There was a rich, savoury smell in the autumn air as a band marched down the crowded streets of Kanturk, leading a white and crimson velvet-gowned troup. The members of the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding had travelled from France to pay tribute to the gold medal-winning black pudding of father and son butchers Jack and Tim McCarthy.
I’ve been a Domini Kemp fan since she and her sister, Peaches, opened the first Itsabagel in Dublin’s Epicurean Food Hall. I fell in love with the Mountaineer bagel at first bite and Itsabagel became a regular port of call as well as the unanimous office choice when I was picking up lunch for everyone. I loved her first 2002 cookbook, Real Food, Real Fast, especially the sweet side of things: the Sticky Toffee Pudding makes masses and is a well-tried-and-tested large crowd dessert, the gooey Pistachio and Chocolate Biscuits never linger long and White Chocolate Berries is a great bring-along-dessert for dinner at a friend’s house.
There was sunshine and crowds at the Mallow Food Festival on Easter Sunday morning, the street thronged with people wandering at the early event before heading home for Easter lunch. I abandoned the Husband and Little Missy at home for a quick zoom in and out as we were heading down to Gort na Nain Guesthouse that afternoon, with a side trip to Cork so the Husband could peruse the offerings at the Franciscan Well Easter Beer Fest.
Last summer, when we had the Mallow Farmers’ Market running outside Urru, we saw a lot of Patrick Frankel, a local organic vegetable grower. When he started coming to the market he had just started producing vegetables on his family farm near Doneraile and customers were delighted with the early fruit of his labours: spring onions, yellow and green courgettes, an assortment of tomatoes, new potatoes, peas and, my favourite, mangetout. I bumped into him a few times at the Killavullen Farmers’ Market, always making sure to stock up on the mangetout – great shredded and tossed raw into salads or briefly steamed and served as a side – but hadn’t seen him around for a while so I was delighted to see that the North Cork Organic Group had organised a farm visit.
When I get time to surf the net – not so often these days with freelancing and URRU keeping me busy – I love to go through my list of favourite food bloggers and magazines, reading their entries, picking up tips for things to try, places to visit and recipes to make. I have a list of recipes continually on the go, an odd assortment of things that I’ve picked up in my internet wanderings – Olive Oil Cookies from Mark Bittman in The New York Times, Lemon Potatoes from Organically Cooked, Salt-Kissed Buttermilk Cake from 101 Cookbooks, Chow‘s Salted Caramel Frosting, Baked Celeriac with Rosemary, Parmesan & Marsala from Taste – all of which are still on my “must try” list.
Published in Ireland’s Food & Wine magazine in June 2005.Most people think of New Zealand and imagine spectacular scenery, lots of wine, and, thanks to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, a landscape populated with hobbits. But, since arriving in New Zealand six months ago, I’ve discovered that an interest in food permeates the very air the people here breathe. There are numerous food magazines, lots of cookbooks by New Zealand writers, the meals you get in cafés, restaurants and people’s homes are, almost invariably, fantastic and every road trip is punctuated with stops at country stalls selling fruit and vegetables, hazelnuts, cheese and yoghurt. Go to the farmers’ markets and you’ll find an emphasis on organic and regional foods alongside a wide range of artisan food makers. Much is known about New Zealand wine – Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has a justifiably excellent international profile – but the world is only just starting to wake up to the innovative food industry humming away in this little country.