I was thrilled to hear the first Foodtalk on Christmas Day at 1.30pm, just as we were basting the turkey, making gravy and chopping vegetables for dinner.That programme – very topically – was on Livestock, focusing on Irish pork. Jacque Barry (Jacques Restaurant) talked about her love of good quality ingredients and food eaten with family while Fingal Ferguson of the Gubbeen Smokehouse explained how the cycle works on the Gubbeen farm in West Cork – the pasture is eaten by the cows who produce the milk for the cheese, the whey of which is fed to the pigs who are turned into the best pork, sausages, salami and chorizo by Fingal.
It started with a phone call in the early summer. The brothers behind Soundsdoable wanted to know if I was interested in working with them on a series of radio documentaries about food. I didn’t need to be asked twice. It was the start of an intense and fascinating time – journeys around Ireland in all kinds of inclement Irish summer weather to interview a variety of producers and chefs and the chance to record with chef (and fellow blogger) Kevin Thornton.
Our first weekend of the year under canvas couldn’t exactly be called an unqualified success. We did actually remember to pack the sleeping bags (and Anzac Biscuit morale) but, despite such forethought, it wasn’t exactly the weather for camping in the west of Ireland. The heavens opened early on Sunday morning, raining us off Achill Island and we had to retreat to an old-school bed & breakfast in Westport back on mainland Mayo. At least we managed to have a cold, but fine, Friday night breaking our journey at the ever-reliable Lough Ree campsite in Ballykerran, near Athlone before moving on to the beautiful-on-a-fine-evening Seal Caves Park in Dugort on the north side of Achill Island. We cooked dinner outdoors on our little gas burner – a typical simple one-pot camping meal of Clonakilty Black Pudding, roughly chopped mushrooms and baked beans – and drank red wine in the still-warm late evening sunshine, feeling like summer had finally arrived.