Category: Culture File on RTÉ Lyric FM - Sandor Katz talks fermentation at Ballymaloe LifFest 2013 0

Listen: Culture File – Fermentation guru Sandor Katz

Cabbages empowering people? Stranger things have happened, especially in the bubbly, fizzy, pungent world of fermentation legend Sandor Katz. His demonstration at the recent Ballymaloe LitFest was one of the hottest tickets of the weekend, a wry and witty journey through the delights of what he calls Kraut-chi (a marriage of saurkraut and kimchi) and mead. Plunging his hands into a bowlful of shredded cabbage, he spoke of the “fermentation delaying device” that everyone has in their kitchen (aka a fridge) and, as HSE food inspectors nationwide felt an unexpected chill run down their spines, told us that he doesn’t believe in sterilising the jars and crocks for his fermented preserves. Impressively, he segued straight from that two hour demo into an engaging 90-minute talk and tasting with Ben Reade of Nordic Food Lab. We had samples of kombucha, a kombucha-fermented chunk of celery, stout and – my absolute favourite – an intense elderflower vinegar that had been fermented with elderberries. He still wouldn’t eat the mould from a jar of jam though… [display_podcast] More LitFest: It’s coming back! It’s been confirmed that the 2014 Ballymaloe LitFest will be taking place from 16 to 18 May 2014. See you there?

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Lyric fm: Claudia Roden at Ballymaloe Litfest

Imagine walking into a room and seeing your cookbook collection walking around. Look! Over there, that delicately beautiful Indian woman just has to be Madhur Jaffrey. Is that Stephanie Alexander standing at the back of the room? That’s Thomasina Miers talking to Stevie Parle, and they’ve just been joined by Rachel Allen. And this elegant lady just to my right? None other than the legendary Claudia Roden. My former teacher Rory O’Connell is launching his first cookbook, Darina Allen is on stage kicking the whole thing off and we’re set for a weekend of books, food and great conversation. The inaugural Ballymaloe Litfest of Food and Wine was all that. And more. I could write on and on about the presentations, workshops and demonstrations that I went to – the free events and tastings at the Big Shed fringe event could alone take up an entire blog post – but one of the major highlights for me was having the chance to sit down and interview my long-time hero Claudia Roden for RTE Lyric fm’s Culturefile. [soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”150″ iframe=”true” /] I was, in a word, entranced. The piece I wrote about her, alongside pictures of her demonstration by...

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Lyric fm: The art and the business of bees

We eat a lot of honey at the cottage. The Husband is a particular fan of it on toast for breakfast and Little Missy always loves to get her fingers sticky with a corner of what he’s eating. We know better than most where that honey comes from. On a good, warm day we’re normally lucky enough to have lots of bees humming around the garden: plenty of blossom on the apple, pear, cherry and quince trees, along with the hawthorn that fringes the property and comfrey gone wild in the ditch see to that. Whether it’s true or not, it always amuses me to think (and to tell LM) that they are bees belonging to our local beekeeper David Lee, who lives just up the road. We can get jars of his honey from the shop in the village – watch out for the green Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations four-leafed clover seal to make sure you’re getting real Irish honey – and wonder, as we munch on thickly spread toast, if that particular flavour came from our garden. I got all bedecked out in a bee suit recently to take a look at some of David’s hives for...

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Lyric fm: Cloud Festival

When I travelled to the first Irish Cloud Festival which took place in Skibbereen at the end of June, I was wearing two hats. The car was loaded up with cases of Sunburnt Irish Red from Eight Degrees Brewing for delivery to the West Cork Hotel, where we had held a beer and food matching event earlier that month. There were also a few cases of the beer for Liss Ard, which was where the morning’s cloud spotting events were held, followed by a deliciously simple buffet lunch. The second hat was my Lyric fm one: I was there to interview Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the author of The Cloudspotter’s Guide and founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society for Culture File. Despite the day being a little damp, it didn’t deter anyone from making the trip to the majestic James Turrell Sky Crater in the heart of the Liss Ard gardens – or stop them from lying on the stone plinth at its heart to contemplate the sky.

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Lyric fm: Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh at Mitchelstown Cave

If you haven’t been able to get your hands on tickets for the sell-out Cork Opera House Cave concerts in Mitchelstown Cave, you can get a feel for the event from this piece I did for Lyric fm’s Culture File. Both concerts may be sold out but you can catch Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh touring in August 2011 with The Gloaming, which includes Martin Hayes and Iarla Ó Lionáird. More information at and The Mitchelstown Cave – – is open all year round.

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Lyric fm: Paddle your own canoe

Last month, during the Lismore Festival Of Travel Writing, I interviewed author Jasper Winn on the Blackwater. Jasper is the author of Paddle: A Long Way Around Ireland, in which he writes about his experiences of circumnavigating the  Irish coastline by sea-kayak – during what just happened to be the worse summer in living memory. Jasper has a novel way of travelling to the destination of what he calls his Paddle Talks; he, and any of the audience that are interested, kayak to the location. And this was precisely what happened in Lismore – and will be happening in Kinsale tomorrow. You can take a look at some of Jasper’s favourite coastal pubs on the Guardian website: Ireland: the 10 best pubs on the coast. To get a flavour of the Paddle Talk, take a listen to my report for Lyric fm’s Culture File below.

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Lyric fm: Foraging

When the first faint scent of wild garlic wafts through the spring air, many people’s thoughts turn to foraging. And this year there is more of an interest in wild food than ever before, as Copenhagen’s Noma – the menu of which has foraged food at the heart of its menu – has been named as the best restaurant in the world. More than one Irish restaurant has been putting out the call for their own personal foragers. But just how easy is it to find the right things to eat? Ecologist and forager Tom O’Byrne took me on a walk through a nature reserve north of Cork city, revealing many hidden treasures for Lyric fm’s Culture File. Note – Tom’s tip for picking nettles is not for those of us with “soft” hands! Lyric fm Culture File podcast: Foraging Check out the GIY Ireland website for more information on foraging in your neighbourhood. They’re currently organising a forage in the Dublin’s Phoenix Park as part of the 2011 Bloom Garden Festival. More information here.

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