New was, without question, the operative word this week.
There was new beer, with Oxman, a chocolatey, treacly brown ale, brewed in England using Irish oats, by those nomadic brewers from the Brown Paper Bag Project and launched, in both bottle and cask forms, in L. Mulligan Grocer’s on Wednesday; there was the new and beautifully shot quarterly food magazine, Feast, launched by Donal Skehan, celebrating seasonal foods and sensational producers; there was the stylish new video recipe series, Forkful TV, launched by Aoife McElwain of I Can Has Cook; there was a new perspective on an old drink (not to mention an awful lot of bottles) at a gathering organised by wine writers John Wilson and Raymond Blake to celebrate World Sherry Day; there was the announcement of the first tour by new enterprise, Irish Food Tours – set up by chefs Zack Gallagher and Wendy White Kavanagh – which will give participants a real taste of Kilkenny on the weekend of July 5th (details here) with visits to local food producers and cultural sights, and bookable now at what I reckon is a very reasonable all-in cost for meets, eats and sleeps.
A lot of newness to be going on with, then.
Most notably, from my point of view though, there were new potatoes.
Country Crest new season Irish potatoes
Specifically, I had new season Irish potatoes sent my way by Dublin-based produce suppliers, Country Crest. Given the god awful slowness of the growing season this year, I have to admit surprise at local new potatoes making an appearance in May at all, even with crops grown under glass, as these first-of-the-season spuds would have been.
So, what exactly does one do with a load of Turkish pepper?
I’ve been wondering about that for past few weeks, ever since my brother, who’d been travelling in the Turkish neck of the woods, brought me a collection of randomly chosen local spices, most of which turned out to be pepper of some kind. There were small, maroon-coloured chilli flakes called isot biber or urfa biber (and not one, but two packets thereof), bright red chilli flakes labelled pul kirmizi biber, and karabiber, which I took to be ground white pepper but which I now suspect is more black peppery.
Part of my newly-acquired Turkish pepper stash
I don’t know about you, but I probably ate as many childhood summer picnics sitting inside while it rained as sitting outside in the sunshine. Still, soon-to-be-soggy tomato sandwiches, tayto crisps, club orange and mikado biscuits were as much of a summer treat inside our holiday caravan as out. Eating in also meant you avoided the inevitable gobful of sand that accompanied a meal on the beach, which was a not unimportant consideration.
Fast forward an unspecified number of years and my picnics, when they happen, are more likely to consist of crusty bread, a nice block of cheese, ballymaloe relish and a more adult beverage. Throw in some potato salad, coleslaw and maybe a tossed salad or sorts and I’m more than happy. It’s simple food to which the warmth of the sun (when it’s there) always adds its own particular seasoning.
That’s not to say, however, that you can’t mix it up a little every now and then.
This month’s 5 star makeover asked us to do exactly that: take some classic picnic fare and give it a shiny new look. Armed with a stash of ingredients from my recent Lebanese travels, I thought that I would take the simple tossed salad of tomato, lettuce and onion on a journey to the Middle East. The result is a salad packed with Lebanese flavours. The preparation, though, is simple, which is a must for picnics in Ireland. Too much time spent getting ready and you might have to enjoy your picnic inside, again.