Food file



Picnic goes gourmet

Theatre of Food is a new addition to the Electric Picnic line-up next weekend, and in this dedicated food area, next to Mindfield, there will be cookery demonstrations, debates and panel discussions, wine tastings and, most intriguing of all, speed dinner dating. There will be comedians working as waiters, rocks stars taking part in a “booking the cooks” challenge live on stage, and a pop-up Comfort Spice cafe run by Niamh Shields to promote her cookery book, which is published next month. One lucky pair will win a candle-lit dinner cooked by Derry Clarke of L’Ecrivain on Saturday night, followed by breakfast the next morning. Sausage maker and pork butcher Ed Hick (pictured right) promises to deliver “the ultimate hangover cure”, and might be persuaded to share the secrets of the Bacon Jam, which has been such a runaway hit for him this summer. Theatre of Food events run all day next Saturday and Sunday.

Where's the beef

Irish beef farmers have been breeding and raising Piemontese cattle, a variety known for their nutritional excellence, flavour and tenderness, and shipping them on the hoof to northern Italy where they are know as “the queen of beef”. Finally, Irish consumers are getting a chance to buy this unique beef that, according research undertaken by the US Department of Agriculture, is lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than regular beef, chicken or salmon.

John Commins and Michael Fennelly (above) imported Piemontese breeding stock for their farms in Two-Mile Borris, Co Tipperary and Stradbally, Co Laois in 2005. Having supplied the export market, they are now offering meat from their 150-strong breeding herd to Irish buyers. They hope to produce 300-400kg of beef a week, and will be calving year-round, to ensure a consistent supply of fresh meat.

In the four weeks that Commins and Fennelly have been selling their beef in Ireland, they’ve been delighted with the feedback from customers. “We’ve had a great reaction from the health aspect, but the bottom line is, it’s nice to eat,” Commins says. They’re keen to point out that the low fat content in the beef means that it needs careful cooking. “Nearly all cuts need a much shorter cooking time,” Commins says.

Individual cuts and mixed boxes, including a €100 family basket that includes a round or rib roast for four people, 1kg of steak mince, 10 large burgers, 10 kid’s burgers, two striploin steaks, four minute steaks, 1kg of steak strips, 1kg of stir-fry beef, and just over half a kilo of housekeepers’ cut, can be ordered from Michael’s wife Mary on 087-9135349. They will be delivered free, subject to a minimum spend, in their refrigerated van.

The farmers plan to set up an online ordering system, and you can read about availability and prices on the website The beef is also on sale at Newbarn Farm Shop on the old N2 Dublin road just outside Ashbourne on Saturdays (9.30am to 6pm) and at Vicarstown market in Co Laois on Sundays (10am-2pm). And you can try Piemontese beef burgers and steak sandwiches in the Tipperary Food Producers’ tent at Electric Picnic next weekend.