NI Year of Food & Drink, Celebrating Heritage and Tradition

  1. I attended a cookery demonstration by Head Chef of James St. South, David  Gillmore, at the James St. South Cookery School today. This was to celebrate NI Year of Food and Drink Heritage and Tradition month.

The wonderful MC Michelle introduced Will Abernethy of Abernethy Butter. Will gave us a demo and history of the butter production. It’s all made by hand using local cream from Dreynes farm and salt (there is a smoked and dulce butter) and churned, before salt added,then shaped and packed into 125g rolls. It takes approximately 350ml cream to make 125g of butter to which roughly 1.5g salt added.

The butter is sold to the likes of The Fat Duck (Heston Blumenthal), The Berkeley (Marcus Wareing) and The Salty Dog here in Bangor. Also it is sold in Fortnum & Mason. Will and Allison really have a great young Northern Irish brand.

Lindsay Skinner from Punjana Tea then gave us a run down of how Robert Thompson started The Thompson Teas in 1896. It is now run by third generation Thompsons (Ross and David). The Punjana brand was born in 1956 (tea bags first started in 1955) and the rest is history.

The teas used are from Kenya and Assam in India and drank all round the UK. In 2014 their teas won 20 Gold Stars at the Great Taste Awards. Lindsay was telling us how they are bringing in new flavours and they looked and smelled amazing.

Next up was Jason from Carnebrooke Meats, who started company with Ben in 2011. Jason has a background in farming and butchery and has worked in Australia and Argentina. Their USP is excellent customer care and a unique Antrim Salt wall which allows them to salt cure their beef. All their meat (beef,lamb,pork, chicken,duck and deer) is Irish and they supply the Michelin Starred restaurants Ox and Deanes group in Belfast.

Head Chef David then made stout wheaten served warm with smoked or salted Abernethy butter and seafood Fricasse. It was real quick and easy to make and delicious (I had the smoked butter). The wheaten was light and fluffy- something to do with the Whitewater stout!!!

Our last presentation was from Bernard Sloan of Whitewater Brewery in Kilkeel. Bernard is a 3rd generation potato farmer who started off as an engineer, then cheese maker in Somerset before turning his hand at brewing in Manchester and Nigeria, before coming home to start micro brewing. Now Whitewater supplies 10 brews to small, medium and large customers and have to move to a larger premises in Castlewellan later this year.

These few enterprises young and old, small and big are great Ambassadors for NI food and drink. Their awards and accolades won is a testament to their passion and vision and I have no doubt they will fly the flag high do Northern Ireland. As a parting gift we received a goodie bag containing sirloin steak, Abernethy fudge, a bottle of Maggies Leap beer and Punjana tea.

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