It’s very easy to bypass or indeed forget about Sligo. The county that’s tucked just a bit too far up the touristy parts of the Wild Atlantic Way, can seem somewhat out of reach to those doing a whirlwind trip of Ireland.
But after experiencing the flavour of this great county, we’re dying to come back already.
The spread was laid out in front of us. Soup, dips, sauces, salads, sweet treats and more, it was a feast for the eyes. Saddened that it was my last day but enthusiastic about the new recipes I’d come away with, I was amazed at how fast the day flew.
Today my fellow Food School students and I were to do most of the work in the kitchen. We were the assemblers, the choppers, and the servers, working with the A Fair Land team to get everything out on time. It sounds like a lot of hard work but really, thanks to a large amount of prep done the day before, it was more like a smooth transition.
I dreamt about courgettes last night. They were marching, yes, marching, through the gates of IMMA and plonking themselves down on the courtyard with their bellies to the sky. It was so bizarre that I actually managed to wake myself up.
Ready for another day at Food School, this morning I headed in with courgettes firmly ingrained on the brain.
What’s lovely, though, is that despite this new obsession with courgettes, I feel like I’m connecting more with the team every day.
Day two at A Fair Land began in earnest. The courtyard has yet to fully transform due to technicalities but it’s a definite work-in-progress.
But first, let me talk a bit about the project’s creators: Grizedale Arts.
Based on the historic site of Lawson Park farm in the Lake District in the UK, their site still runs as a productive farm house, with a multifaceted programme of events, projects, residencies and community activity taking place there.
With an aim to develop contemporary art in new directions (especially with an emphasis on food, value for art and resourcefulness), they are trying to work beyond the Romantic and Individualist frameworks that have dominated art history.
What I loved hearing about was how they really wanted to involve the local community in their projects, something that I find some artists do not do or simply don’t think about.
For Grizedale Arts, it’s about bringing projects to a wider audience, concentrating on the process itself rather than the finished product. This to me is a brilliant approach to contemporary art.
The arts organisation worked with three main groups to make A Fair Land happen. The first group is from the Creative Villages of Leytron in Switzerland, that worked on the straw bale Glut Garden. Second, was Coniston that worked on the house building and signage and finally, Sweetwater Foundation from Chicago, a project that is building a new system for a new way of living.
So what was going on today? Well, it was all about serving up and creating food. Kitted out in rather fetching aprons we put together nibbles for mobile vendors who would be selling delightful crackers with courgette pickle and carrot drip.
But why grow courgettes? Why choose them over other vegetables? As proven by their innovations for this particular project: they’re so versatile.
Three core questions lie at the heart of the project: is it useful? Is it desirable? Is it achievable? They also needed to show that this was a product that people could easily use with simple resources.
What Grizedale Arts needed was a food that would easily create a glut so that they had mountains to work with. The fact that they’re continuing to grow in bales of straw is further proof at how manageable they are to grow and maintain as a vegetable.
With all this in mind, I happily continued work as part of the A Fair Land Food School team, prepping dishes for the public who were coming in for lunch.
Lunch is a three-course affair on communal tables to spark conversation between diners. Food is served at 1pm and there are 20 minutes between courses so whether you’re finished or not, after 20 minutes the food is going to go!
Diners use the same bowl for each course, spoons are made of clay or you can use chopsticks if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
Booked online, people arrive at IMMA, head to reception and get a cushion for their seat – this is the official ticket for the lunch and people without a cushion will be politely asked to leave or if they simply forgot to collect it, they may do so then.
Also in the courtyard where the meal’s taking place are the mobile vendors and craft makers that the public could partake in. It’s very much a DIY day out.
Brenda, Francesca and Niamh of the A Fair Land kitchen team brought us through the recipes during the day and were very patient with us.
Even though I wasn’t doing any major cooking and more prep, it still brought back my fond memories of Ballymaloe [link]. I have such a love for food and seeing the courgettes growing reminds me both of the three-month course and my home in Kerry with our very own fruit and veg in the garden.
Day three is tomorrow. Will I tire of courgettes? Who knows? But I know that they’re on the dinner table tonight!
For those interested in A Fair Land, you can find out more on the IMMA website here.
I was invited to be a guest at the Food School. This is a sponsored post.
“Truly Irish Country Foods is a farm based business established by pig producers throughout the island of Ireland with shareholders who are based in every county in Ireland. We supply exceptionally high quality pork for sale in the local and international market place. The Shareholder has full control of his product from farm to market”
“Our mission is to bring you the taste of ‘real’ Irish Pork and Bacon! To this end we produce tasty, succulent free-range pork and bacon which we deliver directly to your door. Our pigs are fed on a completely gmo-free and organic diet which ensures clean, healthy meat”
“Inagh free range pork comes from animals born, raised and allowed to mature at a natural pace on grass without hurrying the process. The pork retains all the old fashioned virtues of succulence, tenderness and full flavour, is sumptuous and delicious, and makes proper crackling. There is a little more fat than commercial pork – but that’s where the tenderness and succulence comes from. The pork from each breed has its own characteristic taste and texture”
As you can imagine, the conversation escalated quite quickly with evident passion and resulted in a heated discussion on pig welfare in Ireland.
Surely being out in their natural environment is a good thing? According to Shane, this isn’t the case:
Briefly touching on what organic and free range, actually mean and the types of feeds that animals get, it was an insight for me on what strong differences in opinion farmers and producers had on rearing animals.
All three farms invited me to visit their premises to find out more about how they reared their pigs – an offer which I think I’ll definitely take up in the future.
What do you think? What’s the ideal way to rear pigs in your opinion? Are there real benefits to free-range?
Let me know in the comment section below.
(Lead Image courtesy of Inagh Freerange Farm. Unfortunately for some reason my blog doesn’t allow me to properly embed tweets, so I’ve done my best to screengrab them and put them in the proper order. For information on Pigmeat Quality Assurance Scheme in Ireland from Bord Bia you can click here)
From bean to bar: if you’re used to eating Dairymilk all your life then this chocolate is a revelation. This small-batch chocolate is just so different to anything I’ve tasted that initially it took me a while to get used to it.
Using rare Trinitario cacao beans and raw cane sugar for their dark chocolate and Irish milk from grass-fed cows in their milk chocolate, what they create is such a mix of flavours that’s something more than just your regular block. Trust me, you’ll savour this stuff.
I was delighted to meet the extraordinary Mags Kirwan while I was working at the National Crafts and Design Fair this year and that was when I was introduced to her magnificent caviar.
Sitting on top of cracker, with a spread of cream cheese, these delightful, freshwater, salty balls of orange are dreamlike. Priced at €12.95 (plus shipping), they’re worth every cent and won’t disappoint.
Clodagh Davis’ Naturally Cordial is made from organic citrus fruits and Wexford soft fruit giving it a really great taste. I was lucky to spend time and chat with Clodagh when I was working at the Bite Food Festival.
Keeping it simple and pure, Clodagh uses minimum ingredients to maximise her cordials’ quality and at her recommendation I love combining the lemon and lime cordial with cloves and hot water. It’s like a hot whiskey! Priced at €5.99 from Ardkeen Quality Food Store, it’s something that will treat your tastebuds to a little bit of magic.
A year for gin in my books, this year I was invited to the launch of Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin – yes milk! The brainchild of proprietor Justin Green and Antony Jackson, this small batch gin is bursting with all sorts of flavours with a fragrant nose and spicy middle notes. The fruit-driven finish is perfect in making this gin a special one.
Distilled from cow’s whey from local dairy farmers, Bertha the cow was the world’s oldest and native of Sneem in Kerry. She passed away in 1993, having given birth to 39 calves! Here’s a fantastic recipe for gravlax flavoured with this Irish gin.
So it’s with great joy that I can tell you folks that I’ve been shortlisted out of hundreds for a Blog Award!
It was a real surprise because though this blog is over a year old, there have been times where I’m just too exhausted to write anything! I guess what I’m trying to say is: thank you for reading.
I know that some of the stuff I write about can be pretty niche (HELLO VIDEO GAMING WORLD), but I write about food and drink across all mediums because that’s what I’m mad about. I love that it’s an essential part of life.
Anyway – if you’d like to give me a little vote to possibly win this award, I’d be so grateful – you don’t have to of course – I’m just glad that I have readers!