Farmers’ Markets


The Farmers Market movement is coming of age – it’s now over twelve years since Myrtle Allen and I first set up our stalls in the Coal Quay side by side with fish smoker Frank Hederman, vegetable grower Caroline Robinson, Klaus and Hannah Balz with their beautiful bunches of fresh flowers and a couple of other brave souls. The bone-fide Coal Quay Traders were very amused by the motley crew but in a not insignificant way history was being made. There was a tentative rebirth of the market system which enables a growing number of farmers and producers of food to sell directly to those who wish to buy fresh local food. There are now over 140 farmers Markets in Ireland and they continue to grow. Unquestionably, some are more vibrant than others but all confirm that the Farmers Markets are holding up very well in these challenging times as customers discover the value for money and enjoy the overall shopping experience.

Midleton, whose award winning Farmers Market has been operating since 2000, is the first town in Ireland to have two weekly Farmers Markets. The Original Midleton Farmers Market is in the Fair Green from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. Over the years it has built up a loyal following and continues to gain new fans. Local Mayor Ted Murphy has a stall and has supported the market from the onset. It has a terrific mix of stalls from local farmers and artisan producers. The most recent addition to the market are Martin and Noreen Conroy who rear their own traditional breed of pigs then produce their own cured pork products – great rashers, sausages, crubeens. You can order caul fat and lard for special terrines and pastries. Sabrina Pavani sells homemade pasta, plump ravioli and several tempting sauces and Caitriona Simms range of cakes increases weekly. Midleton Farmers Market has been over subscribed for sometime now.

In this challenging climate a growing number of people are anxious to find a direct route to market. Rupert Hugh-Jones who manages the Mahon Point Farmers Market on Thursday mornings was also inundated with requests for stalls. Some time ago he was approached by the owners of the Midleton Retail Park to set up a market in the forecourt of 4Home Superstores. And so the Tuesday Market was launched on 26th May this year providing yet another opportunity for local people to celebrate the exceptionally high quality of food in the East Cork area. Ninety percent of the produce in the Tuesday Farmers Market comes from within a 20 mile radius of Midleton.
Several stalwarts like local farmer Dan Ahern and Arbutus Breads trade in both markets. Organic chicken, duck and organic beef is available as is Arun Kapil’s range of fresh spices and Indian curries. Soft and hard goats cheese from Ardsallagh and Ballymacoda. Newcomers also include Ballycotton Fish, a variety of organic and chemical free vegetables, Supersprouts from Kilbrittain…Several stalls selling home made cakes, Cornish pasties, tarts and quiches. Jams, preserves, local honey… The word is already spreading about Gar Granvilles steak sandwiches make from local butcher Frank Murphy’s well hung beef and Kelly Cope’s cupcakes. Both markets have live music and attract extra customers into the town of Midleton and enhance the business of the entire area. So grab your shopping basket and head for the Farmers Market in your area and fill it with beautiful fresh summer produce and then have fun cooking a delicious meal for family and friends.

Marsh Samphire with Melted Butter

8oz (225g) Marsh Samphire or Sea Asparagus
1-2ozs (25-50g) butter

Wash the marsh samphire well. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, throw in the samphire, and return to the boil for 3 or 4 minutes, drain. Toss in a little melted butter. Keep warm.

New Potatoes with Aioli

Serves 4-5

2 lbs (900g) new potatoes e.g., Home Guard, British Queens
2 pints (1.2 litres) water
1 teaspoon salt
a sprig of mint

Bring the water to the boil.  Scrub the potatoes.  Add salt and a sprig of mint to the water, and then add the potatoes.  Cover the saucepan, bring back to the boil and cook for 15-25 minutes depending on size.

Drain and serve immediately in a hot serving dish.

It’s vitally important for flavour to add salt to the water when cooking potatoes.


Mayonnaise is what we call a ‘mother sauce’ in culinary jargon. In fact it is the ‘mother’ of all the cold emulsion sauces, so once you can make a Mayonnaise you can make any of the daughter sauces by just adding some extra ingredients.

I know it is very tempting to reach for the jar of ‘well known brand’ but most people don’t seem to be aware that Mayonnaise can be made even with a hand whisk, in under five minutes, and if you use a food processor the technique is still the same but it is made in just a couple of minutes. The great secret is to have all your ingredients at room temperature and to drip the oil very slowly into the egg yolks at the beginning. The quality of your Mayonnaise will depend totally on the quality of your egg yolks, oil and vinegar and it’s perfectly possible to make a bland Mayonnaise if you use poor quality ingredients.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard
1 dessertspoon White wine vinegar
8 fl ozs (250ml) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 6 fl ozs (175ml) arachide oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.
If the Mayonnaise curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled Mayonnaise, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

Garlic Mayonnaise

ingredients as above
1-4 clove of garlic, depending on size
2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Crush the garlic and add to the egg yolks just as you start to make the Mayonnaise. Finally add the chopped parsley and taste for seasoning.

Note: Here is a tip for crushing garlic. Put the whole clove of garlic on a board, preferably one that is reserved for garlic and onions. Tap the clove with a flat blade of a chopping knife, to break the skin. Remove the skin and discard. Then sprinkle a few grains of salt onto the clove. Again using the flat blade of the knife, keep pressing the tip of the knife down onto the garlic to form a paste. The salt provides friction and ensures the clove won’t shoot off the board!
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil, Olive Oil and Irish Honey

The Ballymaloe Cookery School stall has a unique selection of heirloom tomatoes of all shapes and sizes.  Red, yellow, black, striped, round, pear shaped, oval.  They make a divine tomato salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella and lots of fresh basil.

Serves 4

8 very ripe heirloom tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 dessertspoon pure Irish honey
3 tablespoons Mani extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves

Cut the tomatoes into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Mix the oil and honey together and add ‘torn’ basil leaves, pour over the tomatoes and toss gently.  Taste, correct seasoning if necessary.  A little freshly squeezed lemon juice enhances the flavour in a very delicious way.

Californian Three-Stone Pie

A gorgeous Summer pie.

This pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

Serves 8-12

Break all the rules pastry

350g (12oz) butter
75g (3oz) castor sugar
3 eggs, preferably free-range and organic
500g (18oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

1kg (21/4lb) organic apricots, peaches and nectarines, mixed (about 4 peaches, 4 nectarines and 12 apricots) about 350g (12oz) of each
225g (8oz) sugar
3 tablespoons flour or cornflour

caster sugar for sprinkling

To Serve
softly whipped cream or crème fraîche

tin, 25.5cm (10inches) x 30.5cm (12inches) x 1cm (1/2 inch) deep

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for a minute or two. Reduce speed to lowest setting and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round, wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle.

To make the tart.

Stone and slice the fruit into a bowl, sprinkle with sugar and flour and toss well.
Roll out the pastry 1/8inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Fill the sugared fruit into the tart. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with peach shapes and pastry leaves. Egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the fruit is tender and juicy, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream or crème fraîche.

Summer Fruit Salad with Sweet Geranium Leaves

Sweet geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens) and many other varieties of scented geraniums are every present on our windowsills here at Ballymaloe.  We use the delicious lemon scented leaves in all sorts of ways, occasionally we use the pretty purple flowers also to enliven and add magic to otherwise simple dishes.  The crystallized leaves, all frosty and crinkly are wonderful with fresh cream cheese and fat juicy blackberries.

I discovered this recipe which has now become a perennial favourite quite by accident a few Summers ago as I raced to make a pudding in a hurry with the ingredients I had at that moment.

Serves 8-10

4 oz (110g) raspberries
4 oz (110g) loganberries
4 oz (110g) red currants
4 oz (110g) black currants
4 oz (110g) small Strawberries
4 oz (110g) blueberries
4 oz (110g) fraises du bois or wild strawberries
4 oz (110g) blackberries


14 oz (400g) sugar
16 fl oz (450ml) water
6-8 large sweet geranium leaves

Put all the freshly picked berries into a white china or glass bowl.  Put the sugar, water and sweet geranium leaves into a stainless steel saucepan and bring slowly to
the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Boil for just 2 minutes.   Cool for 4-5 minutes then pour the hot syrup over the fruit and allow to macerate for several hours.  Remove the geranium leaves.  Serve chilled, with softly-whipped cream or Vanilla Ice-cream or alone.  Garnish with a few fresh sweet geranium leaves.

Summer Berry Jelly with Sweet Geranium Leaves

Sometimes when we have a berry salad left over, particularly if there is more juice than fruit we make it into a jelly.  Use 4 teaspoons of gelatine to each 600ml (1 pint) of liquid.  You’ll need 1.2 litres (2 pints) for a large ring mould.  Turn it out carefully onto a large white china plate when it is set, fill the centre with softly whipped cream and decorate with geranium leaves.


Farm to Fork Discovery Day – West Cork is the first in a series of guided days, where you visit and observe how some of the leading food producers create their award winning artisan food products. Providing a unique insight into the craft and skills of the people who make the products we enjoy. Learn first hand about what makes artisan food standout from mass produced foods.
There are two dates Thursday 13th August and Thursday 27th August from 9:00am to 7:00pm. The mini bus leaves from Bandon and takes the route to Drimoleague, Enniskeane, Ballineen, Timoleague and includes visits to Urru Culinary Store, Glenilen Farm, Hollies Organic Centre, Fehilly’s River Side Café, Ummera Smokehouse and Poachers Inn. Cost €125.00.  To book telephone 023-8854731 or email

Kids in the Kitchen fun cookery classes for children are scheduled throughout August at Ballymaloe Cookery School. These practical day long classes teach children the basic knife skills of chopping, slicing, peeling, how to make a chunky soup, a great pasta, a delicious main course, yummy vegetables, a couple of great salads and of course a few irresistible puddings, tarts, biscuits, cup cakes and homemade lemonade and even a pot of their very own jam to take home. Classes cost €205.00. For more details and to book phone 021 4646 785 or email

The Organic Centre produces a monthly newsletter ‘Rossinver Thymes’ that contains gardening tips, whole food recipes, news and upcoming courses at the Organic Centre. This brilliant little publication is available to members of the Friends Scheme which you can join online or by telephone 071 9854338.  As well as the monthly newsletter Friends enjoy free gardening advice and free entry to the gardens all year round plus a 10% on all purchases bar the café.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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