Food file

Sat, Feb 26, 2011, 00:00

Compiled by MARIE-CLAIRE DIGBY

A spoonful of honey

If you’ve been unable to shake the winter coughs and sniffles, a spoonful of honey in a mug of real tea could sort you out, and you can get both from a German-Irish couple living in Cootehall, Co Roscommon. Doris Rabe and Rainer Girrmann’s Irish Tea Company imports and sells loose-leaf teas and more than 30 varieties of honey, online and at markets in Carrick-on-Shannon on Thursdays and Boyle on Saturdays. Their honey is a mix of locally produced and globally sourced honey.

“We hope to offer our own honey in the autumn,” Rabe says. Chestnut, orange blossom, clover and pine honey are well known, but sea buckthorn is a new one on me. It’s a superfruit, apparently, and the orange-coloured berries mixed with a mild honey are best used “on breakfast cereal, yoghurt, ice cream or on its own”, according to Rabe. It costs €7.90 for 500g and can be ordered online at theirishteacompany.ie.

Webwatch/marriedanirishfarmer.com

What makes a successful US film and TV producer leave a successful career, family, friends and big-city lifestyle to move to rural Ireland? Love, of course.

Imen McDonnell’s blog – I Married An Irish Farmer – charts the ups and downs of her journey from high-flying career woman to married mother of one, living in Co Limerick. “I had never even been on a real working farm in my life,” she says.

But five years on, she’s married to Richard, mother of five-year-old Geoffrey and making a career as a writer – she has a column in the Irish Farmers’ Journal as well as a loyal blog readership. McDonnell’s love of cooking has eased her way into her new life and there are some lovely entries on how she’s bonding with her mother-in-law through the art of baking. It’s mostly traditional recipes, but the “city girl” brings flair and a Martha Stewart gloss to her interpretations of Irish classics.

Check out her November 15th entry on the “Autumn Farm Fete” that marked her son’s fifth birthday and prepare to feel just a little guilty about those Leisureplex or Ronald McDonald birthday parties you may have thrown.

When in Eataly

Forget Dean and Deluca (especially as it now stocks something called “Irish-style” smoked salmon), and take a look at New York’s newest gourmet extravaganza, Eataly. There are now nine of these Italian food markets-cum-restaurants – five in Italy, three in Japan and the latest at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, where founding partners are restaurateur and TV chef Mario Batali, his business partner Joe Bastianich and Bastianich’s mother Lidia, also a TV chef, writer and restaurateur. The cavernous NYC shop houses five restaurants and a cookery school, plus sections selling salami and ham, cheeses (mozzarella is made in store every day), fish, meat, vegetables, bread and pastries, ice cream, chocolate, dried goods, sauces, oils and cookware.

In the veg section there’s a staff member on hand to peel, chop and prepare purchases, and there’s an Italian wine shop next door.

The heart of the shop is the Piazza, where you can bag a stool at a counter or gather around marble tabletops to stand and share a plate of antipasti and a glass of Prosecco as shoppers manoeuvre past with their trolleys. It’s great fun and a must-see. You never know who you might meet – I bumped into Irish cookbook author and blogger Donal Skehan as I waited for the veggie butcher to double de-pod my Californian broad beans, free of charge.