Food Awards are â€˜two a pennyâ€™ these days. Some carry more cachet that others, all thrill the winners and provide much appreciated exposure.
The Irish Food Writersâ€™ Guild Food Awards, now in their 22nd year celebrate indigenous artisan food and drinks businesses that create high quality products from our beautiful Irish raw materials.
These awards are unique. No one can enter themselves or their product into the awards and no company knows it has been nominated or shortlisted for an award. So itâ€™s a fantastic surprise.
The Guild is the sole nominating and decision-making body.
This year was particularly noteworthy and exciting because it showcased the new energy that is emerging from the Midlands of Ireland. There were six winners including the first ever award for Irish stout. The award ceremony was hosted at Michelin starred restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Merrion Street, Dublin. Chef Guillaume Lebrun cooked a super delicious lunch using the prize winners produce.
Mossfield Organic Farm
Wild Irish Foragers
Riot Rye Bakehouse and Bread School
White Gypsy Imperial Stout
Highbank Organic Orchards
Mossfield Organic Milk, Co Offaly. Ralph Haslam has been an organic farmer, since 1999. Â His Mossfield cheese is already well known but the award this year was for Mossfield organic milk â€“ beautiful fresh milk straight from the family herd. Ralph has been reseeding his fields at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains with up to two dozen grasses and herbs. The biodiversity promotes both the health of the soil and animals and produces particularly rich milk (plus yoghurt and buttermilk). Unlike much of todayâ€™s commercially produced milk Ralphâ€™s, Mossfield milk is not standardized, skimmed or homogenised to increase shelf life or to prevent the cream from separating, it is simply pasteurised and distributed nationwide in its fresh natural stateâ€¦www.mossfield.ie
Sharon and Gordon Greene of Wild Irish Foragers became entrepreneurs almost by accident. While they were walking on their fifth-generation midlands cattle farm just outside Birr, their daughter Emily pointed to a rosehip in the hedgerow and asked, â€˜Whatâ€™s that?â€™ Their journey to pass on and preserve almost forgotten knowledge and skills eventually led to the family creating a unique business as producers of artisan syrups, jellies, shrubs and sauces made from hand harvested wild ingredients based on traditional recipes discovered by â€˜rooting aroundâ€™ in rare old cookbooks.
They plan to renovate the old farmyard mill to facilitate foraging coursesÂ andÂ events, thus creating sustainable employment opportunities for their family, neighbours and wider community. www.wildirishforagers.ie
Another of my favourites Silver Darling Herrings.
When Kirsti Oâ€™Kelly moved to Ireland from her native, Finland in 1999,Â she craved the taste of Nordic pickled herring, so decided to start to produce her own according to family recipes passed down from her grandmother. Her friends loved them so was convinced that the Irish palate was ready for her traditional pickled herrings with a contemporary twist, so Silver Darlings was born.
With the help of BIMâ€™s Seafood Development Centre in Clonakilty, Co. Cork, Silver Darlings was launched in March 2013 with six distinct flavours to its range â€“ seek them out they are certainly one of the best new products to come on the market in several years. Available at many of the bestÂ Farmers Markets, for other outlets contact Â www.silverdarlings.ie
This is the first time an IFWG award has gone to an Irish beer â€“ in fact a stout, White Gypsyâ€™s Russian Imperial Stout is produced in a traditional style in Templemore, Co Tipperary by innovative brewer, Cuilan Loughnane. He brewed this beer with a non-traditional drinker in mind to be served in restaurants, as a local alternative to imported wine. Cuilan, described as the brewerâ€™s, brewer, with 12 years of craft brewing under his belt, ages the stout in new oak barrels built and toasted to order by a French cooper. He has actively supported newcomers to the sector, has experimented with growing Irish hops for use in occasional brews and has worked closely with Kildare-based maltsters to develop a malt to craft beer specification. www.whitegypsy.ie
The Special Contribution to Irish Food Award went to Joe Fitzmaurice of Riot Rye, Co. Tipperary, another worthy winner.
Joe Fitzmaurice is a man on a mission to teach everyone who would like to learn how to make bread without the use of industrial additives or chemicals â€“Â or â€˜real breadâ€™, as many devotees define it. You can contact Joe and his wife and business partner, Julie Lockett, Â at their Riot Rye Bakehouse & Bread School in Cloughjordan.
Three times a week Joe fires up his wood fired oven and bakes 200 organic loaves for the local community in Cloughjordan Eco-Village and neighbouring towns and villages. The couple deliberately limit their production so they can also dedicate time to education. In 2015, he became one of the founding members of the Irish Real Bread network, which seeks to support professional craft bakers. Their enthusiasm is infectious, their bread delicious, check it out www.riotrye.ie
The Environmental Award went to another of my favourite and certainly most entrepreneurial food producers, Rod and Julie Calder-Potts. In 2013, they won an IFWG Food Award for their Irish Orchard Syrup, pure concentrated essence of homegrown apples from their organic orchards at Highbank Farm in Co. Kilkenny. The orchards were originally planted by Rod and Julie in 1969 to complement the former hop gardens and converted to organic production in 1994. This began the process of returning the farm to a more environmentally inclusive husbandry. Over time, they have added two small lakes, woodlands and various wildlife habitats. No chemicals are sprayed on the apples, while herbicides, chemical fertilisers and manure from animals fed on GM food are strictly avoided.
The focus at Highbank is on maximising output as well as minimising input. A variety of apples are transformed into everything from organic apple juices and ciders to a range of apple-based spirits. Even the waste by-products from the distillery are put to good use, with the acetone going to Brooklodge Hotel in Co. Wicklow to be used as organic nail varnish remover. A shining and charismatic example of the energy in the Irish food scene at present. www.highbankorchards.com
Twitter: @foodguildÂ #IFWGfoodawards
Labneh with Radishes, Mint, Highbank Apple Syrup and Olive Oil
350g (12oz) labneh, (dripped natural yoghurt)
6 teaspoons Highbank Apple Syrup
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 mint leaves
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Allow 50g (2oz) of labneh per person and divide between 6 chilled plates.
Make a little indent with a teaspoon in each portion of labneh and pour in the apple syrup followed by the olive oil.Â Place 2 radishes on each plate beside the labneh.Â Break the mint leaves over the radishes.Â Place two or 3 blue cheese Sheridanâ€™s crackers on the plates and finish off with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Riot Rye Sourdough Avocado Toasts with Lime and Coriander
Proper natural sourdough is a revelation in terms of flavour and texture not to mention nourishment. This simple recipe is much more than the sum of its parts!
2 ripe Hass avocados
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) freshly squeezed lime juice
6 tablespoons (7 1/2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of sourdough, toasted or pan-grilled
Maldon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a few pinches of chilli flakes
fresh coriander leaves
Whisk the lime juice and extra virgin olive oil together.
Just before serving.
Toast or grill the bread.
Stone and peel the avocado and slice into chunky segments.Â Place the avocado on top of the toast â€“ allow 1/2 per person.Â Drizzle with the dressing.Â Â Sprinkle with a few chilli flakes. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and a few flakes of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
Imperial Stout Irish Cake
The porter plumps up the fruit and gives it a very distinctive taste. If you can manage to hide it away, this cake keeps really well. Serves about 20
225g (8oz) butter
225g (8oz) golden caster sugar
300ml (1â„2 pint) Imperial stout
zest of 1 orange
225g (8oz) sultanas
225g (8oz) raisins
110g (4oz) mixed peel
450g (1lb) white flour
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons mixed spice
110g (4oz) cherries, halved
3 organic eggs
23cm (9in) round tin, lined with silicone paper
Preheat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/ gas mark 4.
Melt the butter, caster sugar and stout in a saucepan. Add the orange zest and the fruit and peel (except the cherries). Bring the mixture to the boil for 3â€“4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and leave to cool until it is lukewarm.
Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into a mixing bowl. Add the fruit mixture to the flour and add the cherries. Whisk the eggs; add them gradually, mixing evenly through the mixture.
Bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. If you wish, when the cake is cooked, you can pour 4 tablespoons of stout over the top. Â KeepÂ for 2â€“3 days before cutting.
SALAD OF SILVER DARLINGS IRISH HERRING, POTATO, GREEN LEEK PURÃ‰E AND TOASTED BUCKWHEAT
100g buckwheat groats
200g baby potatoes
200g natural yogurt, plus extra to garnish
chopped fresh chives
freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
1 shallot, finely sliced
200g Silver Darlings Irish Herring with Fennel and Tarragon
fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, to garnish
for the green leek purÃ©e:
knob of butter
2 leeks, green part only, finely sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160Â°C. Scatter the buckwheat on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5 minutes.
To make the green leek purÃ©e, melt the butter in a small pan and sweat the leeks. Season with salt and pepper, then blend in a liquidiser until smooth. Chill in the fridge until required.
Boil the baby potatoes until they are cooked through and tender. Drain well and return briefly to the pan to dry them out, then transfer to a bowl and gently crush them. Fold in the yogurt, some chopped chives and a squeeze of lemon juice, but be careful not to overwork the potato salad.
To serve, arrange three small quenelles of the potato salad on a cold plate and add dots of the leek purÃ©e and yogurt. Place a sliver of shallot on top of each quenelle, then add a piece of herring. Garnish with a parsley leaf and the toasted buckwheat.
Recipe created by Guillaume LebrunÂ for the Irish Food Writersâ€™ Guild Food Awards
Many readers will know that I fought long and hard to save peopleâ€™s freedom of choice to have access to raw (unpasteurised) milk should they so choose. The Department of Agriculture has recently registered a number of farms around the country to sell raw milk directly to the public. The list includes our own Ballymaloe Cookery School organic farm here in Shanagarry to which people drive 50 and 60 miles to access our very limited supply of raw milk. However the good news is Dan and Anne Ahern will now sell organic raw milk from their stall at Mahon Farmers Market on Thursday and from the Midleton Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Tel: Â 086 â€“ 1659258. For other suppliers nationally, check out http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/foodsafetyconsumerissues/foodsafetycontrolsonmilk and http://www.rawmilkireland.com/where-to-buy-raw-milk.html (Elisabeth Ryan confirmed these two links)
Cooking for Baby: Natural and Wholesome Recipes
The last course was oversubscribed with many people asking whenÂ the next half day course is scheduledâ€¦.so on Wednesday April 6th Darina Allen will pass on the tips and advice gleaned over years of feeding children and grandchilden totally without packets, cans or jars!
Youâ€™ll soon discover that making your own, nourishing baby food is quick, easy and surprisingly good fun. Not only will it save you a small fortune but also it will be infinitely better for your baby. Also, by giving your baby lots of variety youâ€™ll ensure that as they grow up they donâ€™t become fussy eaters. www.cookingisfun.ie for more info.
Pickle in Dublin
Devotees of the multi award winning chef Sunil Ghai will be delighted to know that his much anticipated new restaurant has opened on Camden Street in Dublin. Itâ€™s called Pickle â€“ definitely a name for yourÂ Dublin dining list.