Tag Archives: Irish Food

Postcards from Midleton Farmers Market, Co Cork

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The Market Green sculpture. 5 life-size sheep surround a central pillar.

The Farmers Market in Midleton County Cork was one of the first of its kind in Ireland and ranks as one of Ireland’s best. Back  in 2000, cook of international renown Darina Allen of nearby Ballymaloe Cookery School, had the idea to showcase local good food, and so the market came about.

All stall holders produce their food locally, most of it is organic. It is always fresh and looks very tempting! Artisan bread, cakes, jams, chutney, goats cheese, mushrooms, fresh fish, vegetables of every kind, pickles, fruit, smoked fish, chocolate, coffee, milk, pork, eggs. All first-rate products and worlds apart from supermarket fare. Open on a Saturday morning up to 1 pm, it is usually very busy and there is a great atmosphere here with friends chatting, background music and playing children.

This morning was particularly blustery with a promise of a downpour any minute, so crowds had not yet arrived when I was there.

It is well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area, and quite different to many other markets in Ireland. It’s a very unique experience and a must for anyone interested in good fresh local food. 

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Filed under Ireland, Living in Ireland

Balls of Flour – the joy of new potatoes

It has been a long, long wait!  The awful cold and wet spring weather has held everything up. Finally, after a few false starts,  I have enjoyed the first ‘balls of flour’ of 2013.The term ‘balls of flour ‘will mean nothing to anyone who has not been born and bred in Ireland.  It refers of course to the eagerly awaited early crop of new potatoes . Potatoes! To many people outside of Ireland  the very word conjures up images of Famine. The reality is that when the new potatoes arrive each year , it is in fact a fabulous feast!

My own earliest encounter with the expression was way, way back in the mists of time.  My father rented a small field each year for the sole purpose of growing potatoes. In early days it was a number of drills in a big field in Drumnamona,outside Carrigart, but the plot I remember best was in Tirlaughan, beside an abandoned stone house, up on a hill. The plot was small and my memory is of it being  warm and sunny. Early  in the year seed potatoes were put into boxes to develop eyes. On Good Friday each year, sprouted seed potatoes were inspected, and if they had ‘eyes’ they were good to plant. Big ones were cut in half.

Sprouted Seed Potato. Image WikiMedia Commons

Sprouted Seed Potato. Image Wikimedia Commons

They were planted in drills – backbreaking work for youngish children – and later they were ‘earthed up’ to exclude all light. On the morning of  June 29th, (the Feast of St Peter & Paul, and coincidentally, also the  annual sports day in Cranford)  we went off with my father, carrying  the grape (a two-pronged fork) and a bucket. The grape was plunged deep into the black earth  under the leafy green plant, and the first new spuds came up – with many of various sizes attached to the roots of each plant, eliciting ‘oohs ‘ and ‘aahs’ from all of us as the earth was shaken off and the potatoes fell to the ground.

Drills of potatoes. Image Wikimedia Commons

Drills of potatoes. Image Wikimedia Commons

They were inspected, tested to see if the thin skin would just ‘rub off’, placed in the bucket and off we went with our treasure .  In  a couple of hours, (in these days dinner  was the mid day meal) they were on a huge plate in the middle of the table, ready to be devoured. If they were declared to be ‘balls of flour’ it was the ultimate accolade and a promise of a great meal to follow.

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Great Balls of Flour!

With almost the same intensity as we think of them at Christmas, our emigrants are uppermost in our thoughts at this time. Wherever they are, whether it be USA, Australia, Canada, the UK or Europe, or any place else – chances are, they are missing the balls of flour at this time of year. The Irish taste for dry floury potatoes is not shared by others, whose preference is for waxy varieties. I recall being unable to eat the potatoes in England when I first went to live there, as the texture was so unappealing to me. Similarly in Australia last year, the offering of a so-called potato was underwhelming!

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A dish of Queens

For a few weeks we will enjoy this beautiful early crop, steamed ( not boiled) , skins removed and served with a knob of butter and a grind of black pepper.  Heaven!

Royal Feast - Skins removed, with a knob of butter  on top

Royal Feast – Skins removed, with a knob of butter on top. A dinner fit for Queens.

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August 13, 2013 · 12:39 pm