Mairead Finnegan, Roll It Pastry - Special Irish Foods & The People Who Make Them

Mairead Finnegan - Roll It PastryDee Laffan talks to the woman behind the all-butter convenience pastry, which is made in Co Meath

Learning to make pastry is one of my earliest food memories. Standing on a chair to reach the kitchen counter, my sister would let me help rub the butter into the flour or roll the dough out, spreading it across the surface. The aroma of the baking in the kitchen would drive your excitement and the anticipation of eating the treat inside the oven.

Freshly baked pastry tastes delicious, regardless of what you put on it, under it or wrap it around. It can be a rhubarb tart (my favourite) or a quiche lorraine… the main key to success with these simple delicious dishes is the pastry.

Times have changed. Time has changed. We all seem to be short on time. It is the biggest enemy of home cooking and baking and often time wins. Hence, shortcuts have been made and ready-made solutions are contemporary ingredients for home baking. There are many brands of ready-made pastry, but none has impressed me as much as Roll It Pastry.

Roll It Pastry is an all-butter, ready-made, frozen shortcrust pastry created by Mairead Finnegan. Mairead says that the idea for the business came from her love of baking and a lack of availability of good-quality product.

“I was working as a property manager in Dublin when I came up with the idea for the business, explained Mairead. “I was always very into cooking and anything to do with food. I remember it was around Christmas time four years ago and I wanted to make beef wellington. I couldn’t find any decent whole butter pastry in the shops. I tried in a lot of places and couldn’t find anything and even then it was limited in quality as to what was available.”

“I decided to teach myself how to make puff pastry and that led onto learning the other pastries too. I noticed there was no Irish pastry on the market and only a limited amount of butter pastry. Even though all the cookbooks and TV shows tell consumers to make sure it’s a butter pastry they buy, it was hard to get.”

Roll It Pastry - Chocolate TartWhat sets Roll It Pastry apart is that it is such good quality that it tastes homemade. You could definitely pull the wool over your dinner guests’ eyes by hiding the packet and passing it off as one you made earlier! The quality is down to Mairead’s strict ethos on ingredients and method.

“What makes it special is that it is made from real butter. I make it all in relatively small batches and there are no preservatives in it, which is why it is frozen. I do this to give it a nice homemade quality rather than the mass-produced types that don’t taste of anything. I use free-range eggs and good quality flour and a lot of the process is done by hand and that’s what makes it unique.”

“When I started off in my home kitchen I was still working at the time. Because I worked in property, I was going from contract to contract so I knew I ought to look for something else. I did a few food fairs and farmers markets with the first batches and I got great feedback and it sort of took off from there. That was over three years ago now and I haven’t looked back.”

“We live in the country and we have plenty of space here including a big garage space at the back, which I have converted into a commercial kitchen. I got some funding from LEADER and LEO to help with that and have invested in some commercial equipment, like large commercial mixers, but a lot of it is still done by hand. There is no production line or anything like that. It is very much a hands-on process and a lot of work in it. While it is just me normally, I need someone on stand by to help at busy times.”

However, things are about to change for Mairead as she is extending the range to include a puff pastry and a gluten-free option. This means she will be employing someone to help with production.

Roll It Pastry

“I got some funding from LEADER recently for a large pastry machine that does a lot of the folding needed to make puff pastry. It will help speed things up as it takes some of the work out of it for me, but there are still lots of parts that I will need to do by hand. I also invested in some more big freezers and fridges for production and storage.”

I’ve outsourced the production of the gluten-free pastry to a bakery in Cork. So many people have asked me for it, so I decided to do it. I can’t make it in my kitchen because of the health and safety issues; it has to be a separate premises. I’ve picked someone who I knew would uphold my own standards and quality and who I admire myself. There is a demand for this pastry as no one else is doing it, so that’s the reason for it.”

Mairead’s pastry has already gained recognition and not just from consumers, as it has won awards from the Irish Quality Food Awards, the Great Taste Awards and Blás na hÉireann (the National Irish Food Awards).

With the new developments in her range and taking on staff, there will be busy times ahead and, no doubt, more success.

“With expanding the business, I have to make sure that I can remain as hands-on as possible to ensure quality. The whole basis of my business is the quality and I have to be able to maintain that at all costs.”

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Dee Laffan

Dee Laffan is a freelance food writer and editor. Formerly editor of Easy Food magazine, she has written for the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent. She is a proud supporter of Irish producers and their products, and takes part in judging for food competitions including Blas na hÉireann and the Great Taste Awards. She is a member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild and secretary for Slow Food Dublin. Twitter @deelaffan

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