Dreaming of Italian Gelato!

It’s definitely getting colder these past few days, and now that the clocks have gone back, it’s darker in the evenings. A far cry from sitting outdoors overlooking Lake Como, eating gelato at 10pm as we did this past Summer. I’ve neglected to bring you the fruits of my gelato research tour of Lombardy. Mea culpa (that’s Latin, I know, but it’s close enough!).

We toured around Lombardy, sampling the delight of Lago Iseo, Lago di Garda (again!) and Lago di Como. One thing that we noticed was that they have moved away from using spatula for icecream in a lot of places, which was not well received by our reviewers! Scoops do not cut it!

Italian gelato dates back to the 16th century. Most stories give the credit to Bernardo Buontalenti, a native of Florence, Italy, who delighted the court of Catherina de Medici with his creation. Italians almost certainly introduced gelato to the rest of Europe, with Sicilian born Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli being one of the most influential individuals in the history of gelato – he was one of the first to sell it to the public.

My daughter had heard of Ice N’Roll, a new phenomenon from Thailand apparently, and we watched with interest! Icecream is poured onto a freezing surface and then rolled up with a blade to form icecream roses! Here’s a great video of it in action.

Apart from the wonderful ice cream you get in Italy, there are several artisan producers all over the island of Ireland, such as Tipperary Organic (www.tipperaryorganic.ie) or Baldwin’s (www.baldwinsicecream.com), Linnalla Farmhouse Icecream (www.linnallaicecream.ie) and Fabio’s Italian Ice Cream in Sligo – this is the real deal! There are queues out the door of Fabio’s year round!

In Northern Ireland, Glastry Farm (www.glastryfarm.com) and Morelli’s (www.morellisices.com) are well-known and there is a lovely wee farmhouse ice cream parlour in Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh, called Tickety-Moo.

If you ever thought about trying your hand this yourself, I’ve a whole chapter dedicated to the art of ice cream making my book Money for Jam!

 

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2nd Edition of Money for Jam is in the shops!

My new book, Money For Jam – the Essential Guide to Starting Your Own Small Food Business (2nd Edition) was published by Oaktree Press on September 15th and I’m just a little but excited about it (very!!).

So what’s new? The EU labelling legislation all changed over the past two years, so the new book takes account of all those changes including the Allergens information for both packaged and non-packed foods.
I’ve also included information for would-be food producers in Northern Ireland and Scotland too, and there are lots of resources and links to information. The new book has been revised and expanded and it includes new case studies and details on emerging food trends in an easy to read format. If I may say so myself, it is the perfect addition to your book collection or would make a great gift for the aspiring foodie!

Don’t take my word for it though, I’ve got lots of lovely testimonials, including:

This is a great one stop resource for anyone thinking of starting up a food business in Ireland. Full of practical advice, useful contact details and interesting case studies, it’s an investment well spent!
Aisling Flanagan, Velvet Cloud

Oonagh is an incredibly driven person who helped to point me in the right direction for my business projects and helped me believe in my products and the potential they had. Her passion, her straight talking manner and can-do attitude are just a few of her many positive attributes.
Michael Crowe – Connacht Pale Ale

Oonagh’s breadth of knowledge in all aspects of food production is impressive. What she doesn’t know you could write on the back of a stamp, but she’d know where to find that information. Her energy and enthusiasm for providing knowledge to the semi initiated is huge.
Tony McLoughlin – food startup client

I have been working with food producers for over 18 years now, helping them to start up and grow their businesses and I have assisted over 200 food business start-ups ranging from fudge, sausages, bread and cakes to beer and cream liquors, as well as working with many established and developing food businesses, some of whom feature as case studies in the new book. I love their drive and passion as much as I hope you enjoy my book. You can buy it from bookshops or online. Details of where to find it can be found here.

I hope you enjoy it – please get in touch to let me know what you think, thank you!

Top Tips for starting your own small food business

I’m currently working on the 2nd Edition of my book, Money for Jam – the essential guide to starting your own small food business. It was published in September 2013, and since then, legislation has changed in relation to food labelling, or Food Information for Consumers (FIC) as its known in the trade! So, I thought this might be a good time just to share my top tips for starting out, just to keep you happy until my new book is published that is!

The header image (taken by @annaclarequinn) features a few jam producers I’ve come across – Daisy’s Pantry from Co.Louth, a Blas na hEireann winner; BoPeep Jams from Drumshanbo. Co.Leitrim, relaunched recently and a favourite of many childhoods of the past; Bramble Lodge Foods fro Co.Sligo; Erin Grove from Fermanagh (I love love love this unusual flavour!!) and Murson Farm, also from Sligo.


(1) Do your research – check out the competition! Is anyone else doing what you’re thinking about doing? If so, are they doing it well? Can you do it better? Look at their packaging, prices, where they’re selling, portion size, labels, branding.

(2) Try to fill a gap – make something that isn’t already available locally. While it’s very easy to start baking at home, the market might be saturated with cupcakes in your area. Shop keepers are always looking for something different that will sell.

(3) Work out your costs – how much does it cost you in ingredients and time to make it (and don’t forget to pay yourself!). This will help you to work out how much you can charge for it:

A Cost to produce (raw materials & packaging)
B Cost of processing / baking / preparation
C Cost of transport
D Cost of selling (market fees, store charges)
E Staff costs – starting with your own required income!
F TOTAL
G Sales value
PROFIT (G-F)

(4) Ensure that your kitchen can handle your new food business – ask your local authority / Environmental Health Officer to call and take a look. Most home kitchens are fine for low risk foods like baked goods, bread, jams, vegetarian, but NOT ok for meat, fish, dairy, prepared salads, sandwiches. You might have to extend or move to a suitable premises.

(5) Get Advice – from mentors, advisors, networks, Local Enterprise Offices and others – ask everyone for help, there’s plenty of it out there so you don’t have to shoulder all the burden! Check out www.supportingsmes.ie for potential funding supports.

(6) Leave the Branding / logos until you have your recipes sorted out. People love this part, but sometimes jump ahead to it too soon! Branding is no quick job, it takes consideration. Check out this handy guide.

(7) Labelling is really important – there are very particular legal requirements for labels which you must follow including Allergen declaration, weight, nutrition information, ingredients and so on. make sure you do this properly before you print labels or order packaging. Mistakes can be costly!

(8) Packaging will help protect your food as well as simply presenting it for sale. packaging might also determine the target market – no matter how good the food is, if the packaging is cheap and shoddy looking, it won’t sell to high end consumers.

(10) JUST DO IT – Once you make your first sale – you’re in business!

The photos below feature some producers from Mayo & Roscommon who took part in the Bord Bia / SuperValu Food Academy programme in 2016/17, one day this could be you!

Bread is good for you – it’s official!

I’m very happy to report good news for lovers of white bread like me! A report carried out by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA), commissioned by the Irish Bread Bakers Association (IBBA) has today announced the findings relating to the consumption of white and wholemeal bread in Ireland.

white-sliced-pan

Happy days – break out the toaster! Personally, I feel totally vindicated now. I’ve always said there’s nothing at all wrong with a slice of white bread. If you stuff a sandwich with lots of fillings, that’s where any fat in the sandwich can come from, but you’re not getting much fat at all, if any, from the bread itself. Wraps, by the way, have more calories that sliced bread, just saying!

The report states that bread contributes 20% to our fibre intake, 9% to our protein intake, while white bread only contributes 1% to our daily fat and sugar intake. Interestingly the study found a direct correlation between those preschool children that ate bread and increased growth and development within that preschool group.

The report, which was a follow on report to one published in 2008, says that 57% of the population eat white bread and 72% eat wholemeal bread. The report also shows that a higher percentage of males (61%) compared to females (52%) consumed bread and males over 65 consumed the highest mean daily intake of bread compared to all other groups (1.3 slices).

Speaking at the launch of the report today, Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Dr. Mary McCreery said: “It’s quite fitting ahead of the annual National Bread Week , that we’re seeing the negative comments about bread made by so called “experts”, being challenged by scientific evidence that proves the contrary. Put simply – it’s OK to eat white bread – in fact white bread can contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. It’s an affordable, nutritious food, that has been consumed for thousands of years. It is low in fat, low in sugar and is a good source of carbohydrates, vitamins, calcium, iron, protein, fibre, and folic acid. There are so many untruths about bread in Ireland that are totally unfounded.”

So enjoy your sliced pan – batch is my favourite, toasted under the grill on one side like my Granny used to do. Delicious!

Sligo Food Trail goodies!

The Sligo Food Trail was officially launched on April 6th. I was delighted to work with Amanda McCloat, Head of Home Economic at St. Angela’s College in Sligo, and the Food Trail members in putting together the fantastic Goodie Bags that were distributed to key people on the launch night.

The producers and businesses showed typical generosity when it came to donations. The bags were packed full of delicious treats (both food & drink!), vouchers, books and, of course, copies of the Food Trail brochure:

The White Hag Brewing Company Ltd.
Café Fleur
Sweet Beat Cafè
WB’s Coffee House and Deli Bar
Shells Café and Little Shop
Beltra Country Market – Marguerite Quinlan
Fabio’s Homemade Italian Ice Cream
Prannie Rhatigan’s Irish Seaweed Kitchen
Clo’s Chocolate
Murson Farm
Seashore Veg
The Organic Centre
Aisling’s Home Cooked Food also to be found at the Grass Roof Café!
Bramble Lodge Foods
Eala Bhán / Trá Bán
Lyons Cafè
Pudding Row
Harrisons Gastro Bar & Restaurant
Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa

Some of these I’ve reviewed previously here on oonagheats.com or on the oonagheats.com Facebook fan page (Eala Bhan, Sweet Beat, Shells, Lyons Cafe, Radisson Blu, Aisling’s Home Cooked Food at the Grass Roof Café) but over the coming months, I plan to check them all out, painstakingly, one by one (poor me, LOL !) and give you the low down – watch this space!

High Protein yogurt? Why bother? Wyldsson snacks on the other hand…!

If you want to make a Nutrition claim for you food, then you need to be sure that it meets the standards that the legislation says it must. For example, something that’s Low Fat must have less than 3% fat, that’s 3g/100g. To be a Source of fibre, the food must contain at least 3g of fibre per 100g or at least 1.5g of fibre per 100kcal, and a High fibre Product must contain at least 6g of fibre per 100g or at least 3g of fibre per 100kcal – start looking more closely at your Nutrition labels and see if they meet the criteria!

For a High Protein claim, at least 20% of the energy value of the food should be provided by protein. This one is more difficult for the consumer to check, as you have to do a bit of calculation, and even then its not clear.

Glenisk Authentic Strained Greek Style yogurt says "High Protein" on the label. The Nutrition panel indicates only 8.3g of protein though / 100g, thats only 8.3%, not 20%. Oops!! or is it? The label says that the Energy value is 66kcal/100g, so 20% of this is 13.2kcal. As a consumer you can't know if this 13.2 came from the 8.3g of protein thats in there. We just have to believe them! I'm assuming that then yogurt has been fortified with protein powder, since the product is made from skim milk which contains only about 3.6g protein/100ml milk, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I’ve fired off an email to the FSAI and will let you know what they say -keep an eye on oonagheats.com on Facebook for updates!

UPDATE! Glenisk very kindly confirmed since this post was originally posted that (1) NO protein powder is used and (2) the energy provided by protein in these yogurts is actually at 50% ! Pretty good!!

Glenisk strained protein rhubarb

Anyway regardless of all that, how did it taste? Not bad, although the texture was a little odd I thought. Its semi-set, somewhere between a set yogurt and a mousse, but nice all the same. Good rhubarb flavour. I got some vouchers for a free sample of this yogurt, but would I buy it again? No, I don’t think so. Will stick to Glenisk low fat range – I absolutely LOVE them, especially the vanilla.

I was also sent some samples of Wyldsson products, which I admit I’d never heard of before. Now these I really liked! They might be aimed at elite sports people, or so the testimonials indicate (i.e., not me!), I’d definitely buy these. Loved the packaging – handy, refillable tubes for eating on the go, or foil punches (here’s a photo from their website). Really good balance of nuts, dried fruit and even a little chocolate – excellent all round. This is a young Irish company, based in Dublin headed up by Dave McGeady – go Dave! You can buy Wyldsson from the website or Facebook page.

Glenisk & Wyldsson

The Draft House Gastro Pub opens in Strandhill using local suppliers

Its lovely when an invitation pops up in your InBox with an invitation to the opening night of a new Gastro Pub! So it was back on May 15th last when owner Daniel McGarrigle (he of 5th on Teeling fame) invited friends and neighbours to sample the craft beer and food of this new venue, The Draft House in Strandhill, Co.Sligo.

 Draft House logo

We were treated to a wide range and many samples of the foods and beers on the menu. While some of the branding might be a bit twee (a pig on a surfboard, really?) and some menu descriptions a little silly (Sand Witches – I know its by the beach in Strandhill, but still… Granny’s brown bread – who is Granny? Why not just say local or house…? Chicken Supreme, for bird lovers – hardly! and the Water was labelled as “Unicorn Tears”, give me a break) the food was undoubtedly very good.

The one quibble I had was that when I asked the F&B Manager if the bread was made on the premises, she answered “Yes! It was made fresh yesterday”. Yesterday. That explained why it was a little dry then. However, I have recently learned that a local baker (My Strandhill Bakery) will be supplying the bread imminently, and I know that will be great since the baker has recently returned from bakery training in Paris and spent 3 weeks at the Bakery Academy of Ireland in Dublin over the Summer…and I’ve tried it.

My Strandhill Bakery logo

Its far better to buy local, fresh every day, rather than serve day old bread made on the premises.

On foot of a very enjoyable launch night, I returned with the children a week later. The place was very busy, which is a good sign. However, everywhere we sat seemed to be right underneath a speaker which was playing music just a bit too loud for a family at lunch time. So we left.

Not to be put off, we all returned again a week later. The food was great, but the service really needed attention. Very uneven. Asked for glasses that came wet. Then came dirty. Then came with attitude. The salad special said “mixed baby leaves” – it was all spinach. Perhaps things will improve with time and I will try it again in the future, but not in a hurry. Good food is always a draw, but poor service puts me right off, especially when other nearby places can do both well.

Good Luck to Daniel and Team – its great to see new place opening with a real emphasis on food and atmosphere. The menu is really interesting and the decor certainly different (albeit a bit dark downstairs for daytime). Just be sure to train your staff really well and ensure standards are set, monitored and maintained. Next time I’ll have a go on the swing upstairs!