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An Organic Food Valley….

At the National Organic Conference in Waterford last month it was suggested that we should change Bord Bia’s slogan from  “Ireland, The Food Island” to “Ireland, The Organic Isalnd“.

Perhaps slowly slowy might be the way and I see that the Drôme Valley in France is setting out to be an Organic Valley:

In a recently published interview in the Localtis magazine, Didier Jouve, Vice President of the Rhône-Alpes Côtes d’Azur region, reported on plans to set up a large-scale project for a “Drôme Organic Valley”. Jouve, who is responsible for regional planning and long-term development, emphasized the importance of organic agriculture, which already accounts for 25 % of the land in some areas.

Since the beginning of October, a French news information service has been on the Internet to supplement the services of the online magazines Bio-Markt.Info (German) and Organic-Market.Info (English). Bio-Marche.Info offers daily news information on organic agriculture and organic marketing in France.

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Budgetary Musings

The Irish Budget was announced with a “Patriotic” call on Tuesday. The following notes were jotted down that night and I know that this has little to do with food, but food is life so …….

I thought that the principal of the “offender pays” held good.

But not when it comes to financial catastrophes it appears.

The sad part of today’s budget is that it appears not to lay the cause of our problems at anyone’s feet.

But then who is to blame in reality?

Those who took advantage of the situation, worked within the laws of the land, created significant growth, and reaped the benefit? They forgot one basic principal that history reminds us of, you don’t build on sand, solid rock is best. Bubbles come and go of course, as this one will, and we hope that lessons have been learnt.

Who else could we blame?

The politicians are clearly liable as they ignored some pretty basic alarm bells; they saw growth, they saw employment, and being good politicians they encouraged builders and banks to borrow and build; but they failed of course to see ahead (or better still look backward at the past).

But we can’t really blame the politicians, can we?

After all we put them there in the first place!

But did we have a choice?

There lies the nub of the problem; not one of our political parties has the intelligence or conscience to run this country with sound humanitarian principals – but is there a country that does?

And that, I guess, is one of the conundrums of life!

But back to the budget……..

Sad that everyone should pay for the errors of the few

Sad that the poor and the elderly should pay for the wealthy and healthy

Sad that the Minister didn’t just introduce a 5% levy on all incomes over €100,000, rising by 5% for each and every €100,000 and a cap of 25% levy on all those over €500,000. After all, it’s those income levels which have been responsible for driving up prices, tempting banks to lend silly money on houses built on sand.

Perhaps the Minister could have just taxed the top 100 highest earners in Ireland to a level which would have brought their incomes down to €100,000, and thus saved the country!

Sad that the Minister didn’t make serious reductions in our bureaucracy that is strangling our community of just over 4 million people.

Oh well………

I think must be getting old – heading left or is it right!!!

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Kinsale Transition Town 50 Mile Meal Awards!

Congratulations to Pearse O’Sullivan and his crew at Toddies Restaurant for wining the 2008 Kinsale Transition Town award yesterday with their fantastic salad made from Tom The Veg’s Kinsale grown Beetroot, Pearse’s own Watercress and Ummera’s Smoked Eel.!

For some reason the mention of Smoked Eel as a dish has a strange reaction from many people, but Pearse’s recipe won over all the happy people on the Mad Hatter’s Tour on the Saturday.

The idea behind the competition during the Kinsale Gourment Festival is to inspire restaurants to source their products locally as much as possible. No plaice or sole from Iceland for example when superb locally caught fish IS available from fishermen landing in Kinsale.

The bad summer prevented a real coup – bananas grown in Co. Cork! This photograph was taken not 12 miles from Kinsale last Friday! But maybe next year……

Irish Bananas
Irish Bananas - Green of course!
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Artisan Food and The Tastes of Cork at La Rochelle

John McKenna of The Bridgestone Guide has unearthed a great definition of Artisan Food.

I was at the Food Link Food Law Conference in Cork yesterday and this definition would have been most helpful to Sara of Teagasc!

The Tastes of Cork at the Grand Pavois de La Rochelle was a great success.  An Interview and images, en francais, can be read and heard here.

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At last! We have Smoked Silver Eel again..

We secured limited stocks of good sized Silver Eels last week from Lough Owell in Co. Westmeath and have just smoked some today.

The last eels we bought was two years ago; we subsequently won a Gold Award at the U.K.’s Great Taste Awards in 2006 and we were presented the Irish Guild of Food Writer’s Award in 2007.


Smoked eel
Ummera Smoked Silver Eel

We have restored the Smoked Eel to our online ordering pages at and can be ordered there; alternatively, of course, contact myself or Anat direct, by phone, Skype or email for all details.

We have some available for shipping out next Monday, September 22nd.

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Terra Madre on Nationwide

RTE have done Slow Food‘s Terra Madre Ireland event proud with tonight’s edition of Nationwide.

Some good footage captured  the atmosphere surrounding those four days last week in Waterford. It was a pity that they didn’t show some footage of the working sessions on the Friday which encapsulated the real meaning of Terra Madre, where people of many different walks and perspectives met to discuss and propose some answers to the way which we, the producers, and you, the co-producers, should be going forward.

Have a look at the Terra Madre web site for further details of the four days and do contribute to some of the Forum’s threads. As a co-producer, your voice is just as important as the producers.

And if you want to do something really special at the end of October, head out to Turin for Salone del Gusto.

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What is it about September!

It seems that every food event in Ireland takes place in September – and it is impossible to do them all!
There was the fantastically successful weekend in Waterford with

The National Organic Food Conference organised by Bord Bia on the Thursday, September 4th.

Slow Food Ireland‘s Terra Madre workshop day on the Friday was followed by a stupendous banquet and an impassioned speech by Carlo Petrini, the President of Slow Food International. A special post will be made shortly as soon as I have come down to earth!

Now we have tomorrow, September 13th,  the Midleton Food Festival with lots of  actitivities for all the family; we will be lingering around Kate O’Donovan’s stand for a while! Hot Dogs and Ummera Smoked Chicken!

Ireland’s National Organic Week begins on Monday 15th

The Taste of West Cork Festival starts on Tuesday and we will be there at the open-air Food and Craft Market on Sunday September 21st.  Full details at A Taste of West Cork.

For music/opera lovers,  there is a special evening of opera at Burren House in aid of the RNLI on Saturday the 20th. Details and tickets from the Burren House website or from the Cork Opera House

On Sunday September 28th, Slow Food’s Cork City Convivium is hosting a farm trip to Paul Johnson’s Dexter Cow Farm near Dunmanway. Click here for details

Next a visit to the Good Food Ireland Awards dinner at the Shelbourne Hotel in the heart of Dublin.

And to conclude September, a visit to Shop 2008 at the RDS.

And you expect us to smoke salmon during September!

Then we must prepare for Slow Food‘s Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Turin, Italy from the 23rd to 27th October.


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The loss of the Asgard II

Quite a shock this morning to discover that the Asgard II has sunk, but the good news is that all on board have been rescued and are all well.

I knew that our good friend, Otto Kunze, was on board so we were naturally very anxious. Otto is well known to many people in the world of food as the passionate owner of Dunworley Cottage Restaurant here in Cork; he sold up earlier this year to devote his time to sailing the seas. He has sailed several times on the Asgard II and was obviously in great demand as Galley Cook!

The Asgard II was on its way to La Rochelle to take part in the Salon de Grand Pavois, a major international Boat Show, and this year Ireland is the Guest of Honour Country, and Cork is featuring in The Tastes of Cork there – including some excellent Smoked Organic Salmon from …..!

I gather that she may have encountered a semi-submerged lost container as the weather was calm – unlike here for the last couple of days!

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The mackerel are in!

It wasn’t so long ago that a call like that brought the farmers and their families down to the strand to fill up bags and boxes of all shapes and sizes with the dashing, darting, almost suicidal mackerel as they came close inshore chasing the shoals of sprats into the shallow waters.

These mackerel were destined to be salted away in barrels to help eke out the lean winter months.

But today the children caught their first mackerel with their cousins near Oysterhaven; having had their fill there, they thoughtfully brought a couple back for my tea.

I scored the sides of the mackerel with a sharp knife, rubbed some sea salt and Dijon mustard into the cuts and fried them in a little butter and a splash of white wine.So simple, so fresh, so so good!

It reminded me of a day a year or two ago when I went out salmon fishing with Seamus de Burca out of Ring. The salmon weren’t there, but the mackerel were. Pulling them in over the side, a quick clean then straight into the frying pan in the galley and a few minutes later onto the plate and ………..!

So if you are near the coast and you see the seagulls diving and the spratt shoaling on the surface near the shore, go find a line and a couple of hooks.