Archive for April, 2009


Bob McCutcheon visiting his bees with his granddaughter Asha

Bob McCutcheon visiting his bees with his granddaughter Asha

Hosford’s Garden Centre, Cappa, Enniskeane Co. Cork
Sunday 26th April 2-5pm
Demonstrations designed to pass on heritage skills to the youngsters – from the generation which knows best!

Bread and Scone Making with Ballinascarthy Bakers Mary Collins and Chrissie Flynn (children can join in)

All About Bees with Award Winning Beekeeper Bob McCutcheon, Secretary of County Cork Beekeeper’s Association (and my Dad!)– Kids and grownups can learn how honey is made

Planting Strawberries and Making Jam with Artisan Grower Denise Bushby – Children love fresh strawberries, and this is a chance to learn how to grow them and make jam from them – from West Cork’s expert!

Dance The Afternoon Away fo Music from
The Three G’s (Two Grannies and a Grandad!)

Children’s Art Competition from 12 Noon.
Kids are invited to paint or draw a picture on a theme of ‘Cooking with Grandma’ (materials provided) which will be judged by the Slow Food West Cork team. Best Picture wins lunch for two – as a gift for Grandma and Grandad, or Grandma or Grandad plus a guest (€1.00 entry fee as a donation to Slow Food)

Demonstrations, art competition and music to run throughout the afternoon. Everyone welcome – Grannies, Grandads, Mums, Dads and children of all ages

Log on to http://www.slowfoodireland , email slowfoodwestcork@gmail.com or call
Dianne Curtin 086 067 6249 for more details

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This just in from SAREN in Skibbereen. I agree completely and am disgusted with this decision by UTV Media. I thought that this was a station that had some cultural values, apparently not. Hope they come to regret it and reverse the decision asap. At a food level, I will miss Dianne Curtin’s slot, always lively, plenty of laughs and groans of pleasure.

Locals Urged to Sign Petition to have Voices Heard

The Skibbereen and Region Economic Network (SAREN) has voiced its disappointment at UTV Media’s decision to axe the much loved West Cork Today programme hosted by David Young.

The group has described the move as arbitrary and nonsensical. SAREN has written to UTV Media and has set up an online petition on http://www.skibbereen.ie for people to sign and air their thoughts on the decision. This will be presented to the governing body in the coming weeks.

Speaking of the decision, Bernard O’Donovan of SAREN said “This is a blow for our region. David gave a platform to all kinds of issues from the good to the bad.

For three hours every weekday, locals were able to tap in to their locality and get up to date news on events and hotly debated topics. It is extremely short-sighted of UTV Media to just take this away from the region with no notice. Yes, times may be more difficult than we’ve experienced in the past number of years but this should not mean that organisations can treat employees in such a foul manner.
The voice of a whole region has been taken away in favour of a few extra coffers for the group. It is disheartening to think that such an organisation holds one wage extra over a whole region of dedicated listeners and what they represent.
It is only when people stand together can things improve and this is what SAREN represents. The region must fight back to have its voice heard. We should not stand by and watch our platform being stripped away from us in this way. That is why we have set up the online petition on http://www.skibbereen.ie for people to go there and sign it. We will then send this to UTV Media as a step to get David back on air. We urge everyone to sign the petition to show UTV Media that we still have a voice albeit slightly quietened for now.”
SAREN will hold its next meeting on Tuesday 28th April in Casey’s Hotel Baltimore at 7.30a.m where four key development projects for the advancement of the area will be announced. Projects are broken into Infrastructure, Enterprise, Marine and Tourism and Energy, with each setting out to improve the future of the region in its respective field. All interested in getting involved in the future of the region are invited to attend.

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Marie O'Keeffe, Emmet Hotel, Clonakilty

Marie O'Keeffe, Emmet Hotel, Clonakilty

If like me you’ve been spending long evenings planning your holiday you may find it reassuring to know that at your journey’s end there are dedicated tourism professionals who are also making plans at this time. And if you’re lucky you’ll stumble upon restaurants run by chefs that have the ambition and skills to serve you the flavours of their local produce. This week I dropped in to one such provider who was busy preparing her summer menu, Marie O’Keeffe, proprietor of the Emmet Hotel in Clonakilty. In keeping with these straightened times Marie is keen to offer great value and is introducing an evening meal deal comprising weekly main course specials with tea/coffee for just €10 or €12.50 with a glass of wine. In looking at changing her menu, however, Marie is clear about some things that won’t be changing. “The important thing is that even though we’re dropping our prices we’re sticking with our old suppliers that are still more expensive. Lots of restaurants are introducing value offers but they’re also dropping the quality of the ingredients. A lot of what they put out is muck. We’ve sampled meat from so many suppliers, they’re a lot cheaper but just not as good. We get all our meat from Dan Lordan in Ballinspittle and our fish from Ballycotton Seafood. The natural yogurt from Irish Yogurts gets a great reaction and visitors to Clonakilty always look for black pudding. There are great herbs and vegetables grown here and fruit too, like Bushby’s strawberries.” “You can buy in almost any dish prepared and just cook or reheat it straight from the van, but that’s not what we’re about. We make everything from scratch ourselves. For sauces and soups, fresh stock is particularly important. You can’t get the depth, the hidden flavours, from a sauce without real stock. I had a battle with a rep the other day who was trying to convince me to use Knorr bouillons. I said that all I could taste was the MSG. ‘But that’s what they want!’ he said. Maybe he’s right but you have to be true to your own standards.” Marie is a self taught chef and is pleased to share what she has learned when she finds someone whose delight in food matches hers. “If someone working here shows and interest in food I respond and encourage them. We’ve had 3 people so far who’ve begun working as kitchen porters and were clearly interested in cooking. We’ve supported them to go to college and become fully qualified chefs.” I managed to prize a few recipes and tips from her, though there are plenty of others that she’s unwilling to part with for now. “The summer menu will naturally be lighter but we’ll keep many of the dishes we’re known for. People like to try new things on holidays so we can be more adventurous during the summer. For example, we sell more offal during the summer. I absolutely love offal myself, particularly sweetbreads. Everything but the brain. When I started cooking in Cork city and later in London, we served offal to please the jaded corporate palate – people who were dining out 3 or 4 nights a week and wanted something different. Now people are rediscovering offal, it’s fashionable but also cheap.” The last recipe Marie gave me was for grilled goat’s cheese with honey, lavender and roast beetroot, a definite new addition. I don’t think I have ever tasted lavender as a herb and am salivating in anticipation of this one. So bring on the summer and bring on the menu!

Bluebell Goat’s Cheese with Honey, Lavender and Roast Beetroot

Roast the beetroot in the oven (180˚C fan assisted, 200˚C conventional) for 20-30 minutes or until soft. You can wrap each one in foil if you want as they bleed. Remove the skin and chop into cubes. Slice the goat’s cheese into 1” thick rounds. Place a sprig of lavender on top of the cheese and brush with local honey. Place under grill until slightly brown. In the meantime heat your beetroot in a tiny amount of olive oil. Place on plate and top with goat’s cheese.

Chicken Stock (most versatile)

1 large onion (remove the skin if you want a clear stock) 1 leek – use the green part only and keep the white chopped for use as veg 2 sticks of celery, chopped Add whatever fresh herbs are available (do not use thyme)

Bring to the boil and simmer for 1-2 hours. Skim occasionally. Strain and allow to cool before skimming off any fat. I don’t use carrot as it tends to give a stewey flavour, but not everyone in the kitchen agrees. If you want to get the sweetness of carrots, then sautee them in a drop of olive oil, cover and soften them in their own steam. Pour the stock into this to absorb the flavours at the end of the stock cooking.

Marie’s Homemade Brown Soda Bread

Makes 3 loaves

1kg bag of Howard’s Extra Coarse Brown Flour, 4 oz butter, 1 tsp bread soda, 1 oz brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 fistful wheatgerm, 1 fistful jumbo oats, 1 fistful pinhead oatmeal,  1 fistful roast buckwheat, 1 ½ litre buttermilk

Rub in butter and bread soda to the flour. Add all the other ingredients. Bake at 180˚C for ¾ hour in 3 1lb loaf tins. Remove from tins and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Marie’s Offal Selection

Crubeens with White Pudding – boil gently for 2-3 hours until tender. Bone while still warm. Leave the toe bones in. Stuff with white pudding mixed with onion. Brush with garlic butter, roll in fine breadcrumbs and roast in oven for 20-25 mins (180˚C).

Sweetbreads with mushrooms – soak the sweetbreads in water with salt for at least an hour to remove the blood. Then blanch and allow to cool slightly so that you can remove the skin. Dip in eggs and breadcrumbs. Slice and fry. Once cooked, add cream, mushrooms and perhaps a drop of sherry.

Lambs liver with garlic – Lambs liver can be just as good as veal liver. Buy the liver in a large piece and keep in milk until ready to use. Fry it in butter in thick cuts. Once cooked pour melted garlic butter over the liver.

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This news just in from Alison Wickham at Sustainable Clonakilty:

Hi everyone
It is the Council’s intention to request the Gardai to prevent next Friday’s Clonakilty Market taking place. Should this happen it may many months again before this facility is returned to the town.

People, as individuals, may wish to turn up at the Credit Union car park early on Friday to show their interest in the market continuing,

All the best,


Alison Wickham

Secretary, Sustclon Ltd

E: sustainableclon@gmail.com W: www.sustainableclon.com

Ph 023 883 5241

If you have a chance to vote in the local elections in June in Clonakilty town please use your opportunity to question the candidates about where they stand on the market issue.

See also: http://bakingemporiumltd.wordpress.com/2009/04/04/baking-emporium-ltd-clonakilty-market/

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Anthony Creswell, Ummera Smoked Products Timoleague

Anthony Creswell, Ummera Smoked Products Timoleague

Anthony Creswell from Timoleague is a committed smoker – no patches, no gum, no hypnotists instilling the mantra that smoking is vile and disgusting. Smoking is what he does and he has no intention of quitting. Such intransigence is not surprising when his smoking habit is rewarded year after year with acclaim at home and abroad for his range of smoked fish and meats – picking up Gold medals at the Great Taste Awards in 2008, 2006, 2005, highly commended as one of the Best Artisan Suppliers at the Irish Restaurant of the Year Awards in 2007 and winning an award from the Irish Food Writers Guild in 2007. Since the decline and ultimate disappearance two years ago of Ireland’s most prized delicacy – smoked wild salmon, Anthony has worked hard to maintain the Ummera Smoked Products reputation as one of the finest smokehouses in the world.
I met Anthony at his smokehouse near on the banks of the Argideen River, 2 miles upstream of Timoleague. Before we get talking Anthony has to shoo his young daughters from the office and I reflect on how for many small food business owners there is very little division between their work and their “life”. This can be a problem for family life during the busy periods, like the lead up to Easter or Christmas for Anthony, or having to work at markets on Saturday and Sunday. But on this day the melding of the two worlds feels like a very positive thing. Whereas in most workplaces children are an intrusion, these girls are comfortable in this space, they know what their father’s work involves and he is available to them a lot of the time. Ralph, one of Anthony’s elder sons, has a strong interest in food. He is currently working at the Urru culinary store in Bandon, but enjoys working with Anthony from time to time. “He got started with me in the lead up to a busy Christmas and enjoyed it, so he stayed on. But I wanted him to get out and learn other skills. I’m not sure if it’s always a good idea to learn from your father. I did battle with my own dad for 15 years.” I can see that stacking the teacher-student dynamic on top of the father-son relationship just gives your father even more entitlement to tell what you should be doing. And yet Anthony has changed very little in the smoking process he learned from his father in the 1970s. “We use a brine to cure the fish and meats for a number of hours before smoking. The brine is just water, sea salt and organic sugar from Costa Rica. Most smokers use a dry cure rather than brine but it seemed to work ok for my dad and if it ain’t broke… We also stick with oak for the smoke, it’s more traditional than other woods like apple or alder, but if it’s good enough for the finest wines in France then I’m happy with that.” After brining the fish or meat is left to dry in the smoker for 10 to 12 hours before the fire is lit and the smoking begins. Anthony cold smokes in 6 to 8 hours, quite a short period. Chicken breasts and silver eels are hot smoked so that they are cooked through. There are no artificial preservatives or colours in his foods, the smoke forms a natural bacteria resistant barrier and salt is a natural preservative.
Anthony’s casual manner belies a serious commitment to making his products the very best around. I recall several mornings spent at the smokehouse a few years back as part of a sensory analysis panel. Anthony used formal panel testing to get objective feedback on subtle adjustments he could make to his curing and smoking. Even after 30 years he is still motivated by quality. “It’s about producing something that people will enjoy and will come back for. There’s nothing better than someone coming back and telling you that eating your food made their day. One of the special features of our food, is that it’s not the same every time. Because it’s not factory produced there is variation from day to day and month to month. I get mad with bureaucracies obsession with standards. It leaves very little room for imagination. It must be quite challenging, even depressing, for start up food producers that are excited about what they’ve tried on a small scale. But when they step up to approved production they find that they are reduced to producing to a formula.” And yet Anthony has managed to master the world of standards whilst retaining his enthusiasm and imagination. To the best of my knowledge Ummera is also the only smokehouse in Ireland that has attained an export license for smoking both fish and meat – the full range comprises salmon, chicken, bacon and silver eel. Achieving this license status is a big undertaking for business of this scale and required significant investment in separating the handling areas for the different processes to ensure that there is no contact between raw and cooked foods, even down to controlling the airflow.
Although Anthony hasn’t changed much in the smoking process, he has been enthusiastic in adopting new technologies for communication and over the years has been one my personal guiding lights to new uses of the world wide web, like blogging and twitter, and other developments like the use of customer relationship management software and email newsletters. As we are talking his Blackberry bleeps every other minute with a new twitter post. “I think it all helps, it creates a bit of interest. These tools help us to keep contact at a distance and at very little cost. We don’t send newsletters in the post anymore. I know this assumes computer literacy on the part of customers, and we did lose a few people, but it’s working. We got quite a reaction to our last newsletter about a Dublin fish supplier misleading customers by describing farmed fish as ‘Caught at Sea’. With both blogging and Twitter, there’s an awful lot of drivel out there. I really don’t know how people find the time. You’ve go to have something interesting to say. If I was just advertising my own business, I’d quickly find people would unsubscribe. But if you catch people at the right moment, they may pass it on and your story grows exponentially moving from hundreds to tens of thousands.”
We switch back from talking about toys to talking about food, and when I bemoan the loss of the wild salmon stocks, Anthony tells me that the silver eels have also all but disappeared. “The eel’s lifecycle is the reverse of the salmon. They breed way out at sea in the Sargasso and then make the long journey to come ashore here. They are opportunist in choosing a river system and don’t return to their roots. The stock of eels has dropped by 80% in the last 10 years or so due to overfishing of the elvers (young eels), pollution and global warming. The silver eels we buy are caught just as they are about to leave the rivers and migrate to sea. They are about 4-6 years old.” I begin to appreciate the scale of the problem when Anthony tells me that the Central Fisheries Board restoration plan for eel stocks will run over 90 years! And although I can see that Anthony will miss another of our heritage foods, I know that he will continue to engage, adapt and excel, with new foods, new stories and old skills.


To keep up to date with Ummera you can subscribe to Anthony’s blog at www.ummera.com/wordpress

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