This is me with some really famous people!
The weekend just past was unlike any other in that it was the very first time the Irish national Food Awards took place. Kieran Murphy, Co-founder of Murphy’s Ice Cream in Dingle, started up the Dingle Food Festival in 2007. In response to a need for our very own food awards, he set about starting up a competition for food producers in Ireland.
I was lucky to be invited to participate as a judge for the weekend and relished the thought of what might be ahead. We were warmly welcomed, fed and watered for the weekend but the judging of the food was a different kettle of fish and serious business indeed. At first we had a tutorial in how to judge the different products. The categories ranged from aroma and flavour to the appeal a product might have on the mass market.
My category was specialist meats and as I took my seat with denizens of the culinary world I was determined to mark everything as fairly and democratically as possible. The first round of tasting was different juices. It’s hard to believe that one product, that’s pretty much the same in description to the next, can be so very different. Some juices were so tart you would never want to drink them, some were so yummy you would happily swap your favourite wine for them. All products were judged anonymously; we simple had them in un-marked containers with a number on them, filled in our sheets and handed them to the adjudicator. I’m happy to say that someone very close to home, The Apple Farm in Tipperary won a silver medal for their sparkling apple juice which is a lovely, refreshing and grown up juice.
Three Limerick winners
The meats were quite an epic journey. We had cold cooked meats, air dried meats, gourmet burgers, venison and roast duck. As we got to the thirtieth product we began to flag, refreshing ourselves with water and dry biscuits, we all started to dream of pints and ham and cheese toasties. However, we never let up on judging the quality of all the products. I began to envy other judges who got to eat deserts and ice cream all day, and they in turn were giving us the beady eye. The greatest reward as a judge is to discover today, when the awards have been released, that Limerick has two proud winners.
Famous Bakewell tartlet
The first winner, of a Gold Medal in the confectionery category is Sallymills Bakery for their Bakewell tartlet. The tart is a classic pastry case filled with jam and an almondy sponge. Local shopper will be familiar with Sallymills from the Milk Market where they have been selling fro four years now. Wife and Husband team Nora and David McCaffrey started baking as they both loved food and wanted to become part of the vibrant Milk market scene. As their products grew in popularity, so too did the prospect of expanding and doing it full time. They both gave up their jobs and took on a small unit in Crossagalla Business Park and they haven’t looked back since. Now working as a team of five, Sallymills supply their goodies to Instore in Limerick, Cork and Dublin, Gleeson’s shops and they sell at the new food market in University of Limerick. Nora is thrilled with their win and it reminds them why they got into this business in the first place. “It’s great to get national recognition” she says “Especially when there are so many great artisan products out there. Limerick people have been so supportive and loyal and this award means we can get our name out there on a national level”. Sallymills specialise in Irish classics like Soda Bread, scones, wholemeal brown bread and much loved favourites like carrot cake and cheese cakes.
Readers of this page will be familiar with Collette O’Farrell of Natures Bounty who makes wonderful jams and preserves and who recently won a great taste award from the UK. Collette’s Curraghchase Relish won a Silver Medal in the Chutneys and Relishes category. Soon there won’t be room for the labels on Collette’s jars, so many are her awards in the past year. Collette developed her Curraghchase Relish as she wanted to have a signature product that represented where she comes from and a place that she loves. “So many Irish products are named after their place of origin so I thought, why not have my own relish named after one of the most beautiful places in Ireland”. The relish is made from courgettes, tomatoes and peppers with lots of delicate spices making it a perfect compliment to a slab of good cheddar or to any product from the nearby range of Curraghchase Free Range Pork. “I’m delighted with the win of course”, says Collette “It encourages me to keep doing what I love and it’s great to know that people appreciate it”.
Wild Orchard Smoothies won silver and bronze medals, and should also win for their cool website
The awards were so well run and the festival is an excellent way to spend a weekend in one of Ireland’s most beautiful coastal towns. I just hope I get to go back next year, this time I’ll be wearing eating pants.
Valerie O'Connor 06/10/08