The Darina Allen Column

For me, ambling slowly through the Burren in Co. Clare is almost a spiritual experience – the prehistoric landscape feels sooo ancient, I can virtually feel the spirit of those who chipped away patiently to build the drystone walls that still provide enduring shelter for the little fields.

It’s like driving through the Garden of Eden, fields of wild flowers interspersed with an occasional elderberry or hawthorn bush scattered here and there, a flock of sheep grazing contentedly, even a few cattle. Can you imagine how delicious the meat of the animals reared on this bio-diverse pasture must be. Looks like there will be lots of sloes and hazelnuts too, the blackberries are just ripening on the brambles pleading to be picked.

We’re on our way to Ennistymon to eat at Little Fox, a newly opened, super cool café on a corner of Main Street. A short menu of delicious food, a red lentil and turmeric soup with masala yoghurt and toasted seeds (see recipe below) was delicious as were all the salads and the Gubbeen sambo on flatbread.

Just across the road is a cheese shop called The Cheese Press owned by the inimitable Sinead Ni Ghairbhith. Locals get 30 cents off their coffee if they bring their own cup to reduce plastic use. And, just across the street, a little further up, Pot Duggan’s is also rocking, so set aside a little time to visit Ennistymon and beautiful Co. Clare.

Then on to Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon to visit a variety of inspirational farms. First, Ronan Byrne aka The Friendly Farmer, who rears free-range turkeys and geese and has a farm shop on his 35 acre farm at Knockbrack close to Athenry. Ronan also sells at the Moycullen Farmers’ Market on Friday and the Galway Farmers’ Market on Saturday where his growing number of devotees often queue up to buy his produce.

Near Ballymote in Co Sligo, we came upon Clive Bright’s enterprise, known as Rare Ruminare. Clive has a most beautiful herd of Hereford and Shorthorn cattle which he ‘mob grazes’ on lush, organic pastures on his family farm near Ballymote in Co Sligo. Loved his paintings too – detailed drawings of insects and plant life, beautifully observed. Clive Bright’s Hereford and Shorthorn meat can be bought in chilled boxes insulated with lambs’ wool, directly from www.rareruminare. I can certainly vouch for the flavour having eaten Clive’s beef cheeks for lunch – this young farmer cooks brilliantly as well.

From there we popped in to Drumanilra Farm Kitchen Café in Boyle and met owners Liam and Justina Gavin whose beautiful farm overlooks Lough Kee. I won’t easily forget the few minutes I spent leaning on a farm gate watching Drumanilra’s herd of gentle Dexter cattle grazing naturally and contentedly on the nourishing pasture. These cattle will have an honourable end on a plate in the café in their much sought after Dexter burgers, or for local people to buy in the farm shop. Look out for their rashers and sausages too.

We covered a lot of ground over a couple of days.... On our way south, we detoured to Birr to catch up on Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni, Hannah Ward at Woodfield Café just outside the town. Another cool café – delicious brunch and a wander around the tempting Woodfield Garden Centre at the rear. A lovely surprise to find Mueller O’Connell sourdough bread from Abbeyleix for toasted bacon and Mossfield cheese sandwiches.

Our next stop, the Eco-Village at Cloughjordan in Co Tipperary to meet Joe Fitzmaurice in his Riot Rye bakery, wonderful smells....we had the opportunity to watch Joe shaping and baking his sourdough loaves in the wood-burning oven – beautiful crusty bread to nourish his community which for him is a major priority. Check out his sour bread classes,

Just outside the town we found Mimi and Owen Crawford whose rich and beautiful organic raw milk and butter, people flock to buy at Limerick Milk Market and locally.They also rear and sell their own plump Ross free-range organic chickens, lamb, bacon and pork. Their small 20-acre holding is super-productive with a little tunnel and vegetable patch bursting with fresh product.

That was the last stop on this short reconnaissance trip - so many inspirational people. We ran out of time to visit Sodalicious in Limerick, a recent start-up owned by another Ballymaloe Cookery School allumni Jane Ellison - we hear it's worth a detour.


Orange Lentil Soup with Turmeric, Masala, Yoghurt and Toasted Seeds and Coriander

Serves 6

225g (8oz) onions – chopped
extra virgin olive oil or butter
2 teaspoons turmeric, peeled and freshly grated
225g (8oz) orange lentils
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pints of vegetable of chicken stock
6 tablespoons yoghurt
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon each of black and white sesame seeds
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
fresh coriander leaves

Bring a saucepan of the chicken or vegetable stock to the boil.

Meanwhile heat the oil and/or butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the freshly chopped onion, toss, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Uncover, add turmeric, cook for a minute or two, add the lentils.

Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the boiling stock. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the lentils are soft.

Meanwhile, toast the seeds by stirring continuously on a dry pan over a low to medium heat until they smell toasty, 3-4 minutes, turn into a bowl, add 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and cool.

Heat the cumin and coriander in a dry pan over a medium to high heat until it starts to smell aromatic. Turn into a mortar and grind to a fine powder. Add to the natural yoghurt, add salt to taste.

Whizz the soup to a coarse purée. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Correct the seasoning. Ladle into wide soup bowls, drizzle some masala yoghurt on top. Sprinkle with an assortment of seeds and some fresh coriander leaves and serve

Wild Blackberry and Rose Petal Sponge

When the first blackberries ripen in the autumn we use them with softly whipped cream to fill this light fluffy sponge. The recipe may sound strange but the cake will be the lightest and most tender you’ve ever tasted.
Serves 6-8

melted butter, for greasing
140g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
3 organic eggs75ml water
225g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

110ml cream
2 teaspoons icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
½ teaspoon rosewater, optional
225-350g wild blackberries

pale pink rose petals, fresh or crystallized

2 x 8”/20.5cm sandwich tins

Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas mark 5.
Brush the cake tins evenly with melted butter and dust with flour. I usually take the precaution of lining the base with a circle of greaseproof paper for guaranteed ease of removal later.

Separate the eggs. In a food mixer whisk the yolks with the sugar for 2 minutes, then add in the water. Whisk for about 10 minutes, until light and fluffy. Fold the sieved flour and baking powder into the mousse in batches. Whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Gently fold them into the fluffy base. Pour into the prepared sandwich tins and bake in a moderately hot oven 190C/Gas mark 5 for about 20 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch. Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

Whip the cream, add the icing sugar and a few drops of rosewater.

Sandwich the sponge together with whipped cream and blackberries. Sieve a little icing sugar over the top. Sprinkle with fresh or crystallised rose petals – it will look and taste enchanting.

Feast, East Cork Food and Drink Festival 2018: Running until 9th September, based in the market town of Midleton with its rich food heritage but with a strong focus on the wider region, and will once again be a food and drink festival with a sure sense of place. A festival that happens at harvest time – appropriately for a gathering up and bringing together of the best of what the area has to offer – Feast Cork is a fresh blend of conversations, dinners, markets, foraging, mixology, produce, producers, landscape, heritage and storytelling. For a jam packed programme see

Riot Rye Bakery, Cloughjordan will host the Real Bread Ireland Gathering on Saturday September 22nd 2018, check out for details of courses throughout the year.

Féile na nÚll Apple Festival The Sustainable Community Fair, Saturday 22nd September. A Taste of Cloughjordan Ecovillage for a day of talks and discussions, amphitheatre performance, apple pressing, apple pie contest, Ecovillage guided tour, The Little Food Fair and so much more…. for more details see

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