Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eat me, I’m Irish!

A lot of us Irish have left the island in recent years, for Oz, the US of A, the UAE, of course the trusty ol’ UK, and other far off lands greener and sunnier than our own bankrupt, drizzled-upon country. Migration is an Irish specialty. We love to travel, and we always seem to fit happily in wherever we land, benefiting from a certain affection – a benign condescension, if you will – which allows us to get away with the most audacious invasions when others would be resented by the natives. Even when our residence in their country is not always on an (ahem) official footing.

 I have witnessed the phenomenon myself, as an Irish girl now living in London (I like to think of myself as being on an anthropological excursion as opposed to being an economic migrant). But who could blame them? Aren’t we endearing with our rowdy cheer and our Guinness, and our longing for ‘real butter’ and Tayto crisps? We’re friendly and familiar – amusing when exchanged with British politeness and reserve – and we have our own peculiar wisdom which in the wrong hands could cross the line into asininity. In short, ‘Irishness’ involves a combination of things that makes people fond. Ireland itself is an evocative place that fills others with romantic thoughts and a desire to go there. ‘Irishness’ evokes some of the good things in life, and so everybody wants to be a little bit Irish – or at least able to finish a pint of Guinness.

Besides our most famous exports – namely ourselves and the black stuff – other Irish produce is making its way to foreign food stores and restaurant kitchens. Only recently I had Irish Sika deer in a top London restaurant, and saw Irish cheeses on sale in the deli counters of exclusive retailers. In Ireland we ourselves are only now learning that our food is a thing we do very well, and this will be our greatest ambassador yet.

So, proud I was to walk into Selfridges last month – a top fancy retailer in London, for those who don’t know – and see the food hall bedecked in green, adorned everywhere with the produce of Irish artisans in celebration of ‘Delicious Ireland.’ DI was the title of a promotion that ran for the month of April, promoting a great array of Irish food and beverages from dairy products to whiskey. Personally, I think we should change the name of our country to Delicious Ireland.

Below I’ve given an abridged list of the Irish foods on display at Selfridges last month – but to really show them all off properly the good people of Bord Bia enlisted the help of some celebrity chefs to fashion them into dishes in sprint-like cookery demonstrations – and you’ll find some of the recipes HERE

The artisan line-up included:

 Ballymore Farm’s beautiful handmade organic unpasteurised butter – which can be found at good food shops throughout Dublin
and Wicklow

Irish farmed organic Irish-smoked salmon from the inimitable Burren Smokehouse. Their exceptional products are exported as far a field as North America, but you’ll find them stocked all over Ireland – and a visit to the smokehouse if you’re in the Burren is the best way to buy them  

Chia Bia’s innovative range of breads, bars and seed mixes – brimming with all the health-giving properties of chia seeds  

DP Connolly and Son’s natural juices, lemonades and cordials, made from Irish orchard fruit with no preservatives

A fantastic range of bespoke spice blends from Green Saffron, the award-winning Cork based business that specialises in whole fresh spices. You’ll find their unique spice products at Mahon Point and Midleton farmers markets in Cork, the Limerick Milk Market, and various specialist retailers around Ireland

The innovative ‘Orchard Syrup’ from Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny – Ireland’s answer to maple syrup!

Ireland’s ‘it’ pudding, Jack McCarthy’s black pudding – so good the French gave the butcher a knighthood for it and we served it to the Queen on her visit! Find it, well, everywhere these days    

Mella’s delicious buttery fudge, handmade in West Cork using local butter  

Sheridan’s range of crackers, chutney for cheese and onion marmalade – designed to perfection to accompany their massive stock of Irish and imported cheeses and charcuterie. A visit to Galway, Dublin, Waterford or Carnaross, County Meath is not complete without a visit to Sheridan’s

Can you imagine ‘Holycross Chocolate Biscuit Cake?’ The Tipperary Kitchen in Holycross Village, Co Tipp can show you this Belgian chocolate and local creamery butter wonder

Delectable chocolate truffles from the Truffle Fairy – such as Tequila Salt and Lemon truffles – find them in Waterford and Kilkenny Farmers Markets, and the People’s Park Dun Laoghaire market in Dublin, as well as some shops around Kilkenny

One of Ireland’s favourite cheeses, Ardrahan, lovingly made in Kanturk, Co Cork since 1983. You’ll find this on any cheese board worth its salt, and most cheese counters throughout Ireland
To satisfy the cheese fanatic, click here to see the other stunningly good Irish cheeses at Selfridges

Lastly but by no means leastly, from Northern Ireland:  
Clandeboye Estate artisan yoghurts (made in Bangor using milk from the estate’s own award winning Holstein and Jersey herds);  
Five Mile Town Creamery soft and hard cheeses (including smoked and plain cheddar, brie and flavoured goats cheeses);
and the very innovative Good 4U’s range of sprouted and roasted seeds, functional drinks and healthy snacks (produced by a family-owned health food company in County Tyrone).


All of these products and many more are available at Selfridges’ food hall. If you don’t make it to Ireland to experience its deliciousness for yourself, do look out for whatever morsels you can find elsewhere …and we are everywhere these days, so it’s the least we can do to share our goodies.

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