15th Oct 2005
At the Westin Hotel Dublin today Irelands top Chefs organisation, Euro-toques, honoured five people or companies who have made an outstanding contribution to the standard and quality of food available in Ireland today. The annual event is sponsored by Cavan Crystal Design and the Cavan Crystal Hotel.
Dr. Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House, founder of Euro-toques Ireland, introduced the event and explained why these awards are so important for Euro-toques; Chefs cannot produce great food without the best ingredients and for Euro-toques chefs the sourcing of top quality local produce is paramount. Through our annual food awards we wish to honour the producers we rely on so much and show our appreciation for their hard work and determination.
The five award recipients included two cheese makers; Silke Cropp of Corleggy Cheese, Belturbet, Co. Cavan, who produces Corleggy goats cheese and, notably, a raw milk cows cheese called Drumlin, and Agnes & Wolfgang Schliebitz of Knockalara Cheese, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford who produce a Mediterranean sheeps cheese. An award also went to Meath craft butcher Hugh Maquire, who was recognised for his fresh blood black pudding; a traditional product which is fast disappearing. The final producer to receive an award was Gold River Farm in Aughrim, Co. Wicklow; an organic farm which provides a tailored service for chefs, so that they can always have the best produce of the season. A final special lifetime contribution award went to food writer Honor Moore, for her writing over the past sixty years, which has encouraged a love for and pride in Irish food amongst chefs and public alike.
The standard and reputation of Irish cuisine has been steadily on the rise over recent years, and this is due in no small measure to the wonderful small producers we have in this country and to the chefs and food writers who have championed their cause, commented Euro-toques Commissioner-General Martin Dwyer who presented todays awards. There are huge obstacles facing small businesses, particularly food businesses, today and it extremely important for us to recognise those who continue the battle to ensure the availability of quality local produce, he continued.
Top chefs, food producers and food writers gathered for the champagne reception and award ceremony, where each recipient was presented with a specially commissioned inscribed Cavan Crystal vase. The ceremony was followed by a lunch prepared by Westin Executive Chef and Euro-toques member Darrin Parrish.
For further information please contact Ruth Hegarty on 01 6779995
INFORMATION FOR THE EDITOR
Euro-Toques was established in 1986 in Brussels as a guardian of European culinary heritage and as a lobby group addressing the concerns of Europes top chefs about food quality and the future of food. Euro-toques Ireland was founded by Myrtle Allen and now has 200 members including Darina Allen, Neven Maguire, Derry Clarke of LEcrivain and Guillaume LeBrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud
Corleggy Farmhouse Cheese
Corleggy Farmhouse is situated on the banks of the River Erne, between counties Cavan and Fermanagh. The cows and goats graze on neighbouring farms in a natural environment, where the fields are rich with herbs; Silke admits that her cheese making may be more labour intensive than mass produced cheese but feels the benefits are to be found in the tasting.
Silke Cropp began making Corleggy Cheese 20 years ago using the Milk from her herd of goats. After moving from Germany she found the attitude of the Irish towards goats cheese a shock- the thought of eating something made with goats milk was met with repulsion here, while in Germany it had been a staple of the diet. And so Silke was challenged to bring about change in the perception and to a large extent she believes attitudes have changed as increased affluence has led to greater education and wider travel. Although she admits also to employing a little deception in the early days by only informing cheese tasters of the goat origin after they had sampled and enjoyed the cheese! After about 10 years of making only Corleggy Silke decided to sell her goats thus affording her extra time- so she began to buy both cows and goats milk and started making Drumlin raw cows milk cheese. Silke continued to make cheese alongside her full time teaching job until 5 years ago when she gave up the day job to turn her full attention to the cheese.
Corleggy Cheese is produced daily in small batches, straight after milking and using the milk of just one dairy herd, which graze in the same lush meadows. Each batch of Corleggy Farmhouse cheese is highly individual, with lots of subtle flavours and the potential for maturity never reached by factory-produced cheeses. To mix milks from hundreds of herds, together with the over-sanitised processing, impacts the taste in a way that is detrimental to taste.
As one of only 8 farmhouse cheese makers in Ireland using raw cows milk, Silke is a member of by the Slowfood Presidia for Raw Cows Milk Cheese in Ireland and it is an issue that she feels for passionately; currently the use of the raw cows milk to make cheese is allowed and so she believes strongly that young cheese makers should be encouraged to do so thus hanging onto tradition and heritage. Silkes cheese range is such that one could have an interesting cheese board using her produce; it would include both goats cheeses; the unusual hard rind Corleggy and the soft quivvy preserved in oil as well as the many Drumlin flavours at various stages of maturity an approach which has been adopted by Euro-Toques member Gearoid Lynch, chef proprietor at The Olde Post Inn which was recently awarded best Restaurant in Ulster, Gearoids diners are offered a selection of only Silkes cheeses on the Irish Cheese Board.
Gold River Farm
Directors: Alan Pierce, Kathryn Pierce and Mark Winterbotham
Gold River Farm was established in 1998 as a vegetable farm and was awarded full organic status by the Organic Trust, in 2001. Over the years, the farm has grown from a small 2 acre production in 1998, to 30 acres in 2005, producing in excess of 20 varieties of vegetables, soft fruit and herbs. Currently, there are 7 full time staff employed.
Gold River Farm specialises in growing vegetables in season, supplying many leading hotels and restaurants on the east coast of Ireland, an area stretching from Aughrim to Dublin, including many Euro-Toques member restaurants such as Brooklodge, Chapter One and BANG Café. In addition to this, in 2005 Gold River launched a very successful weekly box, of in-season vegetables, available to the public through a number of retail outlets.
The Gold River motto is quality, consistency and value for money and they actively encourage Chefs to visit the farm on a regular basis to view the produce at its various growing stages. This allows the Chef to select their preferred choice of harvest size and quality. Many of the best known, busiest Dublin restaurants are Gold River converts, as one Euro-Toques chef explained that while he was initially sceptical and worried that there may not be continuity of supply with the organic produce, after 3 years of dealing with Gold River Farm the only word to describe the quality of service and produce is Superb. Earlier this year, the farm was awarded the Bridgestone Plaque of Best in Ireland by John and Sally McKenna, of the Bridgestone guide.
In order to cope with demand, it is anticipated that the farm expand to 60 acres of production, in 2006. Currently, 3000 sq metres of new polytunnels are being constructed for the production of protected crops.
Hugh Maguire is one of a new generation of leading young Irish butchers determined to maintain the traditional art of his craft despite the huge competition from big business. Hugh grew up in rural Meath and after attending St. Finians boarding school in Mullingar and having served a traditional apprenticeship he set up first shop when still in his twenties and has not looked back since. There is no secret to his success. His philosophy is simple, to provide the best locally sourced meat to locals therein supporting local producers of this meat and guaranteeing quality, traceability and value to his long established loyal customer base in county Meath. In addition to this, he seeks to maintain the traditionality of tried and tested for generations methods of butchery, despite having to be highly monitored by the health authorities and hence, the national and international success of his, famed fresh blood black pudding, a product fast disappearing in Ireland, due to increased stringent regulations. In Italy or France for example a craft product, like this black pudding would be fiercely protected by an industry appellation or a national authority. This product, among others like his own cured bacon and sausage varieties have won all that is to be attained in the world of competition butchery both here in Ireland and abroad. Both shops are adorned with his many achievements. Not one to rest on his many laurels he is currently starting to develop a charcuterie range. He has been a consistently leading member of the Association of Irish Craft Butchers competition teams and active association member. He is regularly asked to exhibit at shows in London and in Europe and has regular delegations from France and elsewhere to view his two shops in Navan and Ashbourne; Hugh runs both businesses with the help of his wife Caroline and his brother William, along with a dedicated team of international employees.
He awards his customers with regular Bord Bia assisted demonstration nights at local venues and special promotion days at the two outlets. His shops are also recognised in leading guidebooks like John McKennas and local guides like the Artisan Foods of Meath publication. He regularly receives local business awards from outside the realms of the meat industry. He has long been established as the leading craft butcher in Meath and amongst his peers one of the leading lights nationally as both a spokes person for his industry and as a guarantor for the future of the profession for the next generation. Earlier this year a Euro-Toques group visited Hughs butcher shop in Ashbourne where they were welcomed to view him making his famed black pudding; it was both interesting and rewarding as the group enjoyed the fresh black pudding at its best; hot after cooking.
Knockalara Farmhouse Cheese
Agnes and Wolfgang Schliebitz arrived in Ireland in 1989; they began making Knockalara sheeps milk cheese in 1990 and they have been expanding ever since. When they first arrived in Ireland it was thought that they were confusing the English word for goat with that of sheep, because at the time sheeps milk cheese was virtually unheard of here. They began however producing their cheese using the milk from their own herd of Freisland sheep. All cheeses are handmade using traditional methods, pasteurised milk and non GM ingredients.
The range of cheeses produces at Knockalara has grown over the years and now includes- first and foremost the unique sheeps milk Knockalara cheese which is Mediterranean in style; also Waterford Feta, a cows milk cheese available plain or dipped in herbs and a Hard Cheddar type cheese call Comeragh.
Over the years Knockalara Farmhouse Cheeses have been recognised for their high standards and quality and they have previously received awards at the British Cheese Awards and IFEX.
Knockalara is a marvellous cheese for chefs to use as it melts and toasts beautifully; it is also wonderful in salads.
Honor Moore started cooking in 1944 in an evacuee camp in the north of Ireland under a Gibraltarian chef.
He told her to give up all thoughts of becoming a chef. Thank the lord she didnt heed him. She has in fact made an excellent cook.
This doyenne of Irish Food journalists started writing articles on food for The Belfast Newsletter in 1946
That is nearly 60 years ago. She has also written for many years for the RTE guide. And worked for Womans Way until last year. Her writings on food have also appeared in The Farmers Journal and Irish Bride. She is presently working on a book about her life in food called A Cooks Tale
What is most obvious about Honour is that over the years while she has been helping bring the people of Ireland around to share her love of food and of cooking she has been demonstrating her own passion for food.
Today Ireland is able to hold its head up proudly among other nations
when it comes to its culinary reputation.
This is in no small way thanks to the slow and steady raising of consciousness that Honor and another small handful of food writers have established quietly over the last years.