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County Mayo has become a favourite destination for food lovers from all over the country thanks to people like the McMahon family of the hugely popular Café Rua on New Antrim Street in Castlebar (established in 1995 by Ann McMahon) and its younger sister Rua café, deli and bakery on Spencer Street, which opened in 2007 and is now run by Ann's children, Aran and Colleen.
Ask anyone in Northern Ireland about Punjana Tea and you’ll be in no doubt that you’ve touched on something central to the culture - even people who never drink tea (and there aren’t too many of those) will probably break into the famous jingle that goes back decades and crosses several generation gaps.
Although available all year round, leeks are at their best in winter and early spring and this versatile member of the allium (onion) family is a very useful garden crop as they are hardy and can be left in the round to harvest through the winter as required.
Who better to kick off 2016 - the NI Year of Food and Drink - than Northern Ireland's best loved food writer, Paula McIntyre, disseminator of good sense on John Toal's Saturday Magazine programme on BBC Radio Ulster and much else besides. Through her timely and aptly-named Down To Earth Cookbook (Colourpoint, £9.99), a curious newcomer would get a very good feeling for the distinctive flavour of the region's food - and the nature of its cooks.
Georgina reviews Lyons Café Cookbook Two by Gary Stafford, This Is The Burren, by the acclaimed photographer Carsten Krieger and the new series of food and drink guides for Northern Ireland's Year of Food and Drink 2016
Abernethy Butter is one of the great recent success stories of Northern Ireland's artisan food revival. Since turning their hand-churned butter making hobby into a business in 2005, and initially selling at markets, Will and Allison Abernethy's delicious and handsomely presented products are now on sale at some very prestigious shops indeed...
Christmas is coming and the cooking is getting complicated - or maybe not.
If you’re looking for ways to simplify the annual feast without losing the sense of tradition that makes it so special, why not try the menu below, which is taken from some of this autumn’s best new cookery books and offers light starter and dessert options and a sensibly straightforward rendition of the indispensable roast turkey.
How to buy, store, age, taste and appreciate the great cheeses of the world and create a perfect cheese plate for any occasion... more...
Counter Culture - The Sheridans Guide to Cheese, by Kevin and Seamus Sheridan, with Catherine Cleary (Transworld; hardback, £16.99)
So much a part of our traditional Christmas, the edible chestnut, Castanea sativa, known as the Spanish or Sweet Chestnut, is a major food crop in some areas of Western Asia, North Africa and Southern Europe, especially the Mediterranean region.
From the terrific autumn crop of food books that’s piling up on my desk, I’ve selected two especially gift worthy volumes for this month’s reviews. Trish Deseine’s new book, HOME: Recipes from Ireland (Hachette Cuisine; hardback, 356pp; photography by Deirdre Rooney; €29) & SEA GASTRONOMY Fish & Shellfish of the North Atlantic by Michael O’Meara (Artisan House hardback 440pp with original photography by the author, €30)