Cookery Feature - Hooray for Irish Produce - Simply The Best!

When it comes to good food it’s all about the ingredients, and quality ingredients are all about great producers - so, as savvy chefs always tell us, the trick is to shop well, support local producers, and then treat their ingredients with respect.

But quality food is not something we can ever take for granted. Small producers made a huge contribution by raising the profile of Irish food and helping to ease the country back to prosperity after the 2008 crash, so it was a cruel irony that the Covid19 lockdown should suddenly snatch away their main routes to market due to the temporary collapse of the hospitality industry. Yet, as mindful consumers, every one of us can easily make a difference, now and into the future - as Darina Allen says in her column this month, we need to think about every single item that we choose to put into our shopping baskets. Perhaps it will cost a little more to shop local but it pays off in many ways, including the enjoyment of tastier food, pride of community and – in the long term – better health.

Looking at the wider Irish food and drink industry, Bord Bia’s recently published foodservice industry White Paper makes hard reading and the challenges are immense but, as Bord Bia Foodservice Specialist, Maureen Gahan, said, “While acknowledging the clear and ongoing damage to the Irish foodservice market… it is a hugely resilient industry and we have already seen a number of outlets transitioning their businesses to Take-Away and Home Delivery. Similarly, we have seen examples from our food and beverage producers that are pivoting their businesses to meet the new needs of their foodservice customers”.

Seeking to support those food and beverage producers and the hospitality sector, a number of initiatives have emerged that help both domestic shoppers and commercial enterprises to make a difference. The Eat For Ireland, app, for example, connects food shoppers (‘Cook It Yourself’) and diners (‘Cooked For You’) with independent food and drink producers, retailers, farmers’ market groups and hospitality outlets offering food for collection or delivery. Similarly, the popular Louth-based GastroGays food bloggers, Russell James Alford and Patrick Hanlon, were quick off the mark with a useful guide to Irish producers offering home deliveries. And, now that the farmers’ markets are trading again, they offer an interesting outing with rewarding exchanges with stallholders as well as access to unique produce – an especially welcome experience for all concerned after months of lockdown.
(Unfortunately Bord Bia’s very useful farmers’ market list is temporarily absent from their recently redesigned website, but it’s well worth keeping an eye open for its return.)

And, as with shopping, mindfulness will also pay off when it comes to recipes, which can easily be transformed from blandly ubiquitous references to memorable dining experiences with the application of a little local knowledge and the unique flavours that small producers can bring. Here are a few to try – very simple, yet oozing with character, and supporting local producers every inch of the way.



You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy this brilliant barbecue salad. All the main ingredients are grown in Ireland and you could up the ante with more local ingredients, eg by replacing olive oil with Irish rapeseed oil and traditional imported balsamic with excellent Irish alternatives from producers like Highbank Orchards or Llewellyn's 

1 red pepper, deseeded and quartered
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and quartered
10-15 asparagus spears - try Louth producer, Drummond House 
1 courgette, sliced diagonally into 1cm thick discs
1 tbsp olive oil, or Irish rapeseed oil such as Second Nature; Newgrange Gold; or Broighter Gold 
15g rocket or flat leaf parsley, leaves chopped
10g fresh basil, leaves
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
50g mature farmhouse Gouda shavings e.g. Coolea 
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or Irish rapeseed oil, as above
½ tsp balsamic vinegar, eg Irish balsamic cider vinegar (see above)

Heat the barbecue until it is very hot.
Grill the peppers, skin side down until the outer skin is blackened and blistered. Place in a bowl, cover immediately with cling film and leave for 20 minutes (the cling film will trap the steam and loosen the skins). Peel the peppers, discarding the skin and slice lengthways into 3-4 long strips (the strips will be deliciously soft and sweet).
Snap off the hard woody ends from each asparagus spear (if necessary).
Brush the asparagus and courgettes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for approximately 5-10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking until slightly charred on the outside. Cut the asparagus spears in half.
Combine all the warm vegetables in a bowl and toss in the oil and balsamic.
To serve, combine the chargrilled vegetables with the rocket, basil and shavings of the mature Coolea or other farmhouse Gouda-style cheese.


This unusual dish comes from the terrific ‘Fishwives’ recipe collection compiled by Mags Kirwan of Goatsbridge Trout, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny. The Inch House Black Pudding  is hand made in Co Tipperary by Mairin Byrne and based on a traditional recipe handed down by her mother, Nora Egan, of the magnificent Inch House near Thurles, which offers excellent catered and self-catering accommodation for groups - and, as shown, in this lovely recipe, it associates very successfully with baked trout. [For details of more fish shops and producers around Ireland offering delivery, see last month’s feature.

Serves 2

4 small Goatsbridge trout fillets
50g/2oz butter, softened
Small bunch fresh basil, finely chopped
300g/12oz Inch House black pudding
125g/5oz breadcrumbs
2 shallots, finely diced
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar, or Irish cider vinegar eg Llewellyn's or The Apple Farm 
300m/10.5fl oz cream
300g/2oz butter, cubed
1 lemon, quartered

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Take two of the trout fillets and place, skin side down, on an oiled oven-proof dish or tray. Blend the butter and basil together and dot on top of the trout flesh; spread gently.

Crumble the black pudding into the breadcrumbs (use a food processor if you wish) and scatter over the buttered fillets. Place the other fillets on top, flesh side up, and bake for 15 minutes.

While the fish is cooking, make the beurre blanc sauce. Combine the shallots and white wine vinegar in a pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Simmer for three minutes until reduced by a third. Next, add the cream and slowly bring to the boil. Take off the heat and add a third of the butter while whisking constantly. Continue to add the butter, a small cube at a time, until the sauce thickens (stand over the sauce, as it can separate).
Serve immediately with the sauce, fresh lemon home- or locally-grown new potatoes and some new season greens.


This quick and tasty snack for two shows that that simple can’t be beaten when the best ingredients are used. Try breads from quality bakers such as Tartine Organic Bakery, Dublin; Riot Rye Bakehouse, Tipperary; Arbutus Breads, Cork; Scarpello & Co, Donegal; or Seagull Bakery, Tramore… Bacon from picky producers like Northern Ireland leader FinnebrogueMcCarthys of Kanturk; or O’Neill’s Dry Cure Bacon, Wexford and cheeses like Tipperary favourite Cashel Blue or Bellingham Blue from Louth. And then wash it all down with a glass of something deliciously Irish such as natural juice from The Apple Farm near Cahir; Longueville House Cider or a craft beer from old hands like Eight Degrees Brewing both from North Cork, or perhaps Donegal pioneer Kinnegar Brewing

1 artisan baguette or sourdough loaf
2 tbsp mayonnaise, eg Ballymaloe Mayo 
2 handfuls of locally grown watercress or mixed baby leaves
175g / 6oz mature blue Irish cheese, cut in slices
6 slices of dry cured Irish streaky bacon, grilled and roughly cut

Halve and split the baguette, or cut four slices from the sourdough loaf.
Layer each base with mayonnaise, leaves, farmhouse blue cheese and streaky bacon.
Add the top, press down well and enjoy with a glass of Irish apple juice, cider or craft beer.

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