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Thursday, 18 December 2014

There are Turkeys Roaming Free (range) in the Boyne Valley

If you know Olivia Duff, you'll know that she really is a very busy woman! She is a dynamic character who passionately promotes Irish and in particular county Meath produce at every opportunity. When managing the award winning family run hotel, The Headfort Arms, in Kells, she strives to serve the best of Irish food in all food service areas of the business. An example of this being their unique menu, served in the Vanilla Pod restaurant, in which all the ingredients are sourced within a 30-mile radius of the hotel.

Olivia Duff is passionate about telling the story of great Irish food
Olivia is one of the driving forces behind the Meath Food Showcase and the Meath Food Trail Package. This trail offers visitors an opportunity to visit local producers and on returning to the hotel, an opportunity to enjoy the 'Meath Menu' featuring food from the rich sources of the Boyne Valley. She is also one of the Failte Ireland Food Ambassadors and is dedicated to helping others tell their own 'food story'.

Her passion for food has led her family to breeding turkeys, rare breed pigs and sheep, supplying their artisan produce directly from their farm to the consumer. Maperath Farm is a small mixed farm, just outside Kells, which is committed to involving the customer in the full story of food production and they take great pride in this story. With her husband, Eoin Sharkey, a former builder and keen horseman, they have created an atmosphere of honest farming, one that invites the customer to discover where their food comes from. Whether that is a newly born lamb or a day old chick, visitors can follow the process of the meat from the farm directly to the table.

All the animals on Maperath Farm are traditionally reared and enjoy fodder crop (the first poultry farm in Ireland to do so) alongside natural feeds and acres of free range lifestyle. New for 2015 will see Maperath Farm's ‘Lamb in a Box’ which will offer the customer a chance to order a full lamb direct from the farm. This will be then custom-butchered to the customer wishes and presented in a box, ready to eat or for the freezer. This year also sees expansion of their brand to include Maperath Farm Christmas Relish & Chutneys.

Maperath Farm ‘Lamb in a Box’ will be available in 2015

The farm produces rare breed pigs, grass fed lamb and poultry, but it is the Free Range Turkeys & Geese which are the main event at this time of year. With huge demand for their birds, it proves that consumers in Ireland really do care about the welfare, rearing and production of their food.

Olivia's husband, Eoin, believes in honest food direct from the farm
Maperath Farm is unique because it represents a true model of Sustainable Farming, incorporating models of high animal welfare, natural feed products and low levels of intensity. It also represents a real concept of ‘honest food direct from the farm’. Customers can order their own lamb, turkey or goose knowing that it is traditionally reared, then processed and butchered locally.

Olivia and Eoin's farm offers premium product which involves the customer throughout the full story of farm to the table. The long-term vision for Maperath Farm is to expand into a unique Free Range mixed farm which will involve its customers from day one in the production of food. Customers will be invited to visit their food as it grows and for the farm to become a Food Tourism Destination as part of the Boyne Valley.

The free range lifestyle of any bird is reflected in the quality and flavour of the meat

Maperath Farm has a limited number of their free range Turkeys and Geese available over the next few days, but they're going fast! Contact the Farm today on 087 902 7070 or see


See my 10 Tips on How to Cook a Turkey & my Favourite Stuffing Recipe

Friday, 12 December 2014

The 14 Food Ingredients that must now be Declared as Allergens on Food Labelling

The Food Information Regulations are changing and new rules come into force on 13 December 2014.

This requires food businesses providing non-prepacked food e.g. restaurants, delis, canteens, takeaways, cafes, retail outlets etc., to indicate to consumers the use of any of the 14 allergenic ingredients listed below that are used in the production or preparation of food.

The new EU food labeling rules, adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2011 (Food Information for Consumers Regulation), are claimed to ensure that consumers receive clearer, more comprehensive and accurate information on food content and help them make informed choices about what they eat.

The basic principles of food labelling remain the same in providing safe food which is honestly described and presented continue and the following information is still required on prepacked food labelling: 
  • A true name or description of the food 
  • The ingredients it contains, in descending weight order
  • How it should be handled, stored, cooked or prepared 
  • Who manufactured, packed or imported it 
  • Origin information if its absence would mislead 
  • Allergenic ingredients identified on the label 
  • Specific information declaring whether the food is irradiated or contains genetically modified material or aspartame, high caffeine, sweeteners, packaging gases, phytosterols etc. 
  • Net quantity in grams, kilograms, litres or centilitres (or abbreviations thereof)
  • Alcoholic strength where there is more than 1.2% alcohol by volume (alcohol x%vol.) 

The new regulations replace the current food labelling requirements and introduce new ones including:
  • Minimum font size on labels
  • Mandatory nutrition labelling
  • A clearer indication of allergens in the ingredients list and the need to be able to tell consumers about allergen contents in non-packaged food
  • Extension to the rules for country of origin labelling.

The 14 Food Ingredients that now must be Declared as Allergens in the EU are:

1. Cereals containing Gluten namely: wheat (such as spelt and khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats or their hybridised strains, and products thereof, except:

(a) wheat based glucose syrups including dextrose
(b) wheat based maltodextrins
(c) glucose syrups based on barley
(d) cereals used for making alcoholic distillates including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin

Paper wrapped Labels are ideal for freshly baked breads

2. Crustaceans and products thereof

3. Eggs and products thereof

4. Fish and products thereof, except:

(a) fish gelatine used as carrier for vitamin or carotenoid preparations
(b) fish gelatine or Isinglass used as fining agent in beer and wine

5. Peanuts and products thereof

6. Soybeans and products thereof, except:

(a) fully refined soybean oil and fat
(b) natural mixed tocopherols (E306), natural D-alpha tocopherol, natural D-alpha tocopherol acetate, and natural D-alpha tocopherol succinate from soybean sources
(c) vegetable oils derived phytosterols and phytosterol esters from soybean sources
(d) plant stanol ester produced from vegetable oil sterols from soybean sources

7. Milk and products thereof (including lactose), except:

(a) whey used for making alcoholic distillates including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin
(b) lactitol

8. Nuts namely: Almonds (Amygdalus communis L.), Hazelnuts (Corylus avellana), Walnuts (Juglans regia), Cashews (Anacardium occidentale), Pecan Nuts (Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch), Brazil Nuts (Bertholletia excelsa), Pistachio Nuts (Pistacia vera), Macadamia or Queensland Nuts (Macadamia ternifolia), and products thereof, except for nuts used for making alcoholic distillates including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin.

9. Celery and products thereof

10. Mustard and products thereof

11. Sesame Seeds and products thereof

12. Sulphur dioxide and Sulphites at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/litre in terms of the total SO2 which are to be calculated for products as proposed ready for consumption or as reconstituted according to the instructions of the manufacturers

13. Lupin and products thereof (lupin flour is used quite widely in bread, cakes and pastries)

14. Molluscs and products thereof

These 14 specified allergenic ingredients must be declared in foods. 
Other ingredients to which some people may have an allergy or intolerance do not need to be declared, although the information should be provided voluntarily.

Owners/Managers of Food premises need to make all staff aware of the 14 allergenic ingredients and put a system in place to identify and record the allergenic ingredients being received and handled by the food business to enable you to meet the food allergen declaration requirements.

For further information on Allergens in food production and much more, go to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland website at and Follow them on Twitter @FSAIinfo


Monday, 8 December 2014

My Easy to Make Christmas Pudding and Brandy Custard

Christmas pudding is also known as plum pudding because of the abundance of prunes in it! This rich tasty pudding is boiled or steamed, made of a mixture of fresh or dried fruit, nuts and suet (beef or mutton fat). Vegetarian suet may also be used. The pudding is very dark and is saturated with brandy, dark beer, or other alcohols. They used to be boiled in a "pudding cloth," but today they are usually made in pudding bowls.

A Traditional Christmas Pudding flamed with Brandy
People have always stirred lucky charms into their Christmas pudding mixture for good luck:
silver coins (for wealth), tiny silver wishbones (for good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), a gold ring (for marriage) an anchor (for safe harbour) and whoever got the lucky serving, would keep the charm.

Ready-made and cooked puddings are now available in the shops but they will never compete with the pleasure that comes with the flavour of your own Christmas Pudding!

Here's my easy to make Christmas Pudding recipe with a brandy custard cream too!

My Ingredients:
125g ready-to-eat prunes, chopped
225g raisins
225g currants
225g sultanas
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
50g chopped almonds
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
225g demerara sugar
225g suet (I use vegetable suet rather than beef)
125g fresh white breadcrumbs
125g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
3 eggs
150ml Guinness
1 tbsp black treacle
35ml Irish Whiskey

It sounds like a lot of work - but the Christmas Pudding is very easy to make!
My Method:
1. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.
2. Whisk the eggs, guinness, brandy and black treacle together and stir into the mixture.
3. Cover and leave to stand overnight in a cool place.
4. Butter three x 600ml pudding bowls and put a circle of greaseproof paper in the base.
5. Pack the mixture into the bowls and smooth the top. Leave about 2.5 cm space to the top of the bowl.

6. Cut a double layer of greaseproof paper into a 30cm circle. Cover each pudding with the paper and tie with string around the edge. Tie another piece of string across the top of the pudding so that it can be easily lifted in and out of the pan.
7. Put the bowls into a heavy-based saucepan (placing an up-turned plate in the bottom of the pot first, to raise the pudding bowls off the bottom of the pot). Pour boiling water around the edge until it comes two-thirds of the way up the sides of the bowls. Cover with a lid and simmer for 3 hours. Top up the pot with boiling water to the staring level every hour.
8. Lift out the puddings after 3 hours and let them cool. Put on a new greaseproof or parchment cover and then cover tightly with foil.
9. Store in a cool dark place until Christmas. The puddings will keep for up to six months.
10. To serve cut into portion sizes and heat in a microwave, on full power, for 1 minute until piping hot. Warm two tablespoons of brandy in a small saucepan. Set alight and carefully pour over the pudding. Serve with my brandy custard cream or brandy butter.

Christmas Pudding with a Brandy Custard Cream!
Brandy Custard Cream
This is a simple and very tasty Christmas cream that I prefer to serve with my Christmas Pudding.
Whip 250ml cream until it holds a figure eight shape and stir it into 250ml of cold custard (you can make this yourself or buy it pre-made). Pour in 35ml (one shot) of brandy and add a pinch of grated nutmeg. This can also be served over warmed mince pies for a delightful change to the usual!

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Love a Real Tree this Christmas and Support the Jack and Jill Foundation

Christmas Tree Growers donate 500 trees to Jack & Jill Foundation

Wicklow grower, Christy Kavanagh, has been crowned the Christmas Tree Grower Supreme Champion 2014 in the national Christmas tree growing competition. This is the fifth time that Christy has received the accolade for his Nordmann Fir range in the annual competition organized by the Christmas Tree Growers Association. As an experienced and avid grower, he is enthusiastic about the benefits real Christmas Trees bring to the celebrations, noting that the Nordmann Fir is the most popular type of tree, accounting for 75% of trees sold in Ireland.

The Christmas tree harvest is currently underway due to excellent growing and favourable harvesting conditions, according to the Irish Christmas Tree Growers.  Bord Bia estimates that approximately 500,000 trees will be harvested this year by Irish growers, 300,000 for the home market and 200,000 for export, mainly to the UK.

‘Love a Real Tree’ Campaign
This Christmas, the Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association has launched a new initiative, ‘Love a Real Tree’, to highlight the benefits of choosing a real Christmas tree for your home. This new campaign was developed to include a logo and website ( which highlight the benefits of a real tree versus and an artificial tree, in particular that real Irish Christmas trees are environmentally friendly as they can be recycled, while the land used for growing them can be replanted or returned to traditional agriculture.  

Speaking about the campaign, Christy Kavanagh said, “The look, the scent and the very feel of a real tree are all part of the Christmas tradition! Growing the perfect tree takes more than planting a tree and hoping for the best. It takes seven to ten years to produce a 2 metre tall tree, and this means year round care for the life of the tree by growers to produce the best tree possible. When you buy a real Christmas tree, carefully grown and cultured locally, there is that extra special knowledge that you are supporting nature and the environment.”

The Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association represents the major body of producers and suppliers of top grade Christmas Trees in Ireland, with over 100 members nationwide. Ireland has developed a solid reputation for the production of high quality trees for both the domestic and export Christmas tree market.

Christy Kavanagh of the Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association
Christmas Tree Growers Donate 500 trees to Jack & Jill Foundation
The Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association is donating 500 four foot Irish grown Christmas trees to the children’s charity, Jack and Jill Foundation. These trees will be used by the charity to stage a one day giveaway on Saturday, 6th December at two locations; Leopardstown Racecourse and Newbridge Retail Park. The trees are available for an on the spot donation of €16 and are ideal for apartments, offices or smaller rooms. 

About the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation
The Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation was founded by Jonathan Irwin and his wife Senator Mary Ann O’Brien based on their own experience caring for their son Jack at home until he passed away in December 1997. This experience became the blue print for the Jack & Jill model of home nursing care which supports 300 children with severe disabilities as a result of brain damage today and the Foundation has supported over 1,800 families (county breakdown below) since 1997. The service includes funding, home visits, advice, information, lobbying and bereavement support and up to 64 hours of home nursing care per month at a cost of €1,024 per family.  It also includes end of life care of up to 80 hours per month at a cost of €1,280 with a clear focus of supporting parents who decide to take their child home to die. Jack & Jill requires €2.7 million per annum to operate this critical service and, with less than 20% coming from the State, the Foundation depends on the generosity of the public to keep going and on wonderful fundraisers like this, with every €16 raised funding 1 hour of home nursing care

Christy Kavanagh with Jonathan Irwin from the Jack and Jill Foundation

Your Guide to Choosing a Real Christmas Tree
The Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association's top Tips for Buying your Christmas tree:

  • Try not to buy your Christmas tree until you are ready to set it up. In many countries, such as France, the Christmas tree is not set up until Christmas Eve and taken down after January 6th.
  • After you bring your Christmas tree home, keep it in a cool place like an unheated garage, porch or patio until you are ready to bring it indoors.
  • Set it up in a cool area (less than 15 centigrade) and as far away as possible from sources of heat including fireplaces, radiators and vents. This will prolong the life of the tree for the holiday season.
  • Place it in a "water stand". Most Christmas tree sellers have these available. The stand has a wide   base and bolts for giving the tree stability, and a basin for water to keep your tree fresh.
  • Just before standing your tree in the water stand, you should make a fresh saw-cut, straight across the stem, at least 3 cm above the original cut. This fresh cut allows the tree to absorb water easily.
  • Check out your local County Council website for Christmas Tree Recycling locations near you.

Irish Christmas Tree Facts

  • Production is mainly concentrated in counties Wexford, Carlow, Wicklow, Tipperary and Cork where soils and climate combine to produce high yields.
  • Approximately 8 million trees of all ages are currently growing on circa. 1, 500 hectares
  • There are approximately 10 significant producers and 70 to 80 smaller growers.
  •  The farm gate value of current domestic and export sales is estimated at €10 million, plus retail values of €25 million
  • The three most popular varieties of Christmas tree are the Nordmann Fir (accounting for 75% of trees sold in Ireland), the Noble Fir (accounting for 15% of trees sold in Ireland) and the Lodgepole Pine.

Why buy a real Christmas Tree?

  • Locally grown Christmas trees are really fresh due to the reduced travel stress on them.
  • There is a tremendous variety and a large range of different size trees available to meet your particular needs.
  • Once cared for properly, non-shedding trees, such as the Nordmann Fir, Noble Fir and Lodgepole Pine, will not lose their needles.
  • Each tree is cultured as an individual tree and produced to the highest quality standards from the time they are planted right through to delivery.
  • Your real Christmas tree is a natural resource and therefore can be recycled.  This is in contrast to artificial trees, which are usually made of metal and plastic materials and use oils and minerals in their manufacture.  An artificial tree may last up to six years in your home but takes centuries to break down in landfill sites.
  • The forest environment is protected by the fact that Christmas trees are continually being planted to replace those trees being harvested.
  • As well as adding to the beauty of our landscape, growing Christmas trees produces large amounts of oxygen and removes the harmful carbon dioxide or “greenhouse gas” from our atmosphere.  Real trees also provide natural habitats for forest animals and birds.
All the funds raised go to the charity with each €16 donation accounting for one hour of home nursing care for one Jack and Jill baby. Visit for more information.

For more tips on buying and caring for your real Christmas tree, visit  


Friday, 28 November 2014

Dublin Foodie Caroline Byrne is appointed new Secretary General of Euro-Toques Ireland

Caroline Byrne has been appointed as the new Secretary General of Euro-Toques Ireland. Caroline is taking over from Ruth Hegarty, who worked with Euro-Toques Ireland for the past 11 years. 

Caroline Byrne takes over as Secretary General of Euro-Toques Ireland

Caroline is best known in the industry as chief Dublin Editor of John and Sally McKenna’s Food Guides (formerly known as Bridgestone Food Guides) and for her involvement with the TASTE Council of Ireland, the steering committee for artisan food producers. Previously, Caroline was editor of food industry trade magazine ShelfLife and has experience in PR, Marketing, Business Development and Social Media through her work with small and medium size food businesses and consumer foods focussed PR agencies.

Commissioner General Wade Murphy and the Board of Commissioners welcome Caroline to Euro-Toques Ireland and look forward to working with her in the next phase of the organisation’s development.

Euro-toques – the European Community of Chefs – was established in Brussels in 1986 by the top chefs in the region. Their purpose was to form a network of chefs committed to quality local food sourcing and to be a voice for the industry to protect Europe’s traditional foods and culinary heritage.

Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House was one of the founding members and went on to found Euro-toques Ireland the same year. Euro-toques Ireland lobbies on a variety of food policy issues and is heavily involved in education, focussing on food education for children and skills training for chefs, in addition to organising food-related events and activities for both industry and the public. 

You can follow Caroline on Twitter at @DublinFoodie
For more info on Euro-Toques see:


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Gerard Collier of Fisherman’s Catch, Clogherhead, wins BIM Young Fishmonger 2015

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Irish Seafood Development Agency, has named Gerard Collier of Fisherman’s Catch, Clogherhead, Co. Louth, as the winner of the BIM Young Fishmonger 2015 competition. The awards event was held yesterday, in the Radisson St. Helen’s Hotel, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin.

BIM Young Fishmonger of the Year 2015, Gerard Collier with Martin Shanahan

Gerard was selected as winner from a shortlist of five finalists, all of whom demonstrated to the judges, an exceptional high standard in technical expertise, product knowledge and customer service. Martin Shanahan, owner of Fishy Fishy Café & Restaurant, author and TV broadcaster was the guest speaker at the event, where he congratulated the finalists and commended their passion for the seafood industry.

This is the second year of the BIM Young Fishmonger Awards, developed by BIM to recognise and reward young fishmongers. Their aim is to encourage new entrants into the business and to ultimately raise the bar across the Irish fishing sector.

The judges were very impressed with the knowledge, skills
and commitment demonstrated by all the finalists

The other finalists in BIM’s Young Fishmonger 2015 competition were: Stevie Connolly, Connolly’s Seafood, Rathmines, Dublin 6; Neil Turner, Caviston’s Food Emporium, Glasthule, Co. Dublin; Mateusz Kowalik, Doran’s on the Pier, Howth, Co. Dublin and Gary Quinn, Stephen’s Fish Market, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.

Speaking at the awards ceremony today, Donal Buckley, Business Development & Innovation Director at BIM said; ‘Our role, as the Seafood Development Agency, is to develop the retail trade in terms of seafood presentation, training and food safety management. We see this initiative as an exciting component of this strategy." 
He added, "Congratulations to our worthy winner Gerard Collier and his colleagues at Fisherman’s Catch, I hope this experience and the competition prize fund allows you to further develop what is a very successful family business."

As overall winner of the competition, Gerard will be offered a study trip to France, a cheque for €1,000, a set of professional knives and a specially designed trophy. Along with the other finalists he will also benefit from a free placement on BIM’s retail development workshop. As part of their prize, all of the finalists have already enjoyed an inspiring masterclass in seafood cookery with Martin Shanahan.

Fishing Boats at Killybegs Harbour in Donegal

Throughout the competition, the judges put all the finalists through their paces with three different stages of scoring. This included  two unannounced visits to their shops to assess product knowledge and customer service and a practical test where they were asked to fillet and prepare a range of fish and shellfish for customer use, under time constraints. 

Finalists were also required to discuss their plans, opportunities and challenges for their business. Throughout all the stages, the judges were very impressed with the knowledge, skills and commitment demonstrated by all the finalists. Well done Gerard!


The Irish Food Guide is...

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The Irish Food Guide Blog includes news, foodie chat, recipes, award results, links and other general information on the Food & Tourism Industry in Ireland.

It is written & curated by Zack Gallagher, Donegal Town, Co Donegal, Ireland.

“My Blog is a slice of the Irish Food ‘Network’. I’m a Chef with over 27 years experience and also have a background in media. I’m passionate about Irish Food Tourism and I believe that a rising tide really can lift all boats!”

Supporting Irish Food created by passionate producers and encouraging the Irish food & hospitality industry to use modern social media methods to increase their business.

Zack is building an all-Ireland Food Tourism network to assist Tour Operators bringing guests into Ireland to connect easily with artisan Irish food producers, so as they can experience the provenance and personality behind our Irish food.

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