Beer stix and ciabatta #tastetheisland
When you think of the great food destinations in the world, the obvious always spring to mind: France, Italy, San Sebastián. Ireland/N.Ireland? Not so much. And yet Northern Ireland was recently awarded Best Food Destination 2018, and rightly so!
I’ve always been a keen advocate of our local produce, probably steering more towards our seafood, artisan breweries and how we make tray bakes like no one else in the world. But since my Bake Off journey I’ve I have had my eyes open to a whole new world of local artisan food producers. With every new event attended or food festival I go to the more I learn and am forever amazed at the produce and the characters behind the creations that allow NI to stand on par as a world class food and drink destination.
This week saw the launch of ‘Taste the Island’ – a three year initiative developed in partnership between Tourism NI, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland that will host hundreds of events right across the Island to showcase the very best of food and drink that Ireland has to offer.
You will be aware that if you go away, or go on holiday one of the first questions people will ask is ‘and how was the food’? Taste the Island will “celebrate the quality, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship within our industry and offer a compelling programme of authentic food and drink experiences to motivate visitors to travel to NI”.
I recently spent 10 days in Slovenia and I’ve been asked numerous times ‘how was the food’? The seafood was great, the breads not so much but you know what they do SO well?...charcuterie boards! Cured meats everywhere: breakfast, lunch and dinner. And so many times the travel buddy and I said “I wish they did this at home”.
Well low and behold, as I went to the Taste the Island launch I got speaking to yer man from Broughgammon farm and don’t they use male kid goats and veal (that would’ve been slaughtered for no good use), and make Salami out of it. And then, at the Moira Speciality Food Fair the next day I got speaking to yer woman from ispíní and it turns out they have an actual range of charcuterie! Delirah. And who says NI can’t compete with the best?!
Take some ispíní chorizo, Bara Bake House ciabatta, Northcoast Smokehouse Rapeseed oil, an onion from the garden throw in some Greek yogurt and some feta (before Brexit happens and we can’t get out hands on it!) and you got yourself a darn good feed! Banged out in under 20 minutes too and you’ll feel right virtuous eating all this local food and creating a dish worthy of any restaurant!
If you’re partial to attending a few of the aforementioned events see below…otherwise get cooking (P.S. Links to all providers will be on my insta. Most of them deliver throughout so even if you’re not local there’s no reason not to sample!)
· Armagh Food and Cider Festival (19 – 22 September)
· Taste the Island at Culture Weekend, Cathedral Food Market, Belfast (20 – 21 September)
· Festival Lough Erne (21 - 22 September)
· Belfast Restaurant Week (23 – 29 September)
· River to Lough Festival, Antrim (28 September)
· Taste Causeway 2019 (4 – 27 October)
· Slow Food Festival, Derry/Londonderry (10 – 13 October)
· Derry International Halloween Festival (26 October – 1 November)
· Taste the Island at the Twilight Market, Belfast (12 – 13 November)
· Armagh Georgian Festival (28 – 30 November)
1 small artisan ciabatta loaf
5 beer stix (cider chorizo and chilli)
Tablespoon of smoked rapeseed oil
1 red onion
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of caster sugar
3 generous tablespoons of greek yogurt
100g feta cheese
Sprinkling of fresh parsley
1. Slice your onion finely and place in a small heavy based saucepan with the sugar and red wine vinegar. Bring to the boil and then continue to fry off the onions under a medium heat until they have caramelised. Set aside until required.
2. Cut 6 slices of ciabatta loaf (eat the crust with butter meanwhile to satisfy ones hunger pangs!). Heat a hot griddle pan until smoking hot, add the smoked rapeseed oil and toast the ciabatta for a few moments on each side until the bread has been nicely marked by the pan
3. Slice the chorizo into small pieces and place on top the browned ciabatta. Ensure the whole bread has been covered to ensure maximum flavour when eating! Place the bread under a medium grill and cook until the chorizo starts to release its juices and soften slightly. Take care not to catch the crusts of the bread and burn them at this stage. Travesty!
4. Meanwhile, put the Greek yogurt in a small bowl and crumble in the feta.
5. Take the bread from under the grill. Place the caramelised onion on top. Put small blobs of the yogurt and feta on top the onions.
6. Chop your parsley finely and sprinkle on top the breads.
7. Devour. Preferably with a glass of decent red wine.