Those of you know me, know that I have a deep and longstanding affection for Ireland. So much so, that I’m often asked in Irish interviews if I have Irish family. It started when I went to Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork to undertake their very special 12-week Certificate Course, which I’d recommend highly. Since then, I’ve been welcomed back to Ireland with open arms at events, TV programmes and just on my holidays. It feels like coming home.
One of the things I love most about Ireland is the quality of the food. There is so much food, natural food available in Ireland, I always stock up when I’m visiting. And so I’m really keen to share 17 brilliant Irish food and drink producers who you should know about, and whom I hope some of you may be able to support by buying their excellent produce if at all possible. I’ve visited almost all of them personally and purchased and enjoyed their products many times. It’s a difficult time for us all, but I firmly believe that if we can spend our money with the small businesses we want to support right now, we will all end up in a better place when we are through this difficult period.
This beautiful hand rolled butter is simply some of the best farmhouse butter you’ll ever try. It’s made in Dromara, Co. Down by husband and wife team Allison and Will, who produce every roll by hand. They’ve won loads of awards and supply some of the best restaurants in the business. It’s available to buy online and in a number of retailers in Great Britain, too.
Ballymaloe Foods are hugely popular in Ireland, most famous for their absolutely delicious tomato relish, which is really worth trying if you haven’t already. Whilst tremendously successful, this is still a wonderful family business, based in East Cork, with all products made by hand in their unit at Little Island. They also produce a lovely range of dressings, vinaigrettes, meat glazes and pasta sauces, and sell through Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Ocado in G.B.
One of the finest butchers in ROI, run by the brilliantly inspiring Pat Whelan. Operating a small chain of butchers and counters across the Republic, James Whelan Butchers sell some of the highest quality meat and animal fats you’ll find. Their beef dripping won the Supreme Champion Award at the Great Taste Awards in 2015. They offer a good online delivery service, but for GB, the minimum order is £200 and 10 EURO delivery. Worth it to stock up the freezer.
Gubbeen has been operating near Schull, Co. Cork for over 30 years and is still run by the Ferguson family. They make superb cheeses, sold widely across Ireland and GB (they are always stocked at Neal’s Yard Dairy) and charcuterie.
Brendan and Kerry Sloan brew some fantastic beers near the Mourne Mountains, and also have a fantastic visitor centre for tastings in Castlewellan. They produce a really lovely range of beers in a wide range of styles. Try their special award-winning stout, Kreme de la Kremlin. Look out for their beers in bars, restaurants and supermarkets.
Quite simply, the most delicious rapeseed oil I’ve ever tried. This is really special stuff, cold pressed in Limavady in Co. Londonderry. It’s so delicious, and comes in a range of flavours. It’s also the oil sold in Liberty, as part of their food range. Widely sold online and in supermarkets.
This apple-based syrup is an incredibly delicious organic Irish apple syrup. Made in Kilkenny, it’s a wonderful, rich syrup that has so many uses in sweet and savoury cooking. I use it with fruit and yoghurt, or pancakes, but the uses are endless. Its flavour is wonderfully balanced and incredibly moreish.
Arun Kapil is a fellow Ballymaloe graduate who produces a wide range of delicious top-quality spice blends and Indian sauces. Based in Midleton, Co. Cork, they sell widely in supermarkets in the UK and across Ireland as well as online sales on their website.
Bakers of delicious biscuits, this Waterford-based producer of biscuits and confectionery is worth keeping an eye out for. Their beautifully packaged products make attractive and delicious gifts, and they are sold widely in the UK and Ireland.
One of my very, very favourite cheeses. This washed rind soft cheese is made on the Beara peninsula in South West Ireland. I was lucky enough to visit this amazing spot a few years ago, and see the delicious cheese being made. It is the longest established Irish farmhouse cheese, and is widely available across Ireland and in great cheesemongers in the UK.
St Tola Irish goat’s cheese is just so good. They produce a range of cheeses, including a crottin and a variety of logs. My favourite is the ashed log.
Again, widely available in Ireland and further afield.
This traditional stone mill in Co. Cork. Produces the mose delicious oatmeal and course flour I’ve ever had. It’s quite hard to get hold of, but SUCH a treat. I cannot leave Ireland without a stash.
This dried seaweed is so brilliant, and fills me with happy memories of Ireland and my time at Ballymaloe. Carageen moss pudding is just so delicious and a completely essential feature on the legendary Ballymaloe sweet trolley. It’s widely sold in shops and online and is super light to bring back in a suitcase.
The Hannan family are legendary meat producers in Northern Ireland, and their Meat Merchant shop in Moira is a popular destination for visitors looking to stock up the freezer. They’re best known for their Glenarm beef, and also their pork and lamb products – many of which are aged in their amazing Himalayan salt chamber. You’ll find their meat on top restaurant menus across the UK and Ireland, and you can buy meat either direct or from Fortnum & Mason.
This family-run small-scale pig farm and charcuterie producer near Limavady produces some seriously sensational charcuterie, which is available to buy in NI and online with free delivery. I love the chorizo and the fennel salami. Alastair Crown is one of the nicest men you’ll meet and he offers a delicious-sounding hog roast service for parties in NI.
This multi-award winning butter made from the very special PGI Armagh bramley apples is absolutely delicious and a very useful ingredient with many sweet and savoury uses. It lasts well and is available in a number of stockists in the UK (mainly in northern England and Scotland), as well as widely across Ireland.
Made on the Clandeboye Estate in NI, this yoghurt is seriously delicious, so do look out for it. There are lots of great Irish yoghurt producers you should know about, too. Glenilen and Glenisk sell their yoghurt very widely. Killowen produce a lovely blackcurrant yoghurt I love, too.