Cookery Feature - Tradition Stands Strong at the IFWG Annual Food Awards

Bringing a beacon of hope and goodness at a time when a shaken world is badly in need of reassurance - and especially about sustainable food and farming - the annual Irish Food Writers’ Guild (IFWG) Awards have been announced. Fiercely independent and going strong since 1994, they are unique. And, as IFWG Chair, Caroline Hennessy, commented: “Passion, hard work and a can-do attitude are core values that the winners of the 2022 IFWG Food Awards have in abundance and the IFWG is proud to recognise the vibrancy and resilience of the Irish food industry - and fittingly, as our announcement coincided with International Women’s Day, five of our eight awards were presented to some of the food industry’s most inspirational women.”

Ireland is blessed with a thriving culinary community and the standard of the country’s artisan food produce is world-class but there is one standout quality that links the 2022 IFWG winners – tradition. “Many of our 2022 winners are traditional products, but with a twist,” said Caroline. “From fishmonger to baker, cheese maker to the Galway duo who have played with the traditional Irish love of tea, innovative producers are putting their own stamp on things, creating something unique and something quite delicious. I believe there has never been a greater appreciation for Ireland’s food producers and the wider food community for what they have achieved over the past two years. Amid lockdowns and restrictions, so many of these businesses and producers managed to adapt to soaring demand for click and collect services, online shopping deliveries, food boxes and food trucks. In many ways, our artisan food community are heroes, bringing not just nourishment and sustenance but comfort and even joy to what was otherwise a very difficult period for so many people.”


(For full citations, interviews with the winners and recipes please see the lovely 2022 IFWG Food Awards e-zine, which you can check out here)

Food Award: Bread 41, Dublin
After initially training and working as a carpenter, Eoin Cluskey completed the Ballymaloe 12-week cookery course, then founded Bread 41 in 2018. In just a few short years the Dublin 2 bakery has become one of the city's best-known and well-loved artisan companies. At the bakery, each perfectly unique loaf is sustainably made, with Cluskey committed to running a zero-waste, carbon neutral company. 

Food Award: Calvey's Achill Mountain Lamb, Mayo
The Calveys have been sheep farmers on Achill Island for over a century and a half. An on-site abattoir means their lambs do not have the stress of travelling to a slaughterhouse but remain on their own territory and in the care of familiar people to the end. The same hands-on care applies to the butchery and the wonderful meats sold at the family’s recently upgraded and relaunched farm shop at Keel. 

Food Award: Coolfin Cheese, Galway
Coolfin cheese is an Alpine-style hard cheese made in the foothills of the Slieve Aughty mountains in East Galway by Teresa Roche. The cheese is handmade on the family farm using only summer milk, is fully traceable and has a low carbon footprint. It takes up to ten months to mature and has a deliciously smooth texture with distinctively sweet, creamy and nutty flavours and a lingering aftertaste.  

Irish Drink Award: All About Kombucha, Galway
Established in 2017 by Emmett Kerrigan and Keith Loftus, two young entrepreneurs from Galway, All About Kombucha brews freshly fermented sparkling tea from organic ingredients. Each bottle of All About Kombucha is hand-brewed from the organic ingredients of tea, sugar and water. The drink is currently available in three core flavours: raspberry, ginger & lemon and carrot & turmeric, which can be found in over 250 stockists across the country and also purchased online. 

Notable contribution to Irish Food Award: Stefan Griesbach of Gannet Fishmongers, Galway
Stefan Griesbach came to Ireland in 1997, having worked in fish shops in Paris, and started his business with a single stall outside Sheridan's in Galway. Since then, this stall has evolved into Gannet Fishmongers, known for sourcing the very best quality of locally caught fish. Through its online store, Gannet Fishmongers deliver the freshest of Irish fish nationwide; shoppers see what came in from the boats, place their order and receive it soon after, cold-packed and spanking fresh. 

Sustainability Award: Rock Farm Slane, Meath
Owned by the Conyngham family, Rock Farm Slane is an intertwined organic farm and ecotourism business underpinned by sustainable and environmentally-conscious practices. Organic cattle, pigs, hens, turkeys and vegetables are all produced on the 90-acre farm, which is run according to permaculture principles. This is complemented by luxury eco-glamping, which offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience the food, landscape and culture of the Boyne Valley region. An inspiring example of rural business diversity that lead others to follow. 

Community Food Award: Our Table, Dublin
Malawian Ellie Kisyombe, a former asylum seeker, met café owner and food writer Michelle Darmody while doing volunteer work in the Irish Refugee Council. Together they set up Our Table, a community-based, social enterprise that uses food as a way to connect, start a conversation and draw attention to the realities of those living in Direct Provision. Our Table started out hosting pop-up and catering events aimed at generating awareness about conditions within the Direct Provision system, while also providing immigrants with employment. During the pandemic, the team focused on getting as much good, wholesome food as possible to those living in emergency accommodation and Direct Provision Centres. Plans for the future include setting up a new Our Table kitchen that will be used for their many projects and ongoing training, cooking and mentoring. 

Lifetime Achievement Award: Sally Ferns-Barnes, Cork
Since 1979 Sally Barnes has been perfecting the art of smoking wild Irish fish at West Cork's Woodcock Smokery. Over the last 40 years, Sally has acquired great knowledge on everything that links the ocean and its bounty, smoke curing, and working with nature and natural processes. The Keep, established adjacent to the smokery in 2020, is where that knowledge is shared through masterclasses in the art of curing and smoking wild fish. Sally is the last person in Ireland that exclusively handles wild fish and is a keystone in the age-old traditions of our Irish food culture. 

The IFWG Food Awards are unique. No business or individual can enter, nor do they know if they have been nominated or shortlisted for an award. The Guild is the sole nominating and decision-making body* whose members nominate and anonymously buy products for tasting. Proportional representation voting is then undertaken at a Guild tasting meeting. Winning products must be produced in Ireland and the main ingredient must be Irish grown or produced.


Recipe by Gráinne Mullins of Grá Chocolates 
Gráinne Mullins is a chef and the founder of Grá Chocolates; she knows a good product when she finds it, and she’s a fan of using Coolfin in her delicious cheese scones. The flavour and texture of Coolfin make it a wonderful cheese to cook with and these scones have been a big hit in the Kylemore farm shop, where Teresa Roche says that there’s much more demand for the cheese version than plain scones. And rightly so too –it’s not so easy to find a scone that uses cheese of this quality

360g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp black pepper
80g salted butter, plus a little extra for the muffin tin
200g Coolfin from Kylemore Farmhouse Cheese, grated
1 egg
230g buttermilk
Abernethy butter and GranGrans Foods’ red onion marmalade, to serve

Heat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan). Butter a muffin tin, or line a baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment.
Sift the flour, baking powder and black pepper into a bowl, then sift again to make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
Add the butter to the bowl and combine with your fingertips to make breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the grated cheese into the breadcrumb mixture and rub together until evenly distributed. Try not to mix too much as the heat from your hands may start to melt the butter.
Mix together the egg and buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in enough of the buttermilk mixture to give a fairly soft but firm dough. Do not pour in all the liquid at once; you may not need it all to get the right consistency.
Weigh the mixture into 120g pieces and roll into balls. Place them into the muffin tin. Alternatively, lightly flour a surface and roll out the dough to approximately 2cm thick. Cut out the scones with a medium cutter (about 8cm) then place on the lined baking tray.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve with a knob of butter and a spoon of delicious red onion marmalade.

Recipe by Usha Faulkner via Helen Calvey of Calvey’s Achill Mountain Lamb

In Helen Calvey’s words: “This recipe was given to us by a dear friend and customer Usha Faulkner. A lover of genuine food she appreciates the dedication and work that goes into producing our wonderful product. Usha has been a customer of ours for over ten years and regularly travels over from Great Britain to bring our mutton back home, where she only shares it with the very best of friends. Reared in India, she put herself through college in England to become a consultant with the NHS. She is an excellent cook, very passionate about her spices and this recipe is one of her favourites, having learned it from her mother.”
1 tsp red chilli powder
1½ tbsp tandoori masala
2 tbsp yoghurt
1 heaped tsp garlic paste
1 tsp lemon juice, or vinegar
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp salt
8 Achill Mountain mutton chops
Butter, for brushing
Thinly sliced red onions and lemon wedges, to serve

Combine the chilli powder, tandoori masala, yoghurt, garlic paste, lemon juice, garam masala and salt in a large bowl.
Mix well and tip in the lamb chops. Use your hands to coat the chops evenly in the mixture.
Let the meat marinade for a minimum of 4 hours in the refrigerator.
Cook on a charcoal barbecue, starting the chops on a hot area to sear the meat, then moving them to a cooler part of the barbecue to cook through. It will take 10-15 minutes on both sides for well cooked meat. Brush with a little butter to avoid the meat drying out.
Serve two chops per person with thinly sliced red onions and a wedge of lemon.

Recipe by Tara Walker, with additions from Carina Conyngham of Rock Farm Slane.

Carina likes to use Rock Farm Slane organic pork, apples, rosemary, sage and garlic cloves to make this simple dish and she credits chef and cookery teacher Tara Walker from the East Coast Cookery School “for showing me how to cook pork chops.” Tara says that “good quality pork will render a fair amount of fat when seared and this will mix with the deglazed wine to create an emulsion, which then will be flavoured with the herbs and mashed garlic.”

2 organic Rock Farm Slane pork chops, on the bone if possible
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Newgrange rapeseed oil
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans or butter beans
100ml white wine
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
A bunch of fresh sage, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1 lemon, halved
2 apples, preferably Bramley or cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
A sprinkling of brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 ?C.
Season meat on both sides and brush with oil. Rinse beans in a sieve or colander.
Heat a heavy bottomed, ovenproof frying pan until very hot. Brown eat on all sides and remove to a warmed plate. Add wine to deglaze the pan, then add the rosemary, sage and garlic. Tip beans into the pan and return the pork with any juices.
Squeeze lemon juice over the meat and leave the halves in the pan.
Place pan in the oven and cook for 3 minutes, then turn over, spoon the juices over the other side of the meat and return to the oven for a further 2 minutes.
Remove from oven and let meat rest for at least 10 minutes. Before serving, mash the garlic with a fork in the pan to help it mix through the remaining juices.
Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add apple slices, sprinkle with a little brown sugar, and fry until beginning to brown.
Plate the beans with pork chops on top, cooked sliced apples on the side and the juices spooned over the meat. Serve with a locally sourced mixed salad or mixed orientals, all available at the Rock Farm Slane weekly farmer’s market.

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