Georgina Campbell's Cookery Feature - Celebrating Family, Tradition and Ireland's Food Legacy at 2017 IFWG Awards

Since 1993, the Irish Food Writers’ Guild (IFWG) Food Awards have celebrated Ireland’s food producers and organisations, recognising those behind the great Irish produce that is integral to Ireland’s growing reputation in food and drink, both at home and abroad.

The passing down of recipes and traditional farming and production methods from generation to generation have been instrumental in helping Ireland’s food legacy to endure, according to IFWG Chairperson, Aoife Carrigy.

Speaking at the 2017 awards ceremony in Dublin recently, she said, “The positive influence that previous generations have had on today’s Irish food sector has emerged as a common defining characteristic in the winners of this year’s IFWG Food Awards.”

Marked with a lunch at Ireland’s benchmark dining destination, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, each of the winning products was worked into a wonderful celebratory menu devised and prepared for the occasion by chef and co-owner Guillaume Lebrun.

Six IFWG award winners were announced, together with the Guild’s first posthumous award for Oliver Hughes, a pioneer of the Irish craft beer and distilling revolution.

The 2017 IFWG Food Award winners are The Friendly Farmer for his pasture-reared chickens, Ummera Irish Smokehouse for Ummera Smoked Silver Hill Duck Breast and Cuinneog for Irish Farmhouse Country Butter and Natural Buttermilk. Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin received this year’s Irish Drink Award and Mags Kirwan of Goatsbridge Trout Farm was presented with a Special Contribution to Irish Food Award. The 2017 Environmental Award went to The Little Milk Company for its innovative approach to fostering sustainable family farms. The family of Oliver Hughes, the pioneering founder of the Dingle Distillery and The Porterhouse accepted his posthumous award.

The IFWG Food Awards are unique. No one can enter themselves or their product into the awards and no company knows it has been nominated or shortlisted for an award. The Guild is the sole nominating and decision-making body and wishes to thanks Bord Bia for its support of the awards and its tireless work on the home and export markets on behalf of the Irish food industry.


Food Award: The Friendly Farmer: Ronan Byrne, Co. Galway

Irish chicken farmers are struggling to hold their own against imported chicken, which is often raised and produced under less than ideal circumstances. Since establishing himself in 2007 as ‘The Friendly Farmer’, Ronan Byrne has shown that there is a strong local demand for high quality Irish chicken from both chefs and general consumers.

Having studied Agri-business and Marketing, worked in finance, marketing and promotions and managed a large dairy farm in Poland, Ronan returned to Athenry determined to find a way to make a sustainable full-time living out of his family’s small mixed farm. He now produces 115 hubbard chickens a week, using a grass-based system that ensures easy outdoor access for the flock. He also rears free-range pigs, beef cattle and other seasonal poultry (turkeys, geese and ducks)’ and has recently developed an on-site abattoir, with the financial support and mentorship of Galway’s Local Enterprise Board.

The Friendly Farmer chickens are available at their pop-up farm shop in the weekly Moycullen and Galway markets as well as being found on many of the best menus in Galway city and county. 


Food Award: Ummera Irish Smokehouse for Ummera Smoked Silver Hill Duck Breast: Anthony Creswell, Co. Cork

At Ummera’s custom-built smokehouse, Anthony Creswell draws on four decades of smoking experience. His father Keith began smoking salmon caught in local West Cork rivers back in the 1970s, with Anthony taking over the running of the business in 1998.

In 2007, Ummera won an Irish Food Writers’ Guild Award for its wonderful smoked eel. The range of smoked products also includes Irish organically reared smoked salmon as well as smoked chicken, smoked dry-cured bacon and a recently developed smoked picanha (a premium Brazilian cut of beef with a protective layer of fat).

In 2009, Anthony began experimenting with hot-smoked duck breast and within a year had won not just 3 Star Gold Awards at the 2010 Great Taste Awards but also the Golden Fork for the best Irish Speciality Food of the year. The duck is sourced from another Guild award-winner, Silver Hill Farm in Co Monaghan where the Steele family have developed their own unique hybrid breed.

Anthony favours Silver Hill duck for its tenderness, delicate flavour and its generous layer of fat that helps to keep the hot-smoked breast moist. The result is a delicious and versatile ready-to-use product that is the combined creation of two exemplary Irish food producers. 


Food Award: Cuinneog for Irish Farmhouse Country Butter and Natural Buttermilk: Breda Butler, Co. Mayo

In response to local demand for a flavour that was in danger of disappearing, and armed with a wooden cuinneog (churn) and creamery cans, Tom and Sheila Butler began making this proper country butter in their Co Mayo family kitchen in 1990.

Today their daughter Breda Butler runs the family business, supplying their fermented lactic butter and its by-product of natural buttermilk to supermarkets and speciality food shops nationwide.

The lightly salted butter gets its distinctive colour, creamy texture and complex, long-lasting flavour from the traditional production process, which takes four days from start to finish. The cream is slowly heated and fermented, then churned in the traditional way after which the buttermilk is separated. The butter is then shaped, cut and wrapped by hand.

Cuinneog are no stranger to awards, having been recognised by Euro-Toques in 2010 and won 3 gold stars in the Great Taste Awards 2015, when the county butter was listed in the Top 50 Foods. The Irish Food Writers’ Guild is delighted to honour these two exemplary traditional Irish food products. 


Special contribution to Irish Food: Mag Kirwan of Goatsbridge Trout Farm, Co. Kilkenny

Mag is best known for the excellent rainbow trout that she and her husband Ger produce at Goatsbridge, their second-generation Kilkenny fish farm. As well as their fresh trout, these tireless innovators produce cold-smoked and barbecued trout sides, a smoked trout paté and a convenient and delicious tinned smoked trout, all under their ‘Eat Trout’ retail brand. Their unique Goatsbridge trout caviar also graces many of the best Irish menus.

Mag is an active promoter of local food, with a strong involvement in Kilkenny Food Trail’s pioneering food tourism offer (including their own Goatsbridge Farm Visitor Centre) and in Taste Kilkenny, a group of local producers committed to collective cooperative marketing.

Mag is also a leading figure in sustainable fresh water aquaculture. Goatsbridge was the first fish farm to sign up to Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme, and is committed to sustainable water and energy usage and to social sustainability.

A recent initiative saw Mag launch Fishwives at Savour Kilkenny in October 2016. Featuring fish recipes gathered from women in Ireland and Uganda from diverse backgrounds and professions, the self-published cookbook was funded by Goatsbridge Trout with the aim of raising €40,000 for Hospice Africa Uganda, as well as encouraging Irish people to eat more fish.

Mag is commended by the Irish Food Writers Guild for the energy and commitment that she brings to the promotion of Irish food and Irish fish in particular. 


Irish Drink Award: Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin: Justin Green and Anthony Jackson, Co. Cork

This highly original craft gin is produced by Justin Green of Ballyvolane House together with his old school friend and business partner, Antony Jackson.

Where most Irish gins use imported grain-based alcohol, Bertha’s Revenge is distilled with whey alcohol sourced from the local Carbery dairy plant and derived from cow’s milk produced by Co. Cork dairy farmers.

Using specially developed yeasts to ferment the milk sugars in the whey, Carbery first brew and then double distill the whey in large column stills. Justin and Anthony distill the 96% proof whey alcohol a third time in their custom-made 125 litre copper stills along with their chosen botanicals. These include coriander, bitter orange, cardamom, cumin and clove as well as foraged local botanicals such as alexanders, elderflower and sweet woodruff.

The result is an aromatic and warmly spiced gin that has won local and international acclaim since it was launched in 2015. Bertha’s Revenge is now exported to the UK, mainland Europe and even South Korea, and to the US later this year.

This truly Irish gin continues the strong field-to-fork tradition that has long been at the heart of Ballyvolane House, which is one of Ireland’s best-loved country houses.


Environmental Award: The Little Milk Company, Co Waterford


Lifetime Achievement Award: Posthumously awarded to Oliver Hughes

Several decades ahead of our recent Irish craft beer revolution, Oliver Hughes was co-founder of one of the first small independent Irish breweries. Together with Liam Lahart – who was his cousin, business partner and lifelong friend – Oliver opened Harty's in Blessington, Co Wicklow in 1983 and later Dempsey's in Inchicore.

A decade later, they succeeded in developing not just a range of unique Irish craft beers, but also a loyal consumer base for those beers through the Porterhouse brew pub, first in Dublin’s Temple Bar, and later in London, New York and elsewhere in Dublin. Today the Porterhouse Group also operates Lillie’s Bordello and The Porthouse tapas bars.

Later, Oliver had the vision to create Dingle Distillery in what was the first purpose-built distillery to open in Ireland in 200 years. Production of their whiskey began in 2012, with first batches of Dingle Single Malt bottled in 2016. They also produce a vodka and a distinctive gin distilled with local botanicals such as rowan berry, bog myrtle and heather.

Oliver Hughes passed away in July 2016 at the young age of 57, leaving behind his wife Helen, son Eliott and daughter Holly as well as many more family and friends. He is greatly missed by the Irish food and drink community, who remember his infectious energy, fearless vision, considerable generosity and passion for life with continued respect and sincere gratitude.


The judging process

· No company or individual can enter themselves for these awards.
· Every member of the Guild is invited to nominate products they believe are worthy of an award.
· The products must be produced in Ireland and the main ingredient must be Irish grown or produced.
· The producer must be trading for at least three years.
· Products are bought and paid for and a formal tasting meeting takes place where members vote, using proportional representation.



Devised by Guillaume Lebrun, executive chef /owner at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the menu was paired with wines kindly provided by Liberty Wines.

· Goatsbridge Cold Smoked Trout with Bertha’s Revenge Gin and Tonic Foam and Pickled Ginger

· Salad of Ummera Smoked Silver Hill Duck Breast with Beetroot and Horseradish

· The Friendly Farmer Pasture-Reared Chicken with Lemon Viennoise and Sweet Potato Purée

· Cuinneog Buttermilk Ice Cream with Pear and White Chocolate Café au Lait

· The Little Milk Company Cheese Board



Recipes all created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2017 by executive chef/owner Guillaume Lebrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.


Goatsbridge Cold Smoked Trout with Bertha’s Revenge Gin and Tonic Foam and Pickled Ginger

Goatsbridge Cold Smoked Trout with Bertha’s Revenge Gin and Tonic Foam and Pickled Ginger

Serves 8

For the tomato jelly:
3 leaves of gelatine
500g ripe plum tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of caster sugar
dash of Tabasco sauce

For the gin and tonic foam:

2 leaves of gelatine
400ml tonic water
0.5g agar agar (gelling agent)
100ml Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin

To assemble:

1 large piece of Goatsbridge Cold Smoked Trout, cut into bite-sized pieces pickled ginger, cut into bite-sized pieces

To make the tomato jelly, soak the leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes. Blend the tomatoes in a food processor, then pass through a fine muslin cloth. Season the tomato water with salt, pepper, sugar and Tabasco sauce. Gently warm the tomato water, then add the hydrated gelatine. Leave to set.

To make the gin and tonic foam, soak the leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes. Boil the tonic water briefly with the agar agar. Remove from the heat and add the hydrated gelatine and the gin. Leave to cool, then place in a cream siphon charged with one carbon dioxide canister.

To assemble, place 1 tablespoon of the tomato jelly in a small cup or shot glass. Add one or two small pieces of smoked trout, then one small piece of pickled ginger. Finish with the gin and tonic foam and serve straight away.


Salad of Ummera Smoked Silver Hill Duck Breast with Beetroot and Horseradish

Salad of Ummera Smoked Silver Hill Duck Breast with Beetroot and Horseradish

Serves 4

4 cooked beetroots, cut into small cubes
olive oil
Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar (or other red wine vinegar)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Ummera Smoked Silver Hill Duck Breasts, thinly sliced
2 ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced
prepared horseradish sauce, to serve
pistachios, to garnish
micro herbs, to garnish

Dress the cooked cubed beetroot in a little olive oil and Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place the beetroot on a cold plate and add a few dots of olive oil and vinegar. Neatly arrange the thinly sliced smoked duck and pears on top. Finish with a small quenelle of horseradish sauce and garnish with a few halved pistachios, micro herbs and a little coarsely ground black pepper.


The Friendly Farmer Pasture-Reared Chicken with Lemon Viennoise and Sweet Potato Purée

The Friendly Farmer Pasture-Reared Chicken with Lemon Viennoise and Sweet Potato Purée

Serves 4

1 x Friendly Farmer pasture-reared whole small chicken

For the sweet potato purée:

rock salt
6 sweet potatoes
100g butter, diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the lemon viennoise:

500g fresh white breadcrumbs
400g butter, diced
70g grated Parmesan
2 egg yolks
zest of 3 lemons
pinch of saffron powder

To serve:

wilted pak choi
roast red pepper
roast chicken jus

Preheat the oven to 230°C.

Pour a thick layer of rock salt in a baking tray. Scrub the unpeeled sweet potatoes well, then pat them dry and nestle them into the bed of salt. Cover the tray with foil and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, split them open and scoop the flesh into a Thermomix or food processor along with the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Blend to a smooth purée and keep warm.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C.

To make the lemon viennoise, simply mix all the ingredients together in a food processor.

Remove the legs and wishbone from the chicken so that you’re left with just the crown. Stuff the lemon viennoise under the skin, then place the chicken on a large baking tray. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until completely cooked through. Set aside to rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

Serve the carved chicken on top of a spoonful of sweet potato purée. Finish with wilted pak choi and a few small strips of roast red pepper and drizzle with roast chicken jus.


Cuinneog Buttermilk Ice Cream with Pear and White Chocolate Café au Lait

Cuinneog Buttermilk Ice Cream with Pear and White Chocolate Café au Lait

Serves 12

For the ice cream:

2 litres Cuinneog Buttermilk
450g egg yolks
360g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out

For the pear sorbet:

1kg pear purée
360g caster sugar
10ml Poire Williams eau de vie
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
100g white chocolate, melted

For the marinated pears:

2 ripe pears
100ml freshly brewed espresso, cooled

To serve:

chocolate biscuits, crushed

To make the ice cream, bring the milk to the boil in a large saucepan, then immediately remove from the heat. Mix the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla seeds together in a large heatproof bowl. Pour over the scalded milk and whisk to combine. Allow to cool, then churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions and freeze.

To make the pear sorbet, place the pear purée and all sugar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the Poire Williams and vanilla seeds. Allow to cool, then churn most of it (save a little for decorating the finished dish) in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions and freeze.

When the sorbet has frozen solid, break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Scoop the sorbet into 20g balls and dip them in the melted white chocolate, then place back in the freezer until needed.

Peel and core the pears and use a Parisienne scoop to make balls. Pour the cooled espresso into a bowl and add the pears. Allow to marinate for at least a few hours or overnight.

Serve a quenelle of ice cream on a spoonful of crushed chocolate biscuits with balls of the pear sorbet, marinated pears and dots of the remaining pear purée alongside.


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