Every now and then one comes across a natural leader, a person with an impossible vision who has the tenacity and charisma to make their vision a reality against all the odds. Michael Kelly, founder of GIY Ireland is certainly such a person and it can be a tiny incident that sparks an idea – this whole movement which supports the growing efforts of 150,000 people and 6,000 food communities both in Ireland and the UK, all started with garlic.

Michael was busily doing the food shopping one dark evening, not his favourite task, he picked up a bulb of garlic – 50 cents, he was outraged to discover that it had come ‘all the way from China’.

It set him thinking surely to goodness we could grow garlic in this country.

Out of this outrage was born, what is now one of the most important social grass roots movements in the country GIY – Grow It Yourself. Michael shared his discovery with some of his friends; they decided to arrange a meeting to ‘test the waters’. Did others feel the same? Was there any interest in this topic? Was there a hunger for knowledge? Over 100 people turned up to the initial meeting in the Waterford Library one September evening in 2008, standing room only – obviously there was an appetite to learn what for some was a ‘forgotten skill’ for others a longed for skill to learn how to sow a seed and grow even a little of their own food.

Michael had inadvertently stumbled upon a longing, among a significant number of people to discover the magic of sowing a seed and having the satisfaction of watching it grow into something they could eat and feed to their families in the secure knowledge that it was nourishing, wholesome and free of chemicals. Since that small beginning in 2008, Michael and his messianic team many of whom have soldered by his side voluntarily since the very beginning has travelled up and down the country starting branches, organised eight

GIY Gathering Conferences in Waterford, supported over 6,000 local champions, inspired and encouraged and continued to dream.
Michael was invited to deliver a DO lecture in Wales in 2012, during that event he became even more aware that the movement needed a headquarters, a centre where people could visit, see edible gardens bursting with vegetables, herbs and fruit, learn how to grow, eat and gather together to share the fresh seasonal food from the garden.
On the ferry boat back, he scribbled a ‘note to self’ on his pad – ‘must do, GIY HQ’ and stepped off the boat at Rosslare with an enhanced mission.

He shared his vision, it resonated with many people.

A vision is one thing, but raising €1.4 million to realise that vision is quite another – a massive fund raising campaign ensued over 4 years and on 8th October, GIY HQ was opened to a joyous reception from hundreds of supporters, well-wishers and local businesses and the passionate GIY team. It’s rare enough to find a work force so totally committed to an ideal as the group of twenty six super charged individuals who are overjoyed to be part of this project.
Michael thanked the myriad of people who had helped and supported his vision along the way but reserved extra special mention for Waterford County Council who had unanimously voted to donate the 3 acre site at Farronshoneen on Dunmore Road opposite the University Waterford Hospital and the Solas Centre to GIY.

The sustainable building on was designed by Soulearth Architecture and encompasses class room, café and cooking school –and now the work really begins. Check it out on

The Shop stocks a variety of gardening tools including copper hand trowel and fork, copper spade, Chillington hoes, tools to last a lifetime… the Grow and Cook book published in 2014.
Back to garlic, for those of you have not yet grown your own, buy a few garlic bulbs preferably varieties that suit the Irish climate. Bryn Perrin from West Cork Garlic recommends a good ‘softneck’ variety called Iberian. It can also be harvested as green garlic and has an exceptional flavour. Pink Marble Czech ‘hardneck’ variety is great tasting garlic with hot spicy flavours. Mild Elephant garlic with its huge cloves is particularly popular and delicious for roasting and also great for smoking. If you don’t feel like smoking your own, check out Frank Hederman’s stall at the English Market or the Midleton Farmers Market on Saturday for beautiful smoked garlic to serve with chicken or to flavour smoked garlic aioli.

But if you like to grow your own, buy a couple of bulbs of suitable varieties. Divide into cloves; plant each one root end down in the ground about 1 inch (2.5cm) deep and 4 inches (10 cm) apart towards the end of November. Used to be that one would plant on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest day but with global warming one can certainly plant earlier.

It’s such a joy to be able to buy Irish grown, chemical free garlic, so seek out West Cork Garlic grown by Bryn Perrin and is available at several retailers or by mail order
From the cooks point of view what would be do without garlic as an ingredient in our kitchen not to mention its numerous nutrition medicinal qualities.

Hot Tip
Lost and Found – a rediscovery of forgotten flavours and foraged foods. A Pop Up Dinner hosted by our Autumn 12 Week Certificate students on Saturday November 19th 2016. Booking Essential 021 4646785 or

Teagasc Training Course
There is an Innovative/New Product Development Workshop on October 25th 2016 at the Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark in Fermoy and Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown in Dublin on November 25th – see

A Slow Food Autumn Foraging Walk
Join Slow Food Dublin on a foraging walk at Whole Hoggs Farm, Slane Co Meath tomorrow at 3pm. Peter Whelan and Teresa Storey will forage along the hedgerows and farmland, there will be a short demonstration using the foraged ingredients. Tickets are €15 for Slow Food Members, €20 for non-Slow Food Members.

Pumpkins and Apples
Lots of home-grown organic pumpkins and heirloom apple varieties to choose from at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Shop in Shanagarry, open Monday to Saturday, 11am-5.30pm, don’t miss Saturday Pizzas from 12.30pm-4pm

GIY Courses
Check out upcoming courses at GIY HQ for October and November.

Save-Your-Life Garlic Soup

Serves 4

This strictly bare-cupboard Provençal soup is insanely good. The ingredients are nothing more than a lot of garlic, some sage leaves, water, a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. It takes only 10 to 15 minutes to cook, but when you taste it, you’ll swear it is long-simmered chicken broth.

Like chicken broth, garlic soup is said to have all sorts of medicinal properties. It apparently can both prevent and cure hangovers, and even aid digestion. It also makes a perfect light lunch or supper on a hot summer day when you don’t much feel like cooking. Many versions—including this one—add a poached egg, which makes it more of a meal. And some cooks whisk a beaten egg into the broth to make it creamy.

2 heads garlic, preferably new-crop, separated into cloves (about 16 medium cloves) and peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
12 sage leaves
salt and pepper
1.4 litres (6 cups) water
4 eggs
4 slices bread, lightly toasted
chopped parsley, scallions, or chives

Slice or roughly chop the garlic cloves. Warm the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sage and let sizzle a bit without browning, about 2 minutes. Season with about 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pep-per. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to a brisk simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Ladle about an inch of the soup into a skillet and bring to a brisk simmer over medium heat. Carefully crack the eggs into the pan and poach for about 3 minutes.

To serve, place a slice of toast in each soup bowl and top with a poached egg. Ladle the soup over the eggs and sprinkle with a little parsley.

Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Marjoram

When you butterfly a leg of lamb, you can leave it completely plain or flavour it with lots of fresh herbs or one or a mixture of spices, giving it the flavour of the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or the British Isles.

Serves 10–15

6 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
6 tablespoons marjoram or oregano
125ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
leg of lamb, 3kg (61⁄2 lb), boned and butterflied
freshly cracked pepper
sea salt

A few hours before cooking, scatter half the slivered garlic and half the chopped marjoram or oregano over the base of a large, non-reactive dish. Drizzle with some olive oil. Slash the skin side of the meat here and there and lay it on top of the garlic and herbs. Sprinkle the remaining herbs, garlic and olive oil over the top. Season with lots of freshly cracked pepper. Cover and allow to marinade for a minimum of 2–3 hours or, better still, overnight.

Remove the meat from the marinade, season with sea salt and cook on a preheated barbecue. Grill for 30–40 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking time for medium rare. Let rest for 10 minutes and then carve into thin slices. Serve at once.

Alternatively, roast in a preheated hot oven 230ºC/450ºF/ gas mark 8 for 30–40 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Serve with lots of crusty roast potatoes, and perhaps some apple and marjoram jelly.

Lahsooni Patta

Baby spinach tossed with tomatoes, garlic and fennel.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon freshly ground fennel powder
salt to taste
400g (14ozs) baby spinach or destalked spinach leaves
1 teaspoon butter

Heat the oil in the wok over a medium heat. Add the chopped garlic, sauté for 1 minute, add the tomato halves, then freshly ground fennel, butter and salt. Add the baby spinach leaves and toss quickly for a minute or two – just until they wilt. Serve hot.

Gill Meller’s Blackberry and Apple Meringue with Walnuts and Elder

Serves 8-12

A dash of sunflower or walnut oil
2 small medium dessert apples, quartered, cored then each quarter cut into 2 or 3 wedges
1-2 teaspoons golden caster sugar (optional)
300 ml (10½ fl oz) double cream
½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
2 handfuls of blackberries
1 or 2 sprays ripe elderberries, berries picked
35 g (1¼ oz) shelled walnuts or hazelnuts, roughly broken

For the Meringue
4 egg whites
200 g (7 oz) golden caster sugar

Heat the oven to 120°C/235°F/gas mark 1. First make the meringue. Place the egg whites in a large clean bowl. Whisk with a hand held electric whisk until they form and hold soft peaks. (You can do this in a food mixer with a whisk attachment, if you prefer). Keeping the whisk running, add 1 large spoonful of sugar at a time until all the sugar is incorporated. Continue to whisk for a further 6-8 minutes until the meringue is thick, pale, smooth and glossy.

Lightly grease a sheet of baking parchment and lay it on a large (at least 30cm x 30cm/12 inch x 12 inch) flat baking tray. Spoon the meringue onto the parchment, trying to make a large round with slightly peaked edges – it doesn’t have to be perfect. Bake the meringue in the oven for 25-30minutes and then turn down the heat to 90°C/185°F/gas mark ½ and bake for a further 2 hours until the meringue has formed a crisp shell. (If you are not using the meringue straight away, store it in an airtight container).

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat, then add the apple. If the apples are a little tart, add the caster sugar and stir. Cook the apples for 4-5 minutes, turning over occasionally until they have taken on a little colour and are beginning to soften. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

In a clean bowl, whisk the double cream with the vanilla seeds until t hick and pillowy. Spoon the cream over the meringue base spreading it roughly out towards the edges. Arrange the cooked apple pieces over the cream. Scatter the blackberries over the top.

Finally sprinkle over the broken up walnuts or hazelnuts and the elderberries, to serve.

Gather by Gill Meller, published by Quadrille Publishing

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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