A very posh seasonal picnic box and a bean-to-bar cacao business

Food File: Maldon sea salt, Butler’s Pantry cakes delivered and Stillgarden Distillery Academy

A very posh picnic box

Aoife Barker, a Dublin based chef and mother of a young family, has launched a seasonal picnic box that will be available for the month of August, with a weekly changing menu. It's no ordinary sandwiches and cakes offering though, as you'd expect from the former L'Gueuleton head chef who has a popular Instagram account, @chefaoifebarker, packed with recipes and videos.

The launch menu is a three-course affair that starts with citrus and gin cured organic salmon, pickled cucumber, chilli and black sesame salad, with mini Guinness and treacle loaf, Glenilen butter, and smoked aubergine dip, pomegranate, mixed seeds, flatbreads.

The middle course is miso and peanut poached shredded chicken with Sichuan salad, and slow cooked spiced lamb wrap, pickled slaw, with a side of watermelon, feta crumbs, mint and pea shoots. Dessert is Wexford strawberries, dark chocolate and rum ganache, clotted cream, chilli cashew crunch.

The picnic boxes are for two people, but can be ordered for additional numbers. They cost €40 collected in Dublin 3, or €46.50 delivered in Dublin. To order, contact Barker on 086-8913643, or email aoifebarker@gmail.com.

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Nibble on Nibbed

Lisa Kleiner and her niece Anna O'Sullivan launched Nibbed, bean-to-bar cacao business in April of this year and their range of products is now available in 30 retailers as well as from their online store, nibbedcacao.com. Their organic single bean cacao teas, nibs, blocks and chocolate bark and melting spoons are made in Wicklow with organic single bean cacao from the Dominican Republic.

Kleiner is a chef with a degree in Nutrition and an MSc in Exercise Nutrition, while O’Sullivan’s area of expertise is design and wellness marketing. “When people try our cacao they are amazed at how different it tastes to commercial chocolate,” Kleiner says.

O’Sullivan is keen to promote the versatility and health benefits of cacao. “I’m on a mission to educate more people about the benefits of real cacao and minimally processed chocolate. Naturally rich in theobromine, cacao brings blood to the brain, and it is a natural stimulant that perks up the whole system without the jittery effects of caffeine.”

All of the ingredients the women use are organic, and the packaging is compostable or recyclable. They activate the nuts and seeds they use themselves and make their own organic orange powder. The Nibbed range range includes a 300g 100 per cent cacao block (€9.97), cacao teas (€6.50), dark chocolate barks (€6.95), cacao nibbles with orange and activated pumpkin seeds (€7.95) and dark chocolate melting spoons (€2.95).

Distilling

Stillgarden Distillery in Inchicore, Dublin 8 reopens its Distilling Academy this weekend, for those who are fully vaccinated. You can learn how distilling works, and have a go at making your own gin or vodka recipe, choosing ingredients from the academy’s 120 botanicals. While their personal spirit is distilling, guests can take a tour of the premises and take part in a cocktail masterclass.

Each Distilling Academy ticket includes drinks and tastings, garden and botanical explorations, a gourmet food box from a local supplier, and a bottle of gin or vodka. The experience runs for 2.5 hours, Friday to Sunday, and tickets cost €100. You can also book a one-hour cocktail masterclass for €30, or pop in for the outdoor Garden Sessions (€10), Wednesday to Sunday, which include a cocktail on the terrace and a tour of the community garden, and a chance to try their boozy ice cream made with Berrissimo, their new Irish blackberry aperitif. See stillgardendistillery.com.

Pantry cakes

You can now order a selection of cakes baked by The Butler's Pantry for delivery nationwide. This eight-inch chocolate Genoise sponge filled with chocolate buttercream icing and iced with a rich dark chocolate ganache, costs €14.50, plus €10 delivery. A treat box of 12 slices, traybakes and cookies costs €33, plus delivery. See thebutlerspantry.ie.

Maldon salt

Maldon sea salt, which has been made by four generations of the Osborne family in Essex, has been given a rebrand. The new packaging, with green for the original salt range, brown for the smoked sea salt and grey for the pepper, will be arriving in supermarkets and food shops this month. A QR code has been added to the packaging which links to an attractive selection of new recipes at maldonsalt.com.