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24 September 2008

Cuberoll Steak of Hereford Beef

So, just what is cuberoll steak?
We had a couple of pieces from Ivor Deverell's splendid Farm Factory Direct in Offaly, but had to go trawling through the web to discover that cuberoll steak is actually a trimmed rib-eye steak.
So, what did we do with them? We fried them in butter and oil over high heat, tossed in some garlic cloves and a big sprig of rosemary when we turned them, then let them rest and added some wine to the pan to make a garlicky, rosemary gravy. After the cuberolls had rested, we sliced them, and spooned the gravy over the top.
It all took about eight minutes, four for cooking, four for resting. The flavour of the cuberoll, from Hereford animals, was amazing. So, do check out the Deverell family's splendid operation: and get some of that good Hereford beef, and some Offaly lamb, onto your dinner plate.

Restaurant Review: Campagne, Kilkenny city

Garret Byrne, the luminary former head-chef of Dublin's Chapter One restaurant, has returned to his native Kilkenny to open Campagne, with his partner Brid Hannon.

Eamon Barrett is well impressed...

Garrett Byrne may have decided to call his newly opened restaurant in Kilkenny 'Campagne' but if the translation of this word evokes images of a rustic 'countryside' experience you might be in for a disappointment - albeit your only one of the night. Make no mistake, this is a super swish space that has cost a lot of money to put together - it's design would be just as at home in London. Olive coloured banquettes, interconnecting semi circular tables in the centre of the floor, abstract art on the walls and lots and lots of staff. We counted twelve staff that were visible and for most of our visit they had only us as diners to look after.

We are met with a friendly greeting, brought to our table, given menus, offered drinks and instantly brought some very very good bread. Starters are priced between E8 and E14 and include Terrine of foie gras and suckling pig with a beetroot puree and hazelnut dressing; Clare Island gravadlax with fennel, cucumber and potato salad; chicken liver parfait with PX jelly and toasted brioche among others.
I go for some deep fried haddock with a poached organic egg and spring onion hollandaise. It's a combination that Simon Hopkinson was very fond of and with good reason; it works extremely well - a kind of cardiac-arrest inducing, cholestrol-raising comfort food. Deep frying the haddock for crunch creates a nice foil to the egg and hollandaise. J goes for her usual foie gras and is not disappointed by it's treatment.

Mains are all under E30 with five meat options and two fish. Loin of free range pork with black pudding, creamed cabbage and mustard sounds good as does Rump of spring lamb with courgette stuffed with tomato and red pepper, rosemary jus, but I opt for Halibut with a pea puree and girolle mushrooms. It's a fine chunk of fish, nicely handled, the pea puree acting as a sauce to counteract the dryness which halibut can be prone to. J's choice is the star of the evening: grilled calves liver with pancetta, roast onions, carrots and shallot jus. The liver comes in one large crescent shaped piece and is absolutely delicious. It's perfectly pink and the whole dish just works so well together. The only veg accompaniment is a small dish of smooth mash potato - ideal for mopping up those liver juices.

By now the room has the benefit of some extra diners - including Neven Maguire - and the large space is buzzing nicely with contented conversation. There are five dessert options from which I choose a greengage tart with custard and creme fraiche and J goes for Opera gateau with salted caramel ice cream and pear puree. I come out the winner on this one as the greengage tart - more a sponge really - is just delicious and I'm left a generous jug of homemade custard to be a glutton with. The opera is not quite right, it's too sweet and doesn't have enough richness to compliment the lovely salty ice cream but we're into serious nit picking here. Good coffees finished off the evening.

This was extremely accomplished cooking and the prices are good - three courses here without wine would be E50.00 a head. Located under the old railway arches in Gashouse Lane – From the town centre head towards the McDonagh Junction shopping centre. At the traffic lights turn left. Campagne is just on the right.
The Arches, 5 Gashouse Lane, Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny
Tel:+353 (0)56 777 2858

23 September 2008

Defining Artisan Food

A friend mails a simple query: how do you define artisan food?

Well, the Taste Council definition is:
Artisan Food is defined as a superior tasting food, which commands a higher price in its category. Superior taste is achieved through food making skill

I don't think that really gets to the heart of the matter, however.

My own old definition, now a rather old one is the Four P's:

Artisan food encompasses:
a Person
a Place
a Product
a Passion

But, here is something better, from Lori de Mori's brilliant Bean Eaters & Bread Soup:

“A kind of personal integrity that can be confused with eccentricity: 'however strange it may seem to you, this is the way I do things'

"Pride without arrogance: a sincere belief in the excellence of their work

"Humility and steadfastness: the ability to light the wood stove, milk the ewes, coax the bees out of their hives – quietly, without pretence – day after day, year after year.

"The belief that their work is not a means to something else, but one of the ways to give meaning to their lives.

"Genius: the brilliance that comes to those driven by their personal vision rather than a desire for success, money or fame.

"Generosity: they have no secrets. If you appreciate what they do, they'll tell you everything they know... and usually set a place for you at their table”.

For me , that's as good as a definition can get, I think: Integrity; pride, humility, meaning; genius, generosity.

I shall return to Ms de Mori's brilliant book soon, for I have been reading it slowly, savouring each chapter as if it is a glass of Vin Santo.

11 September 2008

Food Ministers Sargent and Gildernew on a GM-free Ireland

It is impossible to underestimate the importance of what was said by the two Ministers for Food at last week's Terra Madre conference. Here is exactly what the Ministers said on the stage in Waterford:

Minister Trevor Sargent said:

“The whole GM debate is for me, like for many people here, at the heart of sustainability and the empowerment of people to grow food. If that power is taken away — and the corporate spin is certainly very strong in the direction of some kind of silver bullet being available through GM — we’ll have gone beyond the point from which it’s very difficult to come back. So we are in this generation, I believe, holding a very important responsibility. And when we look at the experience of farmers — and I think it’s important to talk to farmers rather than to their corporate masters and their professionally-paid spin doctors — the farmers are saying GM is not the panacea for them. Whether you go to the universities which have been carrying out these studies — in Nebraska and Kansas, from Iowa to India — they tell you that farmers have been experiencing not greater but less yield, losing money, and losing market share. The exact opposite of the spin that is being put out there.

And that’s before we talk about the health risks (and they do have to be talked about), the superweeds, the fossil fuel dependency which Colin Sage eloquently pointed out here we cannot continue with – we have to move on from our short-term flirtation with fossil fuels, they are not going to be around to get us out of this particular hole that we have dug for ourselves.

So I do feel that the GM debate is, in that context, a dangerous distraction from the fundamental challenges that have to be faced up to. And the option for us in Ireland is very clear: Ireland — the food island: we can sell that! The green clean food island – they really want that in Germany, as we heard from Professor Ham last night at the organic conference. Anywhere you go where our main markets are, they want that green clean food island. How about if Bord Bía [the Irish Food Board] tries to sell Ireland — the GM laboratory? I wonder how that would go down. Well let me tell you, that would be the end!

So I am particularly glad that Minister Gildernew [the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs] is here because — she will speak for herself but I have some idea of her opinions on this from the discussions we’ve had in the past — the Programme for Government does not mince its words but also does not take anything for granted. We have to negotiate the establishment of Ireland as a GM-free zone. And that means live GMOs, that means release.

The Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Michelle Gildernew MP, said :

“We must protect the diversity of both plants and animals, and avoid damaging natural resources and contributing to climate change... Once we go down the GM route there is no going back: we need to keep Ireland GM-free. And I think that issue – we might not fully recognise it now, but in a very short period of time we could have a unique selling point that nobody else in the world has. And I think as an island economy, we have to protect our status.”

Amen to that.

10 September 2008

More September news...

For the seventh year, William and Aisling O'Callaghan of Longueville House in north Cork will be leading their mushrooms hunts in and around the estate. October 5th and 19th are the dates, and we know from experience that Mr O'Callaghan is one of the leading mushrooms masters, so get yourself to this lovely house, with your wellies and waterproofs and you have a day to remember. Full details here:

The Taste of West Cork Festival takes place once again between September 16th and Sunday September 21st, culminating in a huge open air food and craft market with over 100 stallholders on the final Sunday.
Before that, there are gourmet feasts, a kids' teddy bear party, guided walks, dining with food producers, a presentation on perspectives on the West Cork regional brand, cookery demos with Clodagh McKenna, a schools cookery competition which will be judged by Neven Maguire, and a whole host of other events. Take a look at the entire festival programme at:

Some September food news...

The second Savour Kilkenny Festival will take place in the city between October 24th and 27th, and the official launch is this Friday at Workhouse Square, MacDonagh Junction at 5.30 pm, so head along to hear what is planned for food lovers in Ireland's most beautiful city...

And speaking of Kilkenny, that fabulous cook, Garret Byrne, has now opened Campagne in the city, on Gashouse Lane

Did you know that the average meal that sits on your plate has accumulated no fewer than 26,000 kms to get there! Janey Mac! So, to get a taste of how to do it differently, get yourself along to the 1st Clare Harvest banquet, in the Falls Hotel, Ennistymon, on Friday September 19th at 8pm. Everything that will be cooked and consumed here will be from the county: honey; ice-cream; vegetables; fruit, butter, meat; fish...the lot. Contact Sinead on 085 760 7037, or the Falls Hotel on 065 707 1004 for tickets which cost €50 each. All proceeds to the Asral charity.

Kenyon Street in Nenagh, Co Tipperary is planning a Community Harvest Lunch, on Sunday 21st September. There will be a long table, not for profit lunch, with beef from Michael Seymour's farm, organic salad leaves from Dermot O'Meara, potatoes from Mossfield organic farm, and desserts from Nenagh country market. A brilliant idea, with Peter Ward of County Choice at the helm of the initiative, and he is joined by Cinnamon Alley, The Peppermill, The Pantry and The Ormond Hotel, and you can get tickets at all those addresses. A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 kids costs €50, adult tickts are €20, kids cost a mere tenner. The lunch will run from 4pm to 7pm, with a food history walking tour of the town starting at 2.30pm.

And speaking of Mossfield Farm, congrats to Ralph Haslam who grabbed the Great Taste gong for best Irish cheese. We could hardly believe our ears when Ralph was suddenly on Morning Ireland! What next! A Slow Food report from Terre Madre fronted by Aine and Cathal...

09 September 2008

Cooking the Constitution

We read in today's newspaper that Samak Sundaravej, prime minister of Thailand, faces prosecution because he continued with his popular television cookery programme, Cooking, Grumbling, after being elected prime minister.
The “beleagueared right-winger and gourmet spent an hour in the witness box, defending the television show, Cooking, Grumbling, a mix of tips on traditional Thai cooking” reports The Gurdian. Sorry, the Grauniad
Let us henceforth and without delay enact an amendment to Bunreacht Na hEireann that no Irish politician can become Taoiseach UNLESS they have hosted a television cookery programme.
After the Lisbon farce, this amendment would surely garner massive public support, especially if the Taoisech also agreed to appear on The Afternoon Show, offering some culinary tips.
Cullen's Cooking!?
Kenny's Kebab's!?
Gormley's Green Gourmet!?
At Terra Madre, the President revealed that she did a Ballymaloe Cookery Course.
The way is clear. Let the nation unite around a Taoiseach who can wield a mean wok.

08 September 2008

Terra Madre Waterford

Ok, so it was a bad weekend for Waterford GAA fans.
But, here is the good news: Waterford's hosting of Terra Madre was triumphant. Crowds were massive: 750 folks were fed on Friday night by Michael Quinn and his crew, and 200 more had to be turned away. Those sorts of numbers are unprecedented in Irish SF gatherings, so hats off to Donal Lehane and his crew who brought matters to a close with a massive farmers market on Sunday. Waterford Bridgestone parishoner Eamon Barrett said of the market: “The Market yesterday was just out of this world - I had to blink to believe I was in Waterford, so many stalls, so many customers, such a wonderful, truly Slow Food vibe. We went in at 9am to transfer stock to the Febvre van from my van and didn't come home until 5pm. Enjoyed every minute of it”.
We played a modest part in the forum on hotel food, and our crew came up with two suggestions for the Minister:

Accommodation ratings awarded by Failte Ireland should include a FORK symbol awarded to registered operators who demonstrate the proven support of local foodstuffs, growers and farmers.

Government funding in part should be channelled via organisations such as CAIS, Eurotoques and other primary producers to facilitate and remunerate their members to educate culinary students and other food related groups and organisations.

The second proposal came about because we have an extraordinary reservoir of talent in our artisans, but we have got to get it into places like WIT, and get those artisans paid at consultant's rates for their work, as they inspire students to be as brave and creative as they have been.

Finally, two vignettes: two food ministers, Michelle Gildernew and Trevor Sargent, on the same stage on the same afternoon pledging their promise that GM seeds will never be released in Ireland

Secondly, the extraordinary Carlo Petrini, in his opening speech, exulting in the fact that Michelle Gildernew had arrived and presented Darina Allen with a bouquet of flowers. “The is the first time I have ever seen this: the politician giving flowers to the cook!”

Septemberfest 2008

Now, here is something interesting and new.
Bord Bia and the OPW are holding Septemberfest, a festival celebrating independent brewers, distillers and liqueur makers. It's at Farmleigh in the Phoenix park on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th, it kicks off at 11am each day until 6.30pm, and admission is free. Free! As well as all the booze and the hootch, there will also be hordes of artisan food producers, and a big farmers market on the Sunday. There will be street performers, and even lectures on Irish food.
Boozing in a big tent in the Phoenix Park! There is a God after all!
More dope on Septemberfest at: or
Don't miss the O'Hara's celebration stout, is what we say.

03 September 2008

Terra Madre, Waterford, September 2008

Terra Madre – Mother Earth – comes to Ireland this Thursday, when four days of eventing, celebrating, eating and debating on the subject of food takes place in and around Waterford city.
The term “Mother Earth” seems a quite hippyish and holistic way to talk about food today, in an age dominated by FAO, WTO, GM and CAP, a global food world where men in suits meet interminably in large conference rooms, and where what is on the menu for lunch never seems to be a priority.
Hippyish and anachronistic it may be, but Mother Earth seems to me the perfect name for a festival held just at that time when we should be doing the most important food celebrating of the year: The Harvest Festival.
Traditionally, the harvest festival praised the rain and the sun that made the crops grow, the photosynthesis that miraculously gave us food to put on the table through the winter.
It celebrated Mother Earth as a figure who is benign, comforting, a provider, the one who feeds us, the nurturer. Before Gaia, Mother Earth gave us the harvest to bring in, and to store and to enjoy, and gave us a figure to venerate. We thanked that figure in celebration.
Cycling through a muddy and rain-soaked Burgundy in northern France many years ago, my wife and I happened upon the harvest celebrations in Gevrey-Chambertin, a small village famed for its mercurial red wines, and their equally mercurial prices.
But what struck us about the fete was that it was nothing more than a local celebration, the villagers giving thanks that the harvest of grapes had been brought in for another year.
Yes, in a few days time the wine merchants from all over the world would arrive, and the nitty-gritty of prices and profits would begin. But what we saw was something much simpler, and more profound: a gasp of thanks that the rains had held off long enough for the grapes to ripen and be harvested. The celebration was also a collective sigh of relief: the wine was in the barrel, and therefore the money was in the bank for another year.
Robbie Robertson expressed the bitter-sweet tension perfectly in The Band’s great song, “King Harvest”:

“Dry summer, then comes fall,
Which I depend on most of all
Hey, rainmaker can’t you hear my call?
Please let these crops grow tall.

Corn in the fields
Listen to the rice when the wind blows ‘cross the water
King harvest has surely come”

But today, we hear less and less about King Harvest than we did in the past. Who needs rain and sunshine when a fix of GM seed and a blast of 10-10-20 will grow your crop? 20th century science has led us to believe that we are in control, to think that we have the necessary solutions, of which genetic modification is simply the latest in a long line of promises that feeding the world is a matter of business, rather than a question of diversity, agricultural culture, and sustainability.
Terre Madre intends to address the question of “The future of sustainable food production in Ireland”, and the centrepiece of this will be a bumper’s farmer’s market on Sunday 7th.
This is not just a fine metaphor for Terre Madre, it is the quintessential example of food sustainability, and human and agricultural health, at work. Markets are a meshwork of people and producers, but one where everyone is equal, and where a sense of the community and communality – and indeed the fragility – of food is paramount.
The food arrives at market after its harvesting, ripe and ready to be enjoyed, and then the farmer puts the fields to bed for the winter, letting them rest and recharge.
Compare this process, with its rhythms and reasons and rhetoric, with the junkie-agriculture that 20th century science argues can feed the world, a greedy science that the Prince of Wales has recently argued would be “guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time.”
“If they think it’s going to work because they are going to have one form of clever genetic engineering after another, then again count me out”, said the prince.
Tellingly, he concluded with a message that we might Call Terra Madre – Mother Earth, a message that encapsulates what the meetings and eatings in Waterford will be all about:
“It is actually recognizing that we are with nature, not against it. We have gone working against nature for too long”.
See you in Waterford.

02 September 2008

Bridgestone Awards at Electric Picnic

Caroline Byrne of the Bridgestone Dublin parish had the enviable task at last weekend's Electric Picnic, in Stradbally, of deciding which of the many funky food stallholders were worthy to receive the first Bridgestone Guide Picnic Awards.
Indeed, food became a major element of the EP this year, as some of Ireland's best known chefs also did demos at the cookery stage, amongst them luminaries such as Derry Clarke and Rachel Allen.
Meantime, Caroline was hunting down the winners of the four Bridgestone awards:

The Best Dressed Food Award for presentation and style
The Greenest Gourmet Award for eco-friendliness
The Healthy Buzz Award for seriously healthy food
The On Our Doorstep Award for best use of local and regional ingredients

Best Dressed went to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, based in the Body & Soul compound, who provided festival goers with a picturesque Alice in Wonderland setting to enjoy tea and scones and toasted Gubbeen cheese sandwiches.

The Tiny Tea Tent on the Village Green was ‘Greenest Gourmet’, generating its own electricity through wind and solar power and using its tent to create awareness about deforestation of the tropical rainforest.

Dishing up the best healthy food this year was Goodness Gracious, with its healthy salads and exceptionally good veggie burgers.

And finally, the Gourmet Offensive took the ‘On Our Doorstep’ award for its tasty and “very good value” cuisine from around the world made from locally sourced produce.

Mad Hatters, Gourmet Offensive, Tiny Tea, and Goodness Gracious. Yep, must be the eclectic Electric Picnic all right.

01 September 2008

Cheekpoint Village Fun

A wee note from our Waterford editor, Eamon Barrett, shows how to conclude the school holidays with a bang!:

We had a little village festival in Cheekpoint yesterday, the highlight of which was a crab fishing event for children - Julie made up fishing lines using those little nets from the washing machine, some sticks and some line, put out of date rashers in the bags and we give the kids 30 minutes of fishing time off the wall in Cheekpoint. Would you believe we had 92 entrants from a village of only 300 population. The winner caught 49 crabs in the 30 minutes. Great buzz.

49 crabs in half an hour! Awesome! Next year, can we suggest that after the crabs are caught, the youngsters have to prepare that great seafood delicacy: dressed crab.

And then back to school this morning...