If we all spend €4 more a week on Irish products we can create 6,000 more jobs. But who defines what an Irish product is?
While you can spend a lot of time checking labels and wondering exactly what they mean, the easiest way to make absolutely sure that you’re buying Irish is to source products from small producers. You’ll find rich pickings at this weekend’s Food & Wine Magazine Christmas Show (Main Hall RDS, 30 Nov-2 Dec) and the National Crafts & Design Fair (Main Hall RDS, 5-9 Dec) and don’t forget your own local farmer’s market, deli and food shop.
I wrote an article for last week’s Irish Times Christmas gift supplement about Irish food-related presents. Due to space constraints, a few pieces got lost along the way. The entire text that I submitted is below or, if you have a subscription, you can read the published version here.
Every euro counts. Every euro spent on products from small Irish producers counts even more. This Christmas, think before you put your hand in your pocket and spend your cash on something very unique, special – and Irish – for the food-lover in your life.
Freshwater caviar? From Ireland? Kilkenny, actually, to be precise. Since Goatsbridge Trout Farm launched Ireland’s first trout caviar earlier this year, these fish eggs have been spotted on restaurant menus from Galway’s Michelin-starred Aniar to Fenn’s Quay in Cork. The vibrant little orange balls are as good to taste as they are to look at, with a sweet, slightly saline pop. It’s just become available in shops, a taste of pure Irish luxury at €17.50 for an 85gm tin. Make a little go a long way by topping some mini potato cakes with a little crème fraîche and a sunshine-coloured sprinkle of caviar. Optional extras: a shot of frozen vodka and some Christmas snow. www.goatsbridgetrout.ie
The ever-changing Atlantic outside the Ardmore window of Mary Lincoln’s seaside studio must have been an inspiration when she was formulating the copper glaze for these distinctive oven dishes. Her elegant pots are made of hand-thrown earthenware and are just the thing for oven-to-table family favourites like potato gratin, fish pie or apple crumble. From €45. www.iamofireland.ie
A good knife is for life, not just for Christmas. These hand-crafted pieces – each takes 15 hours to make – are simple but very beautiful kitchen implements that will be used and appreciated every day. Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen Smokehouse has been working as a butcher and charcutier for the last fifteen years and knows the value of a well balanced blade. He learned his trade from professional cutler Rory Conner and focuses on kitchen knives with strong Japanese and European influences. You can check out his wares at fingalfergusonknives.com. Prices start from €80.
Dark nights demand some fortification and Longueville House Apple Brandy (€35) – think Calvados, Irish-style – is just the thing to warm you up from the inside. It’s made from the same Dabinet and Michelin apples grown by the O’Callaghans for their cider, then double distilled and matured in French oak barrels for four years. Rich, elegant and complex, a snifter of this by the fireside and you’ll be positively welcoming long winter evenings. www.longuevillehouse.ie
Everyone loves a cookbook at Christmas and you’ll be spoilt for choice with this year’s selection of Irish-published books. For great cookies, simple mid-week meals and a fresh take on old classics, Sophie Kooks by Sophie Morris is a perfect pick for any student you know, grab Neven Maguire’s The MacNean Restaurant Cookbook to drool over his food presentation and The ICA Cookbook is a great mix of nostalgia and new (all Gill & Macmillan). Ard Bia Cookbook by Aoibheann Mac Namara and Aoife Carrigy is a classy snapshot of a Galway institution while Michelle Horgan showcases the ingredients and stallholders of Cork’s legendary English Market in Recipes from the English Market (both Atrium). For something completely different, Michelle Darmody’s self-published The Cake Café Bake Book, with recipe illustrations from Pony Ltd, is already looking like a design classic and, for a snapshot of what we’re eating now, check out A Modern Irish Cookbook from Goodall’s and the Irish food blogging community.
You will never whip cream with this quirky little whisk but it’s sure to get noticed. Made from sterling silver by Tullamore jewelry designer Paul Coyle, it measures just 30mm and, he says, is very popular with chefs, cooks and anyone who loves to bake. It comes on a silver chain and would also make a distinctive charm for a bracelet. RRP €45. www.ninedesign.ie
Give someone a skill for Christmas by sending them to a hands-on bread class at the Firehouse Bakery and Bread School on Heir Island. You’ll definitely reap the benefits when they come home having spent a day learning how to make sourdough, flavoured soda bread, unusual scones and baking pizza in a wood-fired oven. Courses cost €110, including ferry, recipes and lunch and plenty of take home treats. www.thefirehouse.ie
More Christmas food gift ideas
2010 The Irish Times – Christmas supplement: Food glorious food
2009 The Irish Times Christmas Gift Supplement: Gift Grub
2009 The Irish Times Christmas Gift Supplement: Treats to Savour
2008 The Irish Times Christmas Supplement: Part One
2008 The Irish Times Christmas Supplement: Part Two
2008 The Irish Times Christmas Supplement: Part Three