Food awards show culinary heritage alive and well


IRISH PEOPLE are going back to basics by supporting small artisan suppliers of products such as duck eggs and country butter, Euro-Toques Ireland said yesterday as it presented its annual food awards.

Euro-toques Ireland commissioner general Feargal O’Donnell said many foods traditional to Irish culinary heritage had been forgotten in a changing world where convenience was most important.

“The mindset of Irish consumers has altered and we are now increasingly seeking locally sourced, seasonal produce in restaurants and in retail, recognising that we need to get back to basics.”

He said many traditional foods were very economical “so it’s actually more beneficial in this environment to be going back to old-fashioned methods of production and being more self-sufficient”.

Lissadell House and David Langford in Sligo won an award for preserving and reviving many traditional varieties of potatoes. Mr Langford donated his collection of heritage potatoes to the stately house in 2008 because he wanted to give the public access to the collection and Lissadell had a long history of potato-growing. Some 180 potato varieties are growing in Lissadell with some dating back to 1768.

The farm shop sells certain varieties of potatoes, and head gardener Dermot Carey had the pleasure of providing potatoes and other garden produce for a dinner held for singer Leonard Cohen when he performed at the Sligo house during the summer.

“He did say he liked the salads. That’s what we heard back anyway, ” Mr Carey said.

Across the border in Co Mayo, the Cuinneog farmhouse country butter business was singled out for an award. Tom Butler said he set up the business with his family because they wanted to produce a country butter in line with Ireland’s long tradition of butter making. “It’s a totally different flavour and totally different process to other butter. It’s fermented over four days.”

It is now stocked in most local supermarkets and in some Asda stores in Britain.

Brian Phelan and Margaret Delaney won an award for their Glenfin free range duck eggs.

The couple, who live in Tydavnet, Co Monaghan, started the business with 20 ducks less than two years ago, after Mr Phelan had difficulty sourcing duck eggs locally.

After being featured on the RTÉ series Higher Ground, business took off and they now have 2,000 ducks. “It’s been quite busy. This time of the year gets busier because people start baking,” said Ms Delaney.

“Duck eggs are brilliant for baking – sponge cakes rise a bit higher and you get better flavour.” They also suit people who have an allergy to hens’ eggs.

An award also went to Brenda O’Riordan, who runs her Love Fish business in Ballycotton, Co Cork. She is married to an in-shore fisherman and saw the potential in collecting locally caught fish from day boats and delivering it to restaurants.

One of the country’s oldest family butchers – O’Flynn Meats in Waterford – won an award for its quality beef production. Bobby Flynn is the fourth generation and runs it with his four sons. Their cattle are mainly grass-fed and hung on site for up to 14 days.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Ciaran Cuffe said all five winners were promoting distinctive local food traditions and food heritage, which would enhance Ireland’s food reputation. “I think there’s a huge renaissance of small-scale food producers in Ireland,” he said. “We need to shout more about how good Irish produce is.”

Food beaters: Euro-torques award winners

Lissadell House and David Langford, Co Sligo

Home to the largest collection of potato varieties in Ireland. Mr Langford donated his collection of heritage potatoes to the stately house in 2008.

Glenfin Free Range Duck Eggs, Co Monaghan

Brian Phelan and Margaret Delaney started the business with 20 ducks less than two years ago.

Cuinneog Butter, Co Mayo

Tom Butler’s traditionally made butter is stocked in most supermarkets and some British Asda stores.

Brenda O’Riordan, Co Cork

Married to a fisherman, she runs Love Fish in Ballycotton. She collects freshly caught fish from day boats and supplies it to local restaurants.

O’Flynn Meats, Co Waterford

Bobby Flynn is the fourth generation in the business which won an award for its quality beef production. Cattle are for the most part grass-fed and hung on site for up to two weeks.