Last year’s Lit Fest was – officially – a blast. Three whirlwind days of ideas and education and inspiration from cookbook heroes. I learned how to ferment cabbage from Sandor Katz, make Claudia Roden’s...
Joe Fitzmaurice, from the family behind Blazing Salads in Dublin, runs the Cloughjordan Wood-fired Bakery in North Tipperary. The bread he makes there is a thing of beauty, meant to nourish and feed in...
Limerick is Val O’Connor’s hometown and she showcases its food to perfection on her Limerick Food Trails.
Early one Saturday morning in November I met herself and a collection of fellow food tourists at Cornstore at Home for a little pre-tour tasting – think Limerick vs Cork via two platters of breakfast meats, one from Caroline Rigney of Curraghcase Meats, the other from Kanturk butcher Sir Jack McCarthy.
Kamal Mouzawak was the first person I ever interviewed for Culture File. At the time – September 2010 – the inspirational Lebanese chef and food activist was visiting the Taste of West Cork food conference to discuss sustainability and food for the future.
He’s had first hand experience of this. In 2004 he had a vision of uniting his divided country through food. Souk el-Tayeb, the farmers’ market that he set up in Beirut has become a place where people – of all backgrounds and beliefs – can come together to share food, feed their fellow countrymen and relish the culinary traditions of Lebanon.
Saturday night was supposed to be quiet. It was a work weekend for me, the day spent talking at and attending Jim Carroll’s Banter in Kinsale, with a side trip to check out an Ummera smoked chicken sandwich at the book-lined Poet’s Corner. I came home to two post-bath, pj-clad little girls sitting up at the table to have their favourite “Daddy’s dinner” – baked beans (not homemade!) on toast.
Car packed with beer for Sunday tastings at Cloughtoberfest and our smallies in bed, it was time to curl up on the couch in front of the fire and get stuck into the Saturday papers.
That didn’t last long.
In 2007 I did the 12-week cookery course at Ballymaloe. I only had to come down the road for it; many of my classmates had travelled much further, coming from England, Spain, Sweden, Australia and America to study in this internationally known Irish cookery school. It was an intense, hard-working, food-filled transition time for me, a hiatus between full-time work in Dublin and freelancing from a country cottage.
It was also pure luxury, three months spent immersed in a kitchen. We cooked all morning, ate the results for lunch, watched demos in the afternoons and – hungry again – queued eagerly to devour what had been produced. Just as well there was some time spent hoovering the demo room, carrying buckets of scraps to the hens (two of the students’ chores) and walking to the pub (not such a chore!) to balance it all out.
It was all a bit Caroline-goes-down-to-the-sea this week for Culture File.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to scramble about on a beach in West Cork with Sally McKenna, author of Extreme Greens, a fascinating and accessible look at foraging for, cooking with and using seaweed in a matter-of-fact everyday manner.
It doesn’t have to be all about eating it with seafood either. You can use the umami of seaweed to highlight the flavour in a simple loaf of bread, a bowl of popcorn, homemade lemonade or some crackers.