An exciting new Irish craft gin launched this year has set tongues wagging in the market for good reason, Myles McWeeney explains why.
Once disparagingly referred to as ‘mother’s ruin’, gin, the juniper-based white spirit that goes so well with tonic water, is rapidly overtaking vodka as the go-to tipple for the 20 to 30-something generation. While it has always sold well historically, gin is currently enjoying a remarkable upturn in popularity around the world, particularly here, in the UK and all around Europe. Cleverly surfing this surging wave of ‘g-interest‘ (ouch) are the Northern Irish husband-and-wife team of David and Fiona Boyd-Armstrong, who earlier this year launched a hand-crafted artisan Irish gin called Shortcross.
In 2012, the Boyd-Armstrongs set up the Rademon Estate Distillery in Co. Down, Northern Ireland’s first craft distillery, specifically to make Shortcross. An Chrios Ghearr is Irish for ‘the short cross’, which gives its name to Crossgar, which is the town land closest to the distillery. Launched in April this year, the couple’s hand-crafted product has been quite literally a wild success from the very start, going viral on social media within days of its release. Within a matter of weeks, it had won a Silver Medal at the 2014 International Wine & Spirit Competition, and subsequently went on to take a Gold Medal in the Super Premium Gin class at the 2014 Gin Masters Competition and a Silver Medal in the Spirits Category at 2014 Blas na hÉireann Awards.
We in the Irish Food Writers’ Guild recently had the opportunity to see for ourselves what all the fuss was about when David and Fiona came down and introduced us to their spirited baby. It was easy to see exactly why Shortcross Gin has wowed so many discerning gin lovers. It is a really vibrant drink, with a wonderful floral, meadow-sweet bouquet, restrained exotic botanicals on the palate and it delivers an exceptionally long and smooth finish… And that was before we added the tonic!
It is a truly classic gin in that the blend of exotic botanicals includes juniper berries, without which it could not be called gin, coriander seeds, cinnamon bark, cassia root and a touch of orange and lemon peel; but what makes it truly unique are the native Irish aromatics that the Boyd-Armstrongs themselves have foraged from the woods, fields and hedgerows surrounding the distillery and their family home and added to the blend. There are apples from their own orchards, elderflowers and elderberries from the hedges and sweet honeyed clover from the meadow in front of their house. It is made in very small 250l batches in their German custom-made copper still, and the water they use to temper the 96-degree base spirit is drawn from their own 200ft deep well.
Shortcross Gin is also beautifully packaged, with a distinctive bottle including the personal touch of a visible handwritten batch number and featuring an emblem of the historic Short Cross penny, which dates back to the 10th century. It really stands out on the shelf in bars and off-licences.
David and Fiona have every right to be proud of their creation, which is a really exciting addition to the burgeoning range of artisan-crafted spirits being produced in Ireland. The RRP is €49.99, and is distributed across Ireland by James Nicholson Wines and is available in the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin. See www.jnwine.com and www.celticwhiskeyshop.com to buy online.
Dec 17, 2014
Ballymaloe LitFest 2015
Already highly-anticipated, the third Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine runs from 15th-17th May 2015, and tickets for the event go on sale on 7th January.
From world-famous chefs to boutique coffee roasters, guerrilla gardeners to polished restaurateurs, cocktail specialists to renowned wine makers, the unique international approach of the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2015 brings together yet another awesome lineup of fascinating and intriguing food and drink focused speakers.
One of the biggest names participating in the LitFest this year is American culinary pioneer, Alice Waters. Waters many books include The Art of Simple Food and 40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering. She is chef, proprietor of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and a passionate advocate for a food economy that is ‘good, clean, and fair’. Described as a visionary, ‘the mother of American cooking’ and ‘the most important figure in the culinary history of North America’, Alice Waters is certainly one of the most influential figures in American cooking of the last 50 years.
Chef April Bloomfield, the English-born superstar chef of New York’s Michelin-starred The Spotted Pig and The Breslin, as well as The John Dory Oyster Bar and Salvation Taco in NYC and her most recent restaurant Tosca in San Francisco, has also spoken of the impact of experiencing growing food as a child in her cookbook/memoir A Girl and Her Pig. She takes part in next May’s Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine too, soon after her next book – A Girl and Her Greens – comes out.
Also featuring is one of London’s most eminent restaurateurs Mark Hix, who has 9 fantastically successful establishments including Hix Oyster & Chop House in Smithfield, a monthly column in Esquire, a weekly column in The Independent, as well as being the author of 9 well-received cookbooks on British cuisine including Hix Oyster & Chop House and British Regional Food, which received a Guild of Food Writers' Award and the André Simon Book Award.
The award-winning authors and chefs, Sam and Sam Clark, owners of Moro and Morito tapas & mezze bar in London, introduced a distinctly British style of Iberian-with-a-North-African-twist Mediterranean cooking back in 1997 and will also be part of LitFest 2015. Their series of 3 cookbooks from Moro and a recent first from Morito are full of warm and engaging writing and famously easy to follow recipes.
The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2014 was another electrifying and educational event in a fabulous setting, with a relaxed and magical atmosphere throughout the weekend, and next year’s programme will be just as eclectic, inspirational and full of amazing authors, fine writing, passionate expertise and accessible knowledge.
The full Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2015 programme will be finalised by the end of the year, so get in early to book the LitFest events of your choice on January 7th of next year.
In addition to the main events (which come at a wide range of prices from €15 to €95), a fringe programme of free events will once again be held in the Big Shed. With a wonderful food market, fun activities for children, craft stalls, art installations, live music and more, the fringe at the Big Shed promises education and entertainment to gourmets of all ages.
Dec 16, 2014
Photo by Amanda Marsalis
Photo by Melanie Dunea
Retro Christmas Recipe Cards
Introducing the new Georgina Campbell capsule collection of retro Christmas Recipe Cards!
A celebration of traditional Christmas food, each of the five A5 size (148 x 210mm/5.8 x 8.3in) cards in the collection features a favourite dish on the front and its recipe on the back.
Inside, a brief seasonal greeting in English and Irish allows plenty of space for a personal message.
Price: Pack of five cards – €12.50 (P&P free within Ireland, other destinations €3.60).
Bulk orders welcome and can be personalised (minimum order 50), further details on application.
Designed and printed in Ireland.
10% of all profits will be donated to the Temple Street Children’s Hospital.
Availble to buy online at www.ireland-guide.com.
Dec 8, 2014
A Little Taste of Mexico around Ireland
For fourth consecutive year, the Mexican Gastronomic and Cultural Festival, "A Taste of Mexico" has showcased food, drinks, music and fashion from all over the 31 States of Mexico and Mexico City to Ireland in the week-long festival that has been running this week, ending on Sunday 23rd November.
Mexican food has become the food of choice by many here over the last number of years with restaurants and burrito bars opening at a rate of five per year over the last three years growing from seven in 2011 to 25 to date.
‘A Taste of Mexico’ features many of these Mexican restaurants from all over the country and offers an opportunity to immerse oneself in Mexican culture. “It is truly a wonderful thing for us here at the Mexican Embassy to offer a little taste of Mexico to Irish people. We are a very proud nation and we want more Irish people to experience our culture and to visit our country, just the same as we want to encourage more Mexican to visit this wonderful country. We hope that customers will attend the events taking place throughout venues across he city and country,” said Mexican Ambassador, Carlos Garcia de Alba.
So far this week, the festival has been packed with interesting events providing a unique experience of the flavours, colours and traditions of Mexico. On Wednesday evening, 19th November, Mexican chef Helma Honda, a specialist in authentic Mexican food, hosted a conference about genuine Mexican cuisine, sharing her expertise and love of this unique cuisine in the Instituto Cervantes on Lincoln Place. Atfterwards, a tasting of tequila, the iconic Mexican spirit, took place by Mr. José Torres Diaz, an expert with the Mexican Tequila Regulatory Council, who was specially flown in from Mexico for the festival.
Yesterday in the Instituto Cervantes, a Mezcal tasting took place hosted by the now famous mezcal expert Sergio Inurrigarro. Mezcal is a Mexican spirit that has more recently been generating worldwide interest in the drinks industry and becoming the drink of choice with celebrities around the world.
Today, Friday 21st November, a competition to find "The Best Enchilada in Ireland" will also take place in the Mansion House. The event will see judges including the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Christy Burke, Mexican chef Helma Honda and renowned award-winning chef and TV personality Darina Allen will decide from entrants of Mexican restaurants from all over Ireland which one has created the best enchillada of 2014. Commenting on the festival Darina Allen said, "Once again I am thrilled to be invited by the Mexican Embassy to be involved in the Taste of Mexico. During my trips to Mexico over the last decade, I have come across some delicious recipes and unique flavours that I am delighted to see being showcased on menus in Ireland. Mexican food is really making its mark here at last and I am excited to be part of this food movement."
The festival offers a wide range of authentic and traditional Mexican events including a variety of equila and mezcal tastings, cookery workshops, Mariachi band music and fashion events. A full list of events can be found on the website www.embamex.ie or www.tasteofmexico.ie.
The Taste of Mexico Festival is sponsored by the Embassy of Mexico, The Village at Lyons, AeroMéxico, the government of the state of San Luis Potosi, Corona, Barry and Fitzwilliam, the Mexican Tourism Board, Grupo Posadas, Viajes Mecca, the Cervantes Institute, the Tequila Regulatory Council, the Pro-Culture Mezcal Association, Aztec Money, Nautilius, The Irish Hotels Federation, the Conrad Hotel, the Ashling Hotel and the Academy Plaza Hotel.
Nov 21, 2014
Lord Mayor Christy Burke with the Mexican Ambassador Carlos Garcia de Alba at the launch of the festival
Picture taken at the launch of A Little Taste of Mexico Gastronomic and Cultural Festival at The Mexican Embassy, Ballsbridge, Dublin.
Pictures: Brian McEvoy Photography
The Lettercollum Cookbook – Recipes from the Kitchen Project is a new cookbook launched this week, edited and published by Guild member Roz Crowley.
The Lettercollum Kitchen Project, run by Karen Austin and Con McLoughlin, is a West Cork institution. For ten years it has been the jewel in the crown of Clonakilty; a bakery and delicatessen that is celebrated for its delicious food, creative menus and fresh, organic, seasonal produce, often grown in the walled-in garden in the grounds of Lettercollum.
From Bali to Cadaqués, Tripoli to Timoleague, Karen has travelled the globe and brought the inspiration for new flavours and ingredients back home. Her dishes blend the very best of Irish cooking with a sprinkling of the exotic. Fodor’s have named her a ‘master of the vegetarian and ethnic repertory’ and with dishes like Thai Pumpkin Soup, Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi and Beetroot and Chard Tart, it’s easy to see why.
Adding some easy fish dishes, a hint of chorizo and her most requested desserts, Karen shares her favourite recipes to shake up your lunch and dinner routine and get cooking some lip-smackingly good food!
Born in Kent, England, Karen Austin learned to cook in restaurants during eight years in Antwerp, starting as a dishwasher and working her way up to commis chef. In 1982 she moved to Ireland and with her partner and now husband Con McLoughlin opened a hostel, then Lettercollum House, a restaurant in Timoleague in West Cork, Ireland. Since 2004 with Con she grows fruit and vegetables used to make sweet and savoury tarts, pizzas, breads, cakes and seasonal treats, as well as selling wholefoods, wine and freshly brewed coffee at The Lettercollum Kitchen Project in Clonakilty. She runs cookery classes and occasionally takes groups on trips to cook in Spain and France. She has two sons and a daughter, a dog and a demanding acre of walled garden.
Arna Rún Rúnarsdóttir is a professional photographer based in Reykjavik, Iceland. Her work includes corporate photography in Iceland and England and food photography in France and Ireland. She taught photography at college level in Iceland and has exhibited her work in Winchester, London and Iceland. This is her fourth photographic assignment with Onstream. Our Daily Bread - A History of Barron's Bakery, which extensively featured her work, won a World Gourmand Cookbook award in 2012 and in 2013 My Goodness, a wholefood cookbook by Liz Nolan, was chosen Best Book in it's category in Ireland.
The Lettercollum Cookbook – Recipes from the Kitchen Project
176 pages in full colour. Hardback.
Further information from Roz Crowley (editor and publisher) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Karen Austin
Photography: Arna Run Runarsdottir
Published by onstream
Launch date: 3 November 2014
Nov 7, 2014
The special qualities of the Bramley’s Seedling have made it the most popular cooking apple in Britain and Ireland, and those grown in Northern Ireland’s ‘Orchard County’ are extra special. Armagh Bramley Apples are among a very small number of Irish products to have gained the European Commission for PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status – the other two in Northern Ireland are Lough Neagh Eels and Comber Early Potatoes.
It is one of Ireland’s latest fruit crops, harvested up to the end of October. However, there was plenty of fruit ready to pick in early September this year, in time for the Armagh Bramley Apple Festival held in Armagh City on Saturday 6th September, to celebrate the apple and its special status.
“Basically, what the PGI Quality Mark means is that no other Bramley apple has quite the same attributes as one from the Diocese of Armagh, thanks to the distinctive climate and environmental conditions of the region in which they are grown and the way they are nurtured,” say the organisers. “Our Armagh Bramley Apples are a bit bigger than most, have a flatter top and bottom, are solid green in colour with a reddish blush, are more robust for a longer shelf-life, and, perhaps most importantly as a culinary apple, they have a delectable tangy flavour and maintain that taste and their texture when cooked.”
From the grower’s viewpoint, the Bramley is disease and pest tolerant, producing a good crop of large apples in most years. The apples are hard, have good flavour and keep well so they can be sold over a long period. When it comes to the all important cooking and eating qualities, cooks find the large size convenient for preparation and their natural sharpness is a great quality too, balancing the sweetness of pastry and any added sugar, while the fruit acids help break down the apple during cooking so that it ‘falls’ to produce a unique fluffy purée.
Armagh, ‘The Orchard County’, has a history of apple growing that goes back ‘forever’. St Patrick, the early monasteries, and William of Orange are among the many with historical references linking apples – and cider – to the area, and there are many folk customs associated with apples, especially at Hallowe’en.
Nowadays most of the commercial Armagh Bramley crop is prepared for apple sauce and bakery, and the rest is retailed whole or juiced. Interestingly, however, although they are grown specifically for cooking and they are quite sharp, the Bramley’s flavour is delicious and anyone without a very sweet tooth is likely to enjoy them raw too, especially after some time in storage when the natural sugars have developed and mellowed the flavour.
The Loughgall Manor Estate and Country Park (Main Street, Loughgall, Armagh BT61 8HZ; between Portadown and Armagh via the B77), is in the heart of the apple growing area. It has a walled garden containing a fascinating Heritage Orchard with a collection of 130 native Irish apple varieties established by The Armagh Orchard Trust; the research centre, Agrifood & Biosciences Institute (AFBI) is also on the property
(+44 (0)28 90 255636; www.afbini.gov.uk).
Aside from their historical importance, old varieties are of interest because they flourished before chemical treatment for pests and diseases was the norm, so they tend to have natural resistance to diseases such as scab – and their flowering habits make them less vulnerable to late frosts, providing quality fruit over longer harvesting periods.
The original tree was planted over 200 years ago, and trees dating from around that time still stand in commercial orchards in Ireland today - so, next time you enjoy a juicy Armagh Bramley apple pie or a big baked Armagh Bramley apple, it may be interesting to reflect that the apple could have come from a tree over a century old.
An Armagh Bramley Cook Book was launched at the 2014 Armagh Bramley Apple Festival and is available to download without charge from www.armaghbramley.com where there is also more information on more on Armagh Bramley Apples (PGI). Here’s a taster of the recipes submitted by well-known Northern Irish chefs and enthusiastic local cooks.
Whipped Goat’s Cheese Mousse, Bramley Apple & Celery Chutney, Dressed Leaves, Crisp Flat Bread
Recipe supplied by: Uluru Restaurant – Dean Coppard
200g skinless goat’s cheese
100ml whipping cream
2 Bramley apples
2 sticks of celery
100g caster sugar
One bag watercress
4 pitta bread
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1. For the vinaigrette, place broken up goat’s cheese into a mixer and beat with the cream until smooth, place into a piping bag, cut the apple into thin slices then slice again to create matchsticks of apples, peel the celery and slice finely to match the size of the apple.
2. To make the chutney place the apple and celery in a heavy bottom pan and mix the butter and the sugar through to create a jam consistency, set aside.
3. Cut the pitta bread into desired shape, then char grill and place in the oven until crispy.
4. To assemble place the toast on the plate then pipe the mousse onto the bread, then arrange the chutney around the toast, toss the leaves in the vinaigrette and garnish the plate, season to taste.
Stuffed Pork Fillet with Blue Cheese & Armagh Bramley Apple wrapped in Parma Ham with a Co. Armagh & Mustard Cream Sauce
Recipe supplied by: Groucho’s Café Bar – Mervyn Steenson
2 pork fillets
3 Bramley apples
500g blue cheese
8 slices Parma ham
Salt and pepper
For the sauce:
1 bottle of dry Co. Armagh cider
2 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 chicken stock cube
½ pint of double cream
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas 5. Cut a lengthways slit in each pork fillet to make a pocket. Fill each pocket with apple and cheese but don’t overfill. Wrap each fillet in Parma ham completely, using four slices per fillet. Cut each fillet in half.
2. Heat a large frying pan with some olive oil, add the wrapped pork fillet and cook until lightly browned all over, turning occasionally. Then transfer to a baking tray and roast for 10 to 15 minutes until cooked, remove from oven and allow resting for five minutes.
3. Cut each fillet in two and serve on a bed of braised red cabbage with champ.
4. For the sauce:
5. Finely chop the onions, fry in a knob of butter until soft, add bottle of the cider and cook until reduced by half. Add your chicken stock, wholegrain mustard and cider vinegar and cook for 10 minutes then add cream, salt and pepper. Cook for a further five minutes to thicken and serve with the stuffed pork.
Armagh Bramley Apple Upside down Cake
Recipe supplied by: Yellow Door Deli
400g self-raising flour
4 whole free range eggs
1 large red eating apple
1 large Bramley cooking apple
For the caramel sauce:
250g caster sugar
1. Butter and line a 10” /25cm cake ring.
2. Cut the eating apple in half down the centre then thinly slice in half moon shapes, place decoratively on the base of a 10” cake ring.
3. Stew the cooking apple and add 100g sugar to sweeten, and place a layer on top of the eating apples, pour the caramel sauce on and even out.
4. Cream the butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy, add in the eggs and flour in two lots, mix well until combined.
5. Place the sponge mix on top of the apple and caramel and bake in the oven at 165?C for 30 to 35 minutes.
6. When cooked pour a splash of Bramley apple juice over the sponge and turn out onto a plate.
7. Can be served hot or cold but best served straight away with a homemade vanilla ice cream.
8. For the caramel sauce:
9. Heat 250g sugar and 50ml water in a heavy saucepan to 135°C (dark caramel colour), add 60g butter and 120ml cream and combine, whisk vigorously and set aside.
This feature was kindly supplied by Georgina Campbell’s Ireland. Visit: http://www.ireland-guide.com for more.
Nov 4, 2014
Links of Interest
Not the full Irish - Katy McGuinness explores the true origins of 'Irish' foods.
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