Table DisplayWhen presenting their annual Food Awards at Dublin’s Bang Cafe in November, chefs group Euro-toques Ireland the called on the government to establish a ‘safety net’ support system to ensure the survival of indigenous food businesses.

What we are talking about are simple, but effective measures to defend artisan production and encourage rural enterprise”, said Chef Feargal O’Donnell, Commissioner-General of Euro-toques Ireland. “At the moment the regulatory requirements and compliance costs are making many businesses uncompetitive, deterring new food enterprises and wiping out many existing ones. In many cases producers are being asked to invest in facilities that they will never recoup the cost of. Many of these people wish to remain small and just to supply locally. We believe a different approach is needed”.

Euro-toques are calling for independent assessment, by a new or existing group made up of regulators and industry representatives, of cases where compliance costs are putting food businesses under threat or where they are being told they can no longer carry out traditional or artisan production methods.

Noreen Conroy ? Free Range Pork, Bacon & Sausages, Ballincurrig, Co.Cork Darina Allen ? President of Slowfood Ireland, and owner of Ballymaloe Cookery School Con Traas ? The Apple Farm, Cahir, Co TipperaryFood producers must be able to sell at a reasonable price and still make a decent margin, overheads and capital costs can often make this impossible. They say that proven traditional practices need to be recognised as safe and inexpensive alternatives to meeting food safety requirements must be looked at.

In addition they will ask the Food Safety Authority and government for a guarantee that not one single indigenous food producer will be forced out of business without this ‘safety net’ process being employed. The ‘safety net’ system was proposed by Euro-toques founder Myrtle Allen, and Euro-toques is joined in making this call by Slowfood Ireland, the TASTE Council, the Artisans Forum, Cork Free Choice Consumer Group, Good Food Ireland and Growing Awareness.

Euro-toques Ireland, the Irish branch of the European Community of Chefs & Cooks, presents annual Food Awards to food producers, and occasionally individuals or organisations, who have made an outstanding contribution to Irish food. Nominations are put forward by Euro-toques member chefs and recipients are carefully selected by their Food Committee. The awards are now in their 13th year.

Derry Clarke ? L?Ecrivain Con Traas ? The Apple Farm, Cahir, Co Tipperary Ross Lewis ? Chapter OneThis year’s winners were:

Woodside Farm, Leamlara, Co. Cork for their free range pork and pork products

Happy Heart Organic Rapeseed Oil from Drumeen Farm in Urlingford, Co. Kilkenny

The Apple Farm, near Cahir, Co. Tipperary for their range of apple and fruit varieties and excellent juices and fruit produce.

Solaris Botanicals, Galway, for their organic whole leaf speciality and herbal teas.

A special award was presented to farmers’ co-operative group

Connemara Hill Lamb Ltd for registration of Connemara Hill Lamb as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) under the EU food quality scheme.

Each award was introduced by a Euro-toques Member Chef.

Four out of our five awards this year are for companies who are first and foremost farmers, but who have innovated and added value to their produce”, said O’Donnell, “These are the people keeping rural Ireland alive and are in many cases keeping the next generation on the land. All five winners have sustainability and environmentally sound practices at the heart of what they do. We absolutely must ensure the survival of these enterprises”.

The awards ceremony was attended by a who’s who of the Irish food industry including Euro-toques chefs, Ross Lewis (Chapter One), Derry Clarke (lEcrivain), Neven Maguire (MacNean House & Restaurant), Darina Allen (Ballymaloe Cookery School) and Euro-toques founder Myrtle Allen (Ballymaloe House). Minister of State for Food & Horticulture Trevor Sargent addressed the event and presented the winners with their awards. Canapés, featuring the award winning produce, were prepared by Graham Neville, head chef of Restaurant Forty One @ Residence on St. Stephen’s Green.

2009 Award Winners

Award ? The Apple Farm ? Apples and Juice.   Neven Maguire, Con Traas, Trevor SargentTHE APPLE FARM – Apples, Fruit & Fruit Juices
Moorstown, Cahir, Co. Tipperary

Award presented by Euro-toques Chef Neven Maguire of MacNean House & Restaurant, Blacklion, Co. Cavan

The Traas family have been growing fruit, primarily apples, at ‘The Apple Farm’ in Moorstown near Cahir in Co. Tipperary since the 1960s. Con Traas now grows up to 70 varieties of apples, about 20 of these commercially. In addition he grows several different varieties of strawberries, raspberries, cherries, plums and pears. In autumn 1996, on the morning of this wedding, Con began to produce his own apple juice, and his little green bottles with the ‘Karmine’ brand have since become familiar in cafes and food shops all over the country.

While the fruit is sold primarily from the farm shop and in local outlets, Con’s juices gained popularity nationwide, and he expanded the range with blends including his own soft fruits. Recently he has launched ‘The Apple Farm of Tipperary’ Sparkling Apple Juice, which he believes may be the only natural unsweetened carbonated fruit juice on the market.

All their farming and production is carried out in an environmental and quality conscious manner, with integrated pest control systems and hand-harvesting of fruit. All of their products are made entirely with their own fruit.

Euro-toques Ireland recognised the Apple Farm for promoting biodiversity, retaining Irish horticulture and producing top quality fruit and fruit juices.

Contact: Con Traas Tel: 052 744 1459
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Award ? Woodside Farm ? Free Range Pork, Bacon & Sausages. Darina Allen, Noreen & Martin Conroy, Trevor Sargent.WOODSIDE FARM – Free Range Pork, Bacon & Sausages
Ballincurrig, Leamlara, Co. Cork

Award presented by Euro-toques Chef and Slowfood Ireland President Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School

Martin & Noreen Conroy established a small mixed farm near Leamlara near Midleton in County Cork six and a half years ago. Now, although they retain a mix of cattle, sheep, chickens, ducks, and geese, the mainstay of Woodside Farm is pigs, which they rear in a full outdoor free range system.

The Conroys breed and rear pure traditional Saddleback and Gloucestor Old Spot Pigs, which they butcher and process themselves. Martin and Noreen are assisted in the enterprise by their five children particularly their eldest sons Alan (18) and Matthew (16) who take special interest in the farming and butchery aspects respectively.

The Conroys feed their pigs exclusively on locally grown rolled wheat and their own selection of vegetables, to produce a slow-maturing, flavoursome meat. Their fresh pork, dry-cured bacon and ham, and high quality sausages are sold exclusively at their stall in Midleton market, and they sell only their own meat.

The pigs travel just six miles to Midleton to be slaughtered by a local butcher and the same trip to be sold at market, which combined with the use of local feedstuffs, means their produce has virtually no carbon footprint.

For an excellent truly local food, produced sustainably on a real family farm, with excellent animal welfare and use of rare breeds, Euro-toques presented Woodside Farm with a 2009 Food Award.

Contact: Noreen Conroy Tel: 087 2767206
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Aine Ni Chiarragain & Martin Kerrigan ? Connemara Hill Lamb, Prea Munion ? Solaris BotanicalsSOLARIS BOTANICALS – Organic Whole Leaf Speciality & Herbal Teas
Unit 3, Ballybane Enterprise Centre, Galway

Award presented by Euro-toques Food Committee Member Chef Brid Torrades of Osta Cafe & Wine Bar and Tobergal Lane Cafe, Sligo Town

Solaris Botanicals is a young Galway-based company with expert knowledge and a unique offering, which has already won them export markets in Italy, France the UK, Sweden, Greece and as far afield as Saudi Arabia. Founded by partners Jorg Muller and Karin Wieland, who are both qualified medical herbalists, the company produces a wide range of top quality whole leaf organic speciality and herbal teas.

These hand-picked, whole leaf loose teas, from organic plantations, freshly blended using traditional methods hold unique health properties, containing 95% more anti-oxidants than normal bag teas. In addition to a range of top quality black tea blends, green tea, white tea, and Pu Ehr Tea, they utilise the medical backgrounds to produce a selection of herbal blends which treat an array of complaints and ailments.

Far from being purely a health product, however, the quality of ingredients and freshness of the blends mean all their teas have full aroma and flavour. All their products are sold in beautiful 100% biodegradable sustainably sourced packaging and they have recently introduced a biodegradable silk tea bag range for foodservice.

Solaris Botanicals elevate tea blending to a fine art and, at a time when we need a little calm, are ensuring tea becomes the new coffee.

For an innovative product, based on passion and expertise, with an environmental conscience and excellent business practices, Euro-toques selected Solaris Botanicals for a 2009 Food Award.

Contact: Jorg Muller/Prea Munion Tel: 091 442 450
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Feargal O?Donnell ? Commissioner Genaral, Euro Toques , Kitty Colchester ? Drumeen Farm, Graham Neville ? Restaurant Forty One At ResidenceDRUMEEN FARM HAPPY HEART ORGANIC RAPESEED OIL
Urlingford, Co. Kilkenny

Award presented by Euro-toques Food Committee Member & Chair of the TASTE Council Evan Doyle, of Brooklodge Hotel, Macreddin, Co. Wicklow

Drumeen Farm near Urlingford, County Kilkenny has been farmed organically by Ben & Charlotte Colchestor for 35 years. In January this year their daughter Kitty, who had left home early to pursue a career in sales but later gave it up to carry out aid work in Africa, found herself back on the family farm and looking for a meaningful livelihood. She had heard a lot about the health properties of rapeseed oil, and turned her attention to the organic oilseed rape her father had already been growing for 5 years, one of only 3 farmers in the country doing so.

After completing an Enterprise Ireland Start your own Business course, she set about producing organic rapeseed oil. What started as a feasibility study on the 27 of June this year, turned out to be a highly successful product launch resulting in Drumeen Farm’s Happy Heart Rapeseed Oil finding its way to markets stalls and store shelves all over the country.

The rapeseed is dried at low temperatures and the oil is produced in small batches on a weekly basis from the first gentle cold pressing, using no chemicals, to ensure the high vitamin, anti-oxidant and omega levels are maintained. Apart from cholesterol reducing properties which rival both olive and sunflower oil, this oil has a subtle nutty flavour, making it perfect for sweet and savoury cooking and for salads.

Importantly the oil is part of a sustainable, holistic farm system, where the remainder of the rapeseed provides a protein rich and nutritious organic feed for the animals and all the rapeseed used is grown on the farm.

Unfortunately a fire in the drying machine in September meant that the entire final harvest of rapeseed was destroyed and, because Kitty does not want to compromise the integrity and principles of her product by importing rape, there will be very limited availability of her oil until next summer. Euro-toques chefs and many already dedicated customers will wait impatiently for next year’s harvest.

Contact: Kitty Colchestor Tel: 087 9265423
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Special Award ? Connemara Hill Lamb ? Lamb Farming Co-Op. Ross Lewis, Aine Ni Chiarragain, Martin Kerrigan, Trevor Sargent.SPECIAL AWARD
CONNEMARA HILL LAMB LTD – Cooperative group of Connemara Hill Lamb farmers
Corr Na Mona, Connemara, Co. Galway.

Award presented by Euro-toques Commissioner Ross Lewis, of Chapter One Restaurant, Dublin

Connemara Hill Lamb Ltd is a cooperative of over 70 hill lamb farmers in the Connemara region who came together in 1999 to examine how the could develop a market for what they believed was a unique, quality product. Initially the created a logo for ‘Connemara Hill Lamb’ and sought out local markets, but they quickly began to investigate the possibility of registering the name as a ‘Protected Geographical Indication’ under the European food quality system.

From 2002, when their application began, until February 2007 when the name was finally protected, they painstakingly researched and compiled information to prove the origins and authenticity of the product, to describe in detail the breed, production methods, environment and diet of the animal and the characteristics of the resulting meat.

The result is that the name ‘Connemara Hill Lamb’ is now legally protected and can be used only to describe lamb born and reared in the Connemara Hills from black-faced horned ewes, feeding on a unique mixture of grasses and herbs, as well as their mother’s milk, throughout their lives.

The meat is available from June to January. Carcass weight for these lambs is typically less than half that of lowland breeds, weighing about 10kg. In appearance it is a lean carcass, rose red in colour, solid deep texture with a light cover of fat. The lamb has a natural succulent flavour and taste with a very pronounced aroma.

For their forward-thinking approach, their efforts to maintain traditional ways of farming and protect the unique ‘terroir’ of their product, Euro-toques recognised Connemara Hill Lamb Ltd with a Special Award and gave special recognition to M&K Meats, who distribute the product to Dublin restaurants.

Contact: Áine Ní Chiarragáin Tel: 09495 48798
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