Compiled by MARIE-CLAIRE DIGBY
Sweet chilli and chilli barbecue sauces have been added to the line-up at Mic’s Chilli, the Kilcoole-based company set up by former structural engineer Michael Wejchert in 2010. The range is beautifully packaged, with award-winning labels designed by Steve Simpson, but it’s what’s inside that really matters, and these are standout products. You can get them at gourmet food shops and delis (list of stockists at micschilli.ie). The rrp is €3.49 for these sauces, and €2.99 for the Inferno range of hot sauces that come in varying strength levels, from Inferno Junior to Inferno Extreme
Ballyhoura magic mushrooms
The beautiful Eryngii king oyster mushrooms are from a range of exotic varieties grown by food scientists Dr Lucy Deegan and Mark Cribbin, who have set up Ballyhoura Mushrooms near Michelstown, Co Cork. Having spent five years researching their start-up, they went into production last year and are now supplying restaurants, as well as selling their own fresh and dried crops – and wild mushrooms too – at farmers’ markets, including Mahon Point, Douglas and Midleton. They also produce a range of mushrooms in oil (pictured below), including Irish oysters blanched in Ballyhoura cider vinegar and marinated in extra virgin olive oil with herbs, garlic and chilli, and shiitakes blanched in rice vinegar and marinated in olive oil with ginger and chilli, as well as soups, pates, pestos and flavoured oil. They’re very excited about their latest product, a natural truffle oil made by marinating French black truffles in extra virgin olive oild for four months, and have planted a hazel copice inoculated with truffle spores in the hope of growing their own truffles. Deegan and Cribbin are now producing 200kg of mushrooms a week, grown on oak and birch wood chips, and are developing an online shop at ballyhouramushrooms.ie. As well as their fresh and processed mushroom products, they also sell mushroom growing kits, if you’d like to have a go at growing your own.
Chefs pick their winners
Gerry Galvin, retired chef, writer and founder member of Euro-toques Ireland, was presented with an award for outstanding contribution to Irish food at the organisation’s EirGrid Food Awards in Dublin on Monday. Galvin’s daughter Cristina recently won the €10,000 Powers Short Story competition in this magazine. Prannie Rhattigan was also commended for her promotion of culinary use of Irish seaweed. The winning food producers were beef, pork, turkey and chicken farmer Ronan Byrne (nominated by JP McMahon of Cava and John Coffey of Thyme) sweetcorn grower David Burns (Ross Lewis, Chapter One and Gary O’Hanlon, Viewmount House); Triskel cheese maker Anna Leveque (Michael Quinn, WaterfordCastle), and sea vegetable harvester Manus McGonagle (Kelan McMichael, Rathmullan House).
Olive oil price drops
The wholesale price of extra virgin olive oil is at a 10-year low due to bumper crops in the main producing countries of Spain, Italy and Greece. According to the International Monetary Fund, the wholesale price fell this month to $2,900 a tonne, from a high of $6,000 in 2005.
It’s not good news for consumers, however, as the price drop does not appear to have been passed on, and worse, is forcing farmers out of business.
Lino Olivieri, who lives in Ireland but returns to his parents’ olive farm in Puglia every year for the harvest, says that the price this year was so low that many of his neighbours did not harvest their olives as the cost would have been higher than the return. The price in Puglia dropped from €450-€470 per 100kg of oil in September 2011, to €250-€260 in January. Olivieri sells his oil at food shops and markets. See olivierioliveoil.com