Cookery Feature - Best of Basics at the IFWG Awards

With beef, butter and potatoes among the winners of the 2021 Irish Food Writers’ Guild (IFWG) Food Awards, food staples certainly took centre stage - but, as IFWG Chair, Kristin Jensen, said when announcing the awards on 15th April, “In a year in which there has been a newfound appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, it is perhaps no coincidence that the winners reflect the basic foundations of Irish food.” So, yes, it was back to basics - but wow, what wonderful basics we have to choose from here in Ireland.

Irish spuds topped with a generous knob of creamy, hand-rolled butter and served with traditional spiced beef are the makings of a fine feast and are the cornerstone of many an Irish meal. The kind of produce we take for granted in this country, these oft-considered store cupboard ‘basics’ have each been singled out for a 2021 Irish Food Award, and for good reason.

In a year that saw food companies pivot and move online to survive and, in many cases, thrive, a ‘virtual’ farmer’s market that connects customers to a network of indigenous producers received the Outstanding Organisation Award. The Guild’s 2021 Community Food Award went to a group that has launched a two-year programme that aims to teach crucial skills associated with food and commensality to school-going children.

The Guild awarded its Irish Drink Award to a gem of a Kinsale crafted mead flavoured with tart Irish blackberry and juicy cherry. One of Ireland’s leading cheesemakers was awarded the Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award, while the 2021 Environmental Award went to a Kildare business producing organic porridge oats, stoneground flour and semolina, which witnessed a recent resurgence in popularity with people returning to or trying out home baking for the first time during lockdown.

Now in their 27th year, the IFWG Food Awards - kindly supported by Bord Bia - celebrate local producers and food heroes who have brought joy to the lives, livelihoods and tables of so many, before and especially during COVID-19, but whose commitment to producing great food and drink will endure long after the pandemic.

The winners of the 2021 Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards are:

1. Food Award: Abernethy Butter, Co. Down. 
2. Food Award: Ballymakenny Farm Irish Heritage and Specialty Potatoes, Co. Louth. 
3. Food Award: Tom Durcan’s Spiced Beef, Co. Cork. 
4. Irish Drink Award: Kinsale Mead Wild Red Mead – Merlot Barrel Aged, Co. Cork. 
5. Outstanding Organisation Award: NeighbourFood, Co. Cork. 
6. Environmental Award: Ballymore Organics, Co. Kildare. 
7. Community Food Award: The Green-Schools Food & Biodiversity Theme. 
8. Lifetime Achievement Award: Marion Roeleveld, Killeen Farmhouse Cheese, Co. Galway. 



 For the first time in its long history, the traditional IFWG Food Awards ceremony and lunch featuring all the winning produce was cancelled this year. However, if there was ever a time to champion and celebrate local producers it’s right now and citations, interviews with the winners and recipes have been lovingly catalogued in this beautiful IFWG Food Awards e-zine.

RECIPES FEATURING IFWG Food Awards winning products (more recipes are included in the Guild’s celebration ezine, see link above):


Potted crab with Abernethy Smoked Butter
Abernethy Smoked Butter is handmade in Co. Down with a secret blend
of spices to give it a barbecue flavour. In this recipe, the rich, smoky butter
and spicy ingredients are mixed with the soft crab meat to create a light
but tasty starter.

100g Smoked Abernethy Butter
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A dash of Tabasco
100g white crab meat
Sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper
Toast, to serve

Melt the butter gently in a saucepan and set aside. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper and two or three dashes of Tabasco – don’t add too much or it will overpower the delicate flavour of the crab.
Season the crab meat with salt and pepper and mix with 1 tablespoon
of the melted butter. Divide the crab between two to four ramekins and pour
over the remaining melted butter.
Chill in the fridge until the butter has set and hardened. Remove from the
fridge and leave at room temperature for 1 hour before serving with toast.
Recipe by Abernethy Butter

Spiced beef blaa
This recipe comes from Guild member Domini Kemp’s café Hatch & Sons
in Dublin, where it’s long been an all year favourite on their menu, but it’s also an excellent way to use up leftovers at Christmastime.

Waterford blaa
Rapeseed mayonnaise
Tom Durcan’s spiced beef, thinly sliced
Coolea cheese, thinly sliced
Onion relish

This isn’t a recipe per se, just assembly! Spread a warm blaa with rapeseed mayo, then pile on some thinly sliced spiced beef and Coolea cheese and top with a spoonful of onion relish. Sandwich together and tuck in.
Recipe by Domini Kemp

Risotto with mushrooms, asparagus and mature Killeen goats’ cheese
Cheesemaker Marion Roeleveld says this is pure comfort food, perfect on a cold evening. She loves the combination of the mushrooms and the earthy taste of mature Killeen.

Handful of dried porcini or mixed mushrooms
1 bunch of asparagus
1.2 litres vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
350g Arborio rice
1 glass of dry white wine
100g mature Killeen goats’ cheese (e.g. Dunnes Stores Simply Better Five-Months Matured Killeen Goats’ Cheese), grated
25g butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the dried mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl and cover with just-boiled water from the kettle. Allow to soak for 10 minutes.
Snap the woody stalks off the asparagus spears and discard, then cut the spears into 2.5cm-long pieces. Boil the asparagus for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.
Heat the stock in a small saucepan almost to the boiling point, then reduce the heat and leave it simmering.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring. Don’t let the onion brown.
Add the rice and give it a stir, then add the wine, reduce the heat to medium-low and keep stirring until the wine has been absorbed into the rice. Strain the liquid from the soaked mushrooms and stir it in, then chop up the soaked mushrooms and add them too.
Add the hot stock one ladle at a time, stirring until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Keep adding more stock one ladle at a time and stirring until the rice is cooked but still has a little bite. The whole process should take 25 to 30 minutes. Just before the end, stir in the cooked asparagus.
When the risotto is cooked, take the pan off the heat and stir through half the grated cheese and all the butter. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
To serve, divide the risotto between warmed shallow bowls and scatter the rest of the cheese over the top.
Recipe by Marion Roeleveld




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