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Posts Tagged ‘kinsale’

On Thursday last my colleague Jean and I enjoyed an opportunity to show off a bit of West Cork to two visiting Italian journalists on a familiarisation trip organised by Failte Ireland – Gabriele Zanatta from Milan and Massimiliano Rella from Rome. They were accompanied by Kinsale based Italian speaking guide Marguerite Condon. We kicked off at the Kinsale Wine Museum where we had an excellent guided introduction to Desmond Castle, the Fitzgerald family and the winegeese. From there we stopped in to chat with Paul McBride and Iain Flynn about their growing food business. I was delighted to hear that they are looking at moving to a larger premises to handle the growth in demand and get their excellent meals out to more shops.

Oriental clams at Fishy Fishy Cafe, Kinsale

This was followed by a delicious lunch al fresco at Fishy Fishy Cafe. I had the clams with ginger and sweet chili sauce (see pic). The two guys were very interested in the area and the local food, particularly seafood. Chef and proprietor, Martin Shanahan joined us when we had finished eating and shared his thoughts on fish. Now that he is running two businesses he finds that he cannot spend as much time in the kitchen as previously. “Part of my role now has to be teaching. The most important part of the business is buying the fish and I will never give that up. I go to Skibbereen for the fish auction nearly every morning and also buy directly from about 10 local boats. In the last 10 years fish has become a global commodity, it wasn’t like that before but now generic white fish can be flown in for a fixed price at any time of the year from Chile, Thailand or elsewhere.

Martin Shanahan, chef & proprietor at Fishy Fishy Cafe, Kinsale

Martin Shanahan, chef & proprietor at Fishy Fishy Cafe, Kinsale

 For me fish is a gift, not a product. It’s not guaranteed what you’ll catch on any trip. You must treat it like a gift. It’s very important that we support our local fishermen. If this generation stops fishing, then that’s it, they won’t go back to it and we’ll have no more fresh fish. What we’ll be eating will be like plastic. We won’t know where it comes from.”

We left Martin and took the coast road to Kinsale, pulling up at Garretstown to get a sense of beach life on an overcast summer’s day. This surf lesson created a lovely splash of yellow against the gathering rain clouds.

Surf lesson at Garretstown Beach

Surf lesson at Garretstown Beach

 

Anthony Creswell met us at Ummera Smoked Products in Timoleague and gave our visitors a run through the process of smoking salmon. Anthony is fairly confident that we don’t need to go to Norway or Scotland to trace the roots of fish smoking in Ireland. “Smoking to preserve fish caught in times of plenty would have been practised all around the coast. All you needed was salt, which we did import in large quantities. Of course the smoked fish they produced then was quite different from this. It would have been extremely salty and much drier to last through the winter months. They’d eat it when there was nothing better to be had.” Happily, the same could not be said of the Ummera smoked salmon and gravad lax that Anthony treated us to!

(You can watch Anthony talking to ifoods.tv here.)

Jean, Masimiliano, Anthony, Gabriele and Marguerite pictured at Ummera Smokehouse

Jean, Masimiliano, Anthony, Gabriele and Marguerite pictured at Ummera Smokehouse

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Iain Flynn of McBride & Flynn, Kinsale

Iain Flynn of McBride & Flynn, Kinsale

Through all the great years of the Good Food Circle in Kinsale it had always puzzled us at Fuchsia why the area remained a blank on our maps of food producers. The gourmet capital of Ireland heaved with culinary talent and energy but you wouldn’t find the name Kinsale in your fridge or cupboard. Gladly in the last 2 years this anomaly has really begun to rectify itself and the key catalyst has been the Tuesday farmers market. This week I met with Iain Flynn of McBride and Flynn, an enterprise that draws together the strengths of the town, pairing the culinary flair of chef Paul McBride with Iain’s skills, appetite for work and determination to succeed.

 

 

 

The business started with jams and chutneys, which the pair produced on their days off from Acton’s Hotel where Paul had taken Iain on an as an apprentice. Their plan was to sell from the hotel and a few local shops but then the farmers market opened in 2006 – “We said we’d come down and try it out for a laugh. And we were there on the first day and doing fine with our preserves, but we looked at each other and said we’re both chefs, we’re good at cooking for people let’s do more and use our skills.” So to their stall they added pates, dressings, quiches and meals, like beef stroganoff, chicken a la king, pepper beef and Thai curry. The range changes over time in response to feedback and requests from their customers. “I love the feedback at the market; once you build up a relationship with people they are comfortable being really honest. It’s also great to see people sitting down to enjoy our food, which they can do at the Kinsale and Blackrock markets. When you sell to shops the only feedback you get is how many are on the shelf at the end of the week.”

 

The markets have also been important for Iain in sourcing produce. “We try our utmost to use local produce. I buy most of our vegetables from guys at the markets, they know what’s good and I know where it has come from. It also puts a bit of pressure on me because I want to get the best out of their ingredients and do justice to the work they’ve put into growing them. As chefs we’re part of a chain not the sole creators. We buy our beef from O’Connells at the Lough, they really look after their meat, no shortcuts like electronic tenderizing. It’s hung for 21 days and you can taste and see the difference, when you cook it, it doesn’t shrink to half its size.”

 

Iain is now working full time in the business and Paul McBride comes in on his days off. Iain’s passion for culinary learning and discovery is something he says has rubbed off from Paul, who describes his own involvement at the markets as more enjoyable golf. For Paul to have retained the enthusiasm of the hobbyist after decades in commercial kitchens shows a true calling. With this ethos their business will never be about making a quick buck, a motivation that Iain feels has let down most of the local restaurant scene. Iain also has an intuitive understanding of real food from his home life and is not impressed by showiness. “My mother and sister are great cooks and love cooking at home.” In fact, Iain has persuaded his mother to supply their stall with her brown bread, wonderfully enriched with treacle, eggs and oatmeal.

 

Working alone in food preparation can be a lonely business, starting at 6am and sticking to a demanding schedule. So Iain is looking forward to his chance to do some live cooking at the Eat Sherkin festival on the first weekend in July.

 

“It will be fun, as a chef I haven’t cooked live in a while and I know I’ll get a buzz working beside Diane Curtin, she’s such a bundle of energy. We’ll be cooking mackerel landed in the morning and serving them with salad leaves picked around the island, then someone else is bringing their strawberries which we’ll make into a strawberry fool”. The whole event sounds fantastic, there’s no where quite like Sherkin to generate a festive atmosphere. You can read below what Diane Curtin has sent me about the festival weekend and in the meantime take the opportunity to visit Kinsale farmers market which is a bright light in the project to reinvent Ireland’s gourmet capital.

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