FoodFile: Midlands on the menu at Irish Food Writers’ Guild awards

Writers give the nod to pickled herring, nettle syrup, milk and stout

You’ve got pickled herring, Irish stout, organic milk, nettle syrup and sourdough – and you have to turn them into a four-course awards lunch for members of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild and invited guests . . . not an easy task for a chef.

This year it was the turn of Guillaume Lebrun, head chef at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, to create the menu, using products made by the winners, for the Guild's Food Awards prizegiving lunch, which took place in the Dublin restaurant earlier today.

Food awards were presented to Kirsti O'Kelly of Silver Darlings for her pickled herring; Sharon and Gordon Greene of Wild Irish Foragers & Preservers for their range of syrups, jellies, shrubs and sauces; and Ralph Haslam of Mossfield Organic Farm for his milk. The drink award winner was Cuilan Loughnane, for his White Gypsy Russian Imperial Stout.

With these products, chef Lebrun devised a menu that began with a starter of Silver Darlings Irish herring, potato, green leek puree and toasted buckwheat. The main course was grilled Hereford sirloin, Brandy Bay oyster cream and White Gypsy Russian Imperial Stout. Mossfield Organic Farm milk and Wild Irish Foragers’ nettle syrup combined in a milk pudding with caramelised walnuts.

Real bread campaigner Joe Fitzmaurice of Riot Rye Bakehouse and Bread School received the Notable Contribution to Irish Food award, and his breads appeared in a second dessert of sourdough ice-cream with malted chocolate ganache and malt bread tuile.

The environmental award went to Rod and Julie Calder-Potts of Highbank Organic Orchards in Kilkenny. This was in recognition of their organic policy, effective and efficient output – they make spirits as well as juices and syrups from their crop – and byproduct management, which includes sending the acetone from the distillery to BrookLodge hotel and spa in Co Wicklow to be used as an organic nail varnish remover.

"What's really interesting about this year's winners is that they are representative of the new energy that is emerging from the midlands for food and drink. All six have been selected for the high standard and impeccable quality of their produce, together with their dedication and commitment to Irish food. As an organisation that is devoted to being a voice for better eating, we have been shining a spotlight on the best of the best for over 20 years, and this year it's the turn of the midlands to shine, " said IFWG chairwoman Aoife Carrigy.

“As a nation, our focus should be on the abundance of incredible produce available throughout Ireland that is being made accessible to consumers by passionate producers who take a sustainable approach to food and food innovation, whether by re-embracing traditional approaches to age-old food sources such as milk, apples or wild berries, or by applying a modern perspective to traditional foods such as Irish fish, stout or bread,” Carrigy said.

This was the 22nd year of the IFWG awards, for which nominations are made by members, before being put to a tasting panel and voted on. For more information on the award winners, see