A Taste of Ireland
Ireland's Food Revolution
Their focus was always on organic, natural food. “We had duck eggs, brown soda bread and jam in the window that first day,” remembers Peter. “They could be our family crest because they are still the basis of what we do today.”
In the 30 years since then, he and Mary have added more and more produce to their shelves. They also make and serve the best of Irish food in their café.
“For us, it’s all about where the food comes from,” says Peter. “Who makes it and how do they make it. These are the important questions.”
In fact, Peter thinks these questions might just give us the answer to Ireland’s current economic problems. “Nobody is going to drop out of the skies into the rural parishes of Ireland,” he says. “We need to look to our own and what we are good at, which is tourism and food. Combine the two and work from there.”
He believes every tourist coming to Ireland should look forward to tasting Irish lamb, beef, butter, bread and milk. “And we should deliver on that promise,” he continues. “It’s treasonable to give our valuable guests cheap, foreign, mass-produced food.”
Visitors to Country Choice in Nenagh and to the shop/café now open in Limerick’s Milk Market will certainly find that Peter and Mary deliver on the promises they make to their customers.
“Country Choice is a home away from home for us and all our customers,” says Peter. It’s a home where you’ll always be invited to sit at the table and savor the best of Irish food. www.countrychoice.ie
Did you know that Ireland has been renowned for its dairy produce for centuries? The city of Cork was once home to the largest butter market in the world and Irish butter was shipped from there to destinations as far away as India, Australia and Brazil.
One family is doing its utmost to restore Ireland’s reputation for fine dairy produce. Glenilen Farm is to be found at the end of a winding country lane in West Cork. Here, the Kingston family have a herd of cows whose milk they use to make the creamiest of yoghurts, butters, creams and cheesecakes.
“We aim to make the freshest and most natural dairy produce,” says Valerie Kingston. “All of our butter, cream, yoghurts and other products are full of natural goodness and don’t have any additives or preservatives. This gives them a pure, authentic farmhouse taste.”
Glenilen Farm has been in Alan Kingston’s family for generations but it wasn’t until Alan married Valerie (also a farmer’s daughter from West Cork) that they started to make dairy produce.
Valerie had studied food technology at university and set up a cheese-making enterprise in Burkina Faso after she left university. Finding herself newly married, she decided to use the skills she had learned at university and refined in Africa to make cheese from the milk produced by the farm’s cows.
It wasn’t long before she was making cheesecakes and yoghurts in her kitchen. Pleased with the results, her next step was to set up a stall at Bantry’s Farmers’ Market. She soon had regular customers who loved her produce as much as she did.
That was 1997, and what started as a kitchen enterprise has now become a business employing more than 20 people. Glenilen products are now stocked throughout Ireland and in Tesco in the UK.
These changes have meant that Alan and Valerie have had to increase production and automate some of their processes. Despite this, their principles remain the same as ever.
“Our products are made using the best ingredients available, reflecting our steadfast belief in the goodness of wholesome, natural food,” says Alan.
You can taste the difference this makes to their produce. Their yoghurts are smooth and creamy. Their cheesecakes and mousses are bursting with fresh flavor. This is Irish dairy produce at its absolute best. www.glenilenfarm.com
Once upon a time, coastal dwellers combed the shorelines of Ireland for edible seaweeds. Carrageen, sea spaghetti and duileasc were all commonly found on the Irish table.
Today, this practice has virtually died away. “By the 1970s, we were among the very few who harvested from the shore,” recalls Prannie Rhatigan, author of The Irish Seaweed Kitchen, a book that aims to revive the tradition of seaweed harvesting. “I think folk memory still associated it with extreme poverty.”
Prannie grew up in Sligo where her father would take her seaweed harvesting. “He taught us all about the glistening crop on the shore,” she remembers. “The cycle would begin after the first frosts had sweetened the sleabhac and would continue throughout the year with other seaweeds.”
She continues to harvest seaweed to this day. “If the moon is new or full, I harvest some seaweed for my family and friends,” she says.
It was these same friends who urged her to write her book. “They love my seaweed recipes and encouraged me to write them down before the knowledge was lost,” says Prannie.
While researching her book, Prannie discovered just how old seaweed harvesting is in Ireland. The 5th century Brehon Laws mention duileasc as a condiment to be served with bread, whey milk and butter. Seaweed is referred to in a poem written by a monk in the 12th century, and a 1938 survey found that 32 species of seaweed were eaten in Connemara.
“I came to see that Ireland’s long association with edible seaweeds, and with duileasc in particular, has earned that plant the right to become a national symbol akin to the pint of Guinness, the Aran sweater, the potato and the harp,” says Prannie.
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