The Burren Ecotourism Food Fayre was a great success! Part of the Burren Winterage Festival last weekend in North Clare, the Food Fayre was an intimate gathering of local food enthusiasts promoting all that is unique and special about producing something very special in the Burren. Local businesses such as Fabiola’s Pattisserie, The Burren Smokehouse, St. Tola’s Cheese, Burren Free Range Pork, and Burren Food and Wine gave tastings. Local vendors who sell at the area’s numerous Farmers Markets, like Adva The Bread Lady with her sourdoughs and fabulous truffles, Cate Conway with her gluten free baking and Roshan Groves with her unique products sold their wares and some entered the masterchef competition. I was honored to be one of the judges, along with Sila Nic Chonaonaigh of TG4’s Garrai Glas and Sally McKenna of Bridgestone Guides. We were presented with 25 dishes to sample. After tasting the first few we realized we had some outstanding cooks and would create a few different categories of winners. Special commendation went to Cate Conway for her butternut Squash and Pumpkin Quiche made with a rice flour pastry. Roshan Groves won for her Red Epicure Broad Bean and Tomato Casserole. Roshan and her partner, Peter, grew all the ingredients in Fanore, including the chili peppers and lemons! Gemma Dowling’s Quince Jelly and a Blackberry Mousse with Hazelnut Macaroons and an Apple Brack also won. What made these dishes so special? Local, fresh, foraged and home grown products. It can all be done right here in the Burren, under the most challenging of weather conditions! The Burren Masterchef award went to Richard Morrison of Maurices Mills. A boned out Rack of Goat with Blackberry and Sloe Gin Jus and Braised Red Cabbage cooked to perfection. All of the ingredients were either reared, grown or foraged by Richard and his family or produced in Ireland. Ok, this is Vegetarian Ireland so I won’t get into the details of the goat and black pudding, but fair play to Richard for really understanding what local, homegrown, fresh and supporting your fellow producers is all about.
Why do we have such silly names for food? Snickerdoodles, hermits, flapjacks (in America they’re pancakes, in Ireland granola bars). Cookies are biscuits in Ireland, biscuits in America are well, biscuits! Serve ’em up with gravy, all buttery and warm. My cousin in Dingle has an old label on his pub wall from Pegs Leg, a favorite candy from the past. I’m always looking for new variations on old treats so I created one of my own – the Burren Stack. As I’m living and cooking in the Burren, I get a lot of inspiration from the organic gardens, the berries and herbs that grace the hedgerow, the goat farmers making their cheese. The Burren is a unique, diverse landscape in North Clare that is full of erratic rock formations left over from the Ice Age.
Well, I know it’s a stretch to go from the Ice Age to a variation on a Hermit, but why not! Here’s the recipe I use at Boghill for a nice sweet dessert which is gluten and dairy free. It will appear in Coming Home to Cook Part Two, or maybe I’ll come up with a crazy name for that too!
THE BURREN STACK
Preheat oven to 180c or 350f. Butter and flour a 10″ baking pan.
Cream 1 cup soy butter with 1 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs. Add 2 tsp. gf baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cloves, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg. Mix in 1/3 cup soy milk. Sift in 2 2/3 cups gf brown rice flour. Beat until well mixed. Add 2/3 cup raisins, 2/3 cup chopped walnuts, 2/3 cup chopped dairy free chocolate bits or chocolate chips.
Bake for 35 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack, remove from pan and eat immediately! Or, if you have willpower, it will keep well wrapped for a week.