Archive for the ‘All things food’ Category

And yes, there is ‘trouble’ with labels.

There are the ‘labels’ we attach to certain people, and there are the labels on our food. Here comes my rant about the food labels.

Do you read your food labels?

There are so many terms that are abused here in Ireland.  What’s it like where you are?

We use the word ‘artisan’ for so many things, and I’m sure most people have never even looked the word up in a dictionary.  Here’s the definition from the Oxford dictionary : Artisan (n) – skilled manual worker or craftsman.  So can a large factory-type set up, employing 100 people plus, running production lines, be producing an ‘artisan’ food product?  I guess you could say that the machines are being run by skilled workers, but is it not an abuse of the word?

Freerange hens, pigs and dog :)

Freerange hens, pigs and dog :)

Then there is ‘organic’.   Now this is much clearer – or is it?

I’ve often asked people what their perception of ‘organic’ is, and often times they are just so wrong.  While there are strict guidelines with regard to feeding and caring of the animals…. organic does not necessarily mean ‘free-range’.  Depending on the breed of animal, they can be raised indoors, but must spend some part of their life outdoors.  However, not necessarily all of their lives.

Some will say, that in winter it is better for the animal to be indoors.  Let me tell you, in the case of pigs, they are damned clever, and will not go outside if it is freezing, wet and cold.  Would you?  Especially if you’ve got a silly human who will bring you food!

Anyone who has read my post about the process and procedures we had to go through to receive the QMark for our free-range pork will be aware of the hoops that were jumped.  You will also be aware that we are completely and utterly anti-gmo’s in this house.

And here’s a very scary fact ….. if you go to the co-op to buy your animal feed, it is labelled as containing gmo.  However, although that feed has been fed to an animal whose meat will end up in the food chain, there is no legislative requirement to label the human food as containing gmo.

After months of negotiations for the Q Mark, here’s what was agreed as the free-range definition:

Free range farmed:  a type of animal husbandry where pigs have free access to fields/woodland with defined boundaries for all or most of their natural life.  They receive their nutritional needs from prepared natural feed or from pasture or forage depending on the season.

And, again, while there are producers out there that are termed ‘free-range’ and then spoil it all by feeding gmo contaminated feed.  You need to check what they are feeding their animals.  Well, if you care you will.

Another thing, some producers say their animals are free-range.  They perhaps allow some of their animals access to the outdoors – just to portray the right picture.  However, the majority are locked up in sheds.

And the biggest offender of all????

The word ‘natural‘.  You’ve got to watch this video…. it may be a little exaggerated, but then again maybe it is not.

So my warning to you all folks?   If you really care what you feed yourself and your family, check what the animals are being fed.

Do you know how your Christmas turkey has been raised?

Do you know what the pig that died to provide you with that Christmas ham was fed?

Do you care about how these animals lived their lives?

Ask the questions, folks.  Ask can you come see where they live, what they are fed?

Go shake the hand of the farmer and find the answers to the questions.


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We’ve just had another rather busy week here in Redwood with more family visitors.  On Wednesday night last we had an extra seven guests for dinner!

It was time for some quick thinking….  main course was fine… I trotted out a couple of my quick and easy sausage recipes…. both went down a treat by the way.

I had no time to go baking, or conjure up a dessert, so I opted for a starter.  This particular starter has had a couple of different permutations in the past few weeks, as we’ve had tons of pears, but we’ve decided this is our favourite combination.

It is so so so very nice we might even have it again this evening.

Pear and Blue Cheese

Pear and Blue Cheese

Recipe (for 2)

  • 2 pears – peeled and sliced
  • 1 or 2 oz. of Gorgonzola cheese
  • A couple of walnuts chopped/broken into pieces
  • A drizzle of Balsamic vinegar.

Arrange first three ingredients on plate, and at last minute, just before serving, drizzle on your Balsamic vinegar.


  1. Omit the walnuts and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves instead.
  2. Subsitute goat’s cheese for the Gorgonzola – with this combination I lightly grilled the cheese (partially, as it was too cold, straight from the fridge).

Let us know if you try any of the combinations…. or even invent your own!

PS:  sorry the photograph isn’t great…. we’re back to winter indoor lighting :(

Enjoy :)


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If you follow our Twitter or Facebook pages, you’ll have seen some obscure references to a ‘secret’ earlier in the summer.  Well here is the big reveal!

Earlier this year Lidl (a German supermarket) and RTE (our national TV station) launched Taste of Success.  They sent out the call across the country for budding entrepreneurs to come up with a product that would fit into the mix of products already available in Lidl stores.

There was a magnificent prize available – €100,000, which includes marketing support, product royalties, a cash prize and the chance to see your product featured and sold on the shelves of 141 Lidl stores across Ireland.

Without any hesitation Alfie decided to enter his free-range pork burger into the competition.  There were hundreds of entries, and Alfie’s pork burger was chosen to go through to the Munster finals.

Alfie travelled to Cork in June to be interviewed by the Munster Regional Mentor, Martin Shanahan of Fishy Fishy.  He was only given 24 hours notice of the interview, so there was no time to prep some burgers and bring them as requested to ‘taste’.  Despite not being able to bring a sample of his product to the interview Alfie got through to the next stage.

Two days later on a scorching hot day at the Cork Summer Fair, the 8 finalists from Munster cooked and presented their products to the professional judges – Paul Flynn, Lidl Ambassador and of The Tannery, Dungarvan

; and Martin Shanahan, Fishy Fishy, Kinsale.  Then it was time for a select group of the public to vote, and make their judgements as to which four products they thought were good enough to go through to the next round.

The tension while waiting for the announcement for the four finalists was palpable.  The products were diverse and interesting, and all finalists had put their heart and soul into the competition.

RTE Interview

RTE Interview

As this was all being filmed for a TV series there were many, many takes…. and lots and lots of hanging around.  A couple of minutes of TV takes a horrendous amount of time to film!

The good news for North Tipperary is that Alfie’s free-range pork burger was one of the four finalists to go through to the next round.

We had the TV crew here for a morning during the summer too…. filming Alfie in his ‘natural’ environment.  I was perfectly happy to be the behind the camera person/catering manager that day.

The show is aired on RTE1 at 8.30 pm on Tuesday evenings, so far we’ve had the Leinster and Connacht finals.  We’ve been amazed at how many people we’ve actually known who entered.  Tonight it is the turn of the Dublin’s finalists.   Alfie’s first show will be on Tuesday 11th November.  If you’re quick-eyed you might spot Alfie on the promotional advert.

Did he get through the next round?  Sure, that would spoil the surprise… you’ll just have to watch and see.

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I don’t think we’ve ever had such a good crop of blackberries around here.  I love blackberries…. my favourite of all fruits.

I like blackberries anyway at all…. jam, jelly, crumble, cake…. anyway at all.

So I’ve been indulging lots.

Here’s such a quick and easy crumble that I made a few times recently when we had AirBnB guests… they loved it.  One guest loved it so much he requested to have another portion for breakfast!  Of course, we allowed him have dessert for breakfast… he was on holidays after all :)  And, with the inclusion of coconut oil and porridge…. sure, it’s got to be healthy, right?


Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Apple & Blackberry Crumble


  • 2 or 3 cooking apples – or more depending on the size of your apples and your dish.
  • a couple of handfuls of blackberries.
  • Sugar to taste
  • 100 g. flour
  • 50 g. butter
  • 50 g. Coconut oil
  • 100 g. Porridge oatflakes.


Grease a dish with some butter (I used my Quiche dish).  Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Mix your butter and coconut oil into the flour…. the coconut oil takes a little longer to rub in than butter.  Mix until you have no ‘gritty’ bits left.  Add in your porridge.

Peel and slice your cooking apples, filling your dish right up to the top.  Sprinkle on your blackberries, and some sugar.  Then spoon your prepared mixture on top.

Bake in oven for about 25 minutes.

Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Serve warm with ice-cream, custard or cream…. and make sure to save some for breakfast the next day :)



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Food tourism – what constitutes food tourism?

Wiki describes it thus : Culinary tourism or food tourism is experiencing the food of the country, region or area, and is now considered a vital component of the tourism experience.[2] Dining out is common among tourists and “food is believed to rank alongside climateaccommodation, and scenery” in importance to tourists.[2]  Wikipeadia

The World Food Travel Association describes ‘food tourism’ as : “The pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both far and near.”    It also describes a ‘food traveller’ as someone who goes to a different neighbourhood to experience food of a different ethnicity.  I guess that means we are food travellers when we go shopping in the Asian market?

Does Ireland have a food tourism side to it?

These are questions we were asked to consider when we took part in workshops with Failte Ireland and Blue Sail.  Together with around forty producers, accommodation providers and others involved in the food industry, we had brain-storming sessions about what is ‘food tourism’.

It was an exciting and interesting exercise, as we discussed Ireland’s food provenance, what is local, what we ourselves expect when travelling, and what we look for in food when travelling?

If you take it on a very personal level…. what makes a holiday for you?  Is it the weather?  Is it the accommodation?  Is it the food?

Failte Ireland have been conducting research and have come up with 6 different ‘tourist’ categories – 3 international and 3 domestic tourist segments.

International market segments:

  • Culturally Curious – over 45 – food is very important to them – specialities, provenance, special places, good service, knowledgeable staff.
  • Social Energisers – young couples/adults – 20s/early 30s – casual eating but good food, fashionable, buzzy places, something different from home.
  • Great Escapers – young couples around 30 – authentic restaurants and pubs with good local food; flexible options – picnics and takeaway.

Domestic segments:

  • Connected Families – 25 – 44 age group – no specific mentions of food.
  • Footloose Socialisers – groups of friends, independent and confident – again no specific food requirements.
  • Indulgent Romantics – all ages but typically 25 – 34 or 55 – 64 – interested and knowledgeable about food and wine.

One of the exercises we were asked to carry out was to recommend in our locality a ‘romantic’ destination…. well folks, it is amazing, but the results were as diverse as people are.  A weekend in a hotel with a spa and beauty treatments would just not cut it for me as a ‘romantic’ break, but that’s what some folks want.  A ‘romantic’ break to me would be somewhere away from the ‘real’ world, where you can chill, sit about and read a book without being disturbed, go for long walks, and, of course, enjoy really good food (preferably seafood!) and maybe, a glass or two of wine.

We were also asked to consider where we would recommend people should go to people watch?  Any thoughts?  I chose a supermarket queue.  I always go off into daydream mode in the supermarket queue – wondering ‘why’ are people buying this, that, and the other.  I’m always shocked at how much processed food goes into shopping trolleys – but that’s another story.

And I guess the biggest question of all….. how would we describe Ireland’s food?  Again the answers were as mixed as the group…… how would you describe Irish food to a complete stranger?

Here’s the result of our brain-storming…. a great video produced by Failte Ireland.


And a funny aside to this story… we laughed so much when we saw the video… there right smack bang in the middle of it, is our friend, Daili :)



Since we started doing AirBnB we have found that without exception regardless of the nationality of those who have stayed here, the conversation invariable turns to ‘food’ and its ‘provenance’.  From our little vignette into the world of travel it would seem that people are getting more and more worried about where their food is coming from, and how their food is being treated be it in the pre-planting stage of seeds, or how food(meat) is grown.

It would seem like-minded people are drawn to each other.  People come to this green island of ours, as they perceive it as ‘green’ in every sense of the world.  They are blown away by the ‘green-ness’ of the countryside, the cattle and sheep grazing in the fields, the freshness of the fish, and the variety of ‘home’ produced food.  We are lucky to live in this country of ours with its natural larder.

We need to hold on tight to that image.






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I know I’ve told you all a million times about how I can’t do wheat.  The most restrictive thing about being wheat intolerant is the lack of breakfast cereals.

I kid you not.  Take a look at the list of ingredients on any breakfast cereal pack….. they all list wheat in there somewhere, except for porridge.

I hate porridge.  I hate it so much.  It is not even the flavour, it is the texture.  I remember being practically force-fed it as a child.  Totally yuck.

However, the totally weird thing about me, is that I’ll actually eat oat flakes ‘raw’ as in a muesli or granola…. but not cooked.

I’ve often made muesli here but after a while it gets a bit boring, so lately I decided to revisit the whole ‘granola’ concept.  When I was a kid we did not have granola.  I think I first heard of it when I went to the States, and yet, now it is everywhere.  Again, however, you have to search for a ‘wheat free’ version.

Oldfarm Granola

Oldfarm Granola

The solution for me is to make my own.  I’ve been experimenting, and I think I’ve cracked it with this recipe.

This amount lasts me a couple of weeks but I wouldn’t necessarily eat it every day. It is also really nice to just ‘snack’ on whenever you pass the jar, so it just may not last quite as long as you think.

Obviously, you can substitute whatever seeds you like – this is just the mix that works for me.


  • 140 g organic oat flakes
  • 25 g linseed
  • 20 g sunflower seeds
  • 10 g flax seeds
  • 10 g sesame seeds
  • 50 g dried fruit of your preference – I’ve used mango, apple, sultanas.
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil – melted.
  • 40 g runny honey – I used our own which is so delicious


Preheat your oven to 150 deg C/300F/Gas 2.

Mix all your dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Melt your coconut oil and mix in the honey.

Add the oil and honey to your dry ingredients.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment.  Spread your mixture onto the tray.

Bake for about 23 minutes.  Allow to cool.

Store in a jar until you are ready to use.

As you can see you can vary this as much as you like by adding toasted almonds, coconut, pumpkin seeds… whatever takes your fancy.

Let me know if you try it.  :)

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We’ve had a busy July of AirBnB visitors here at Oldfarm which has been wonderful and fun.  Some have asked me to share some of our recipes with them.

So here’s the first sharing – this one is for Lauren.

When Lauren and Josh stayed with us the hens were on a bit of a ‘go slow’ so I had to think up a dessert that did not involve eggs.  I hadn’t made this posset in years…. I think the original recipe came from an old book of my Mum’s.

Lemon Posset

Lemon Posset


  • 450 ml cream
  • 125 gr. caster sugar
  • 1.5 lemons juiced.


Bring the cream and caster sugar slowly to the boil, stirring gently until sugar dissolves.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the lemon juice.

Allow to cool slightly before pouring into glasses.  Leave to set in the fridge for a few hours.

A great ‘make ahead’ dessert, and really refreshing.  This quantity made 5 portions in the glasses I was using.

Enjoy :)



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