt and freshly-ground pepper and stuff the guinea fowl loosely. Smear the breast and legs with soft or melted butter. Roast in a preheated moderate oven, 190C/375F/gas mark 5, for 1¼ hours approx. Test by pricking the leg at the thickest point: the juices should just run clear.
Meanwhile make the Redcurrant Sauce and the Potato and Parsnip Crisps.
Spoon off any surplus fat from the roasting pan (keep it for roasting or sautéeing potatoes). Deglaze the pan with game or chicken stock. Bring it to the boil, and use a whisk to dislodge the crusty caramelized juices so they can dissolve into the gravy. Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper, taste and boil until you are happy with the flavour. Pour into a hot gravy boat.
Carve the guinea fowl into four portions giving each person some brown and white meat. Spoon a little gravy over the meat. Pile some Potato and Parsnip Crisps over the top. Garnish with large sprigs of watercress and serve with Redcurrant Sauce .
John Howard’s Sunnyside Farm Redcurrant Sauce
A simple, delicious sauce which is unbelievably quick to make. It goes well with lamb, guinea fowl, ham and pate de campagne. Frozen redcurrants may be used.
150g (5½oz) sugar
125ml (4fl oz) water
140g (5oz) redcurrants
Remove the strings from the redcurrants if necessary.
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Toss in the redcurrants, bring back to the boil, cook uncovered for 4 or 5 minutes or until the redcurrants burst. Serve hot or cold.
Tip: Keeps for several weeks in a covered jar in the fridge and may be reheated gently.
Redcurrants freeze brilliantly, just pop them into the freezer in the punnet or a plastic bag. If you shake the bag when frozen the berries will fall off the strings – much easier then painstakingly removing the stings when they are fresh. Discard the strings before using the berries.
Gratin of Patrick Walsh’s Potatoes with Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smoked Salmon
There are really two recipes in one here, the basic recipe is a particularly good version of the classic French potato dish Gratin Dauphinoise which is delicious served with a simple roast or grill. Here we’ve added little strips of Bill Casey’s smoked salmon to make a favourite supper dish. Serve with a green salad.
2 lbs (900g) even sized ‘old’ potatoes, eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
salt and freshly ground pepper
9 fl ozs (275ml) milk
9 fl ozs (275ml) double cream
small clove garlic, peeled and crushed
freshly grated nutmeg
4-6 ozs (110-170g) Irish smoked salmon
1 tablesp. parsley, chopped
1 tablesp. chives, chopped
4 small ovenproof gratin dishes 4½ inch (11.5cm) bottom and 6 inch (15cm) top
Peel the potatoes with a potato peeler and slice them into very thin rounds (one-eight inch/3mm thick). Do not wash them but dab them dry with a cloth. Spread them out on the worktop and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, mixing it in with your hands. Pour milk into a saucepan, add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Add the cream, garlic and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg, continue to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the potatoes do not stick to the saucepan. Just as soon as the potatoes are cooked put a layer into 4 ovenproof gratin dishes, sprinkle each with some parsley and chives, add 1-1½ ozs (30-45g) smoked salmon cut into 3 inch (5mm) strips, cover with another layer of potato.
Reheat in a bain-marie in a preheated oven, 200C/400F/regulo 6, for 8-10 minutes or until they are bubbly and golden on top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and chives.
Note: You could substitute the smoked salmon for some of Frank Hederman’s Smoked Mackerel.
Siobhan Barry’s Kale Colcannon
Serves 8 approx.
Songs have been sung and poems have been written about Colcannon. It’s one of Ireland’s most famous traditional potato dishes. It’s comfort food at its very best and can be made with cabbage or kale. Terrific for a party.
450g (1lb) kale or Savoy or spring cabbage
1.35kg (3lb) ‘old’ potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
250ml (8fl oz) boiling milk approx.
30g (1oz) scallion or spring onion, optional
salt and freshly ground pepper
55g (2oz) butter approx.
Scrub the potatoes, put them in a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for ‘old’ potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put onto a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.
Remove the dark outer leaves from the cabbage. Wash the rest and cut into quarters, remove the core and cut finely across the grain. Cook in a little boiling salted water or bacon cooking water until soft. Drain, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little butter. If using kale, remove the central rib. Cook the kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender. This may take 8-10 minutes, depending on the type and maturity of the kale. Curly kale is sweetest after it has been mellowed by a few night frosts.
When the potatoes are just cooked, put the milk, and the finely chopped scallions into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pull the skin off the potatoes and discard, mash quickly while they are still warm and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy puree. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. For perfection, serve immediately in a hot dish with a lump of butter melting in the centre.
Colcannon may be prepared ahead up to this point and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for 20-25 minutes approx. Cover while reheating so it doesn’t get too crusty on top.
Cuthbert’s Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding
This is a variation on basic bread and butter pudding. If you like, leave out the marmalade and serve plain, or add chopped rhubarb, chopped chocolate, grated lemon or orange zest, raisins, sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. This is a great way to use up stale bread, and in fact is better if the bread is stale.
12 slices of good –quality white bread, eg Cuthberts from Midleton, crusts removed
50g (1 3/4 oz) soft butter
3 tablespoons marmalade
450ml (16fl.oz) cream
225ml (8fl.oz) milk
150g (5 1/2 oz) caster sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
softly whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Butter the bread and spread marmalade on each slice. Arrange the bread in the gratin dish or in individual cups or bowls (cut the slices if you need to). I like to have overlapping triangles of bread on the top layer.
Place the cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to just under the boil. While it’s heating up, in a separate bowl whisk the eggs and the sugars, then pour the hot milk and cream in with the eggs and whisk to combine. Pour this custard over the bread and leave it to soak for 10 minutes. Place in a bain marie (water bath) and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour. The top should be golden and the centre should be just set. Serve with softly whipped cream and marmalade sauce (see below).
Note: If you want to make this a day ahead of time, don’t heat up the milk and cream, just pour it cold over the bread.
1 jar (400-450g/14ozs – 1lb) 3 fruit or homemade marmalade
60ml (2 1/2 fl ozs) water
juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon
Put the marmalade into a saucepan. Add the water and the juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon to taste. Heat all the ingredients gently. Place in a jug and serve with the bread and butter pudding.