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!

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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

Irish Quality Food & Drink Awards announce 2014 finalists!

I was delighted to have been invited to be a judge at this year’s IQFA Awards. I spent two days in Dublin with a range of really interesting people judging everything from Christmas puddings, mince pies, frozen desserts, ice cream, chocolates, gluten free sausages, bread, butter, spreads, cakes, cheeses and yogurts. Phew!! It was great! Such a range excellent of foods, so many wonderful producers and the quality was fantastic!
IQFA

And so, following a huge wave of entries and 8 days of tough judging, the shortlisted products for the Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards have been announced today. Check out the shortlisted producers here.

The 180 shortlisted food and drink products in 50 categories were whittled down from 606 entries and are now in with a chance to win one of the prestigious awards in a glittering ceremony hosted by TV Chef and author Catherine Fulvio on 11th September in the Round Room, Mansion House, Dublin.
IQFA Awards winners 2013

This year for the first time a panel of judges from Musgrave Retail Partners chose finalists for the Small Producer of the Year Award – designed to celebrate artisanal foods and drink in Ireland and sponsored by SuperValu. The winner will be offered a prestigious listing in SuperValu stores. Finalists are:

• Chicken Liver Paté with Garlic & Brandy – On The Pig’s Back c/o La Charcuterie Irlandaise Ltd
On teh pigs back

• Scotts Irish Cider – Big Hand Brewing Company Ltd
Big Hand Brewing

• Sweet BBQ Pulled Pork – Jack & Keith Molloy Bros. Ltd
Molloys

Organiser, Helen Lyons, is thrilled with the success of the awards so far and said the judging was a “fantastic 8 days which brought together some of the very best food and drink on sale in Ireland and many of the Nation’s top foodies”.

The Irish Quality Food Awards set out to recognise excellence in product development for food and drink producers, retailers and catering companies in Ireland only, with Q Awards being awarded across 50 different categories. The Overall Gold Q is awarded to the one product that stands out among all the other entries and is chosen from the winners of the main categories, representing the very best of the best.

The awards are open to all retailers, food producers, wholesalers and food service operators across Northern and Southern Ireland. They are a unique collaboration between Food and Hospitality Ireland and the UK Quality Food and Drink Awards (now in its 33rd year) and sponsored by top UK packaging manufacturer, Benson Group as well as Invest Northern Ireland and MLS Labelling & Printing Systems.

All excess food from the judging was given to The Capuchin Centre for Homeless People, which provides warm food each day and more than 1800 food hampers a week to vulnerable people in Dublin, and FareShare. Learn more about The Capuchin Centre for Homeless People www.capuchindaycentre.ie.

I love you Butter!

When I was about 17, the new trend was to try to cut down on eating saturated fat. Flora appeared on the market and even some of the most sensible people thought it best to start spreading it on their toast instead of butter. The only margarines available before then were Blueband and Stork (Stork! Imagine putting that on your toast, eeeuugh!). And so, the move away from butter commenced.

In our house, my mother went with that too, as per doctors’ advice. She tried everything to get me to eat Flora. Blind taste tests, disguised with jam, you name it, but I could detect butter a mile off. There is just no comparison. As far as I was concerned, and still am, its butter or nothing. In fact, if its not butter, then I’ll have dry toast, thank you very much. I will forego any spread unless its butter, and I’ve tried them all – fakeries, interlopers, chancers all. I was never convinced that polyunsaturated spreads could be good for you – they’re too processed. And as for the easy spreaders or low calorie spreads? Yuck! If you want it to spread easily, leave it out of the fridge for a bit (or see new innovation below!). If you want lower calories – eat less (rocket science, I know!).
TIME cover
Meanwhile, the market for spreads booms away – some people just have no taste! I was finally vindicated earlier this week when Time magazine published an article, reported also in the Irish Independent, debunking the bad rep that butter has been given over recent decades (they should have asked me!!!). What’s more, I heard Professor Eoin O’Brien, Professor of Molecular Pharmacology at The Conway Institute, University College Dublin on the Today Show with Sean O’Rourke a couple of weeks ago saying that its not as bad for your health as you might think.

How delighted was I last week then when as part of the Food Bloggers event for So Sligo Food Festival 2014, we were given a selection of Connacht Gold butters to try out. Such hardship!

So in the spirit of my days growing up in Barna, last night I carried out a blind taste test with my daughter Anna. (I should mention that Anna is very fond of cooking and food generally, not sure where she gets it!).
IMG_4001
IMG_4002

In fairness, Anna identified each of the four varieties without too much difficulty. But, and this is major, all of them were really buttery. I’ve an aversion to anything low fat, as it generally doesn’t taste as good as the real thing but the Low Fat butter (49% butter – can you call that Low Fat? I thought it has to be <3% fat to be legally Low Fat) tasted really good – no compromise there. The Spreadable Butter is excellent, truly.

I love simplicity in innovation and the Garlic and Herb butter meets that standard for me. When innovating anything, start by asking: What do people want thats not too fancy, but just a bit of hassle to do for themselves? Well, making garlic bread is one thing that people find a nuisance. Frozen garlic bread is big business but the standard out there is mediocre. Making your own is fiddly, mashing the garlic into the butter is messy, and then you need to chop the herbs really finely, if you’ve remembered to buy the herbs that is. So, this Garlic and Herb butter should go down a storm – spread it onto a white bread roll and pop it under the grill – simples! The Garlic and Herb flavours come through really well, not at all overpowering or strange tasting – we ate it spread on white bread and it was great!

Finally the real butter itself. Yes, the others are very good, and I’ll be happy to buy them, no problem. Connacht Gold’s Great Taste 2013 awards are very much deserved! But the real butter…that’s where its at. I’ll never leave you butter. I’m all yours!

Photos – Oonagh’s own or from Connacht Gold website and Irish Independent article

Raw Magic Mayan

It’s not easy when a chocolate company tweets one and ask if one will try out their products. Ok so, sez one, one supposes if one must….

The very nice people from Magic Mayan Chocolates in Kilfenora, Co.Clare sent me on some samples to try out. Now, I have to tell, you, the idea of raw chocolate didn’t really appeal to me at first. What’s that you say? what’s raw chocolate?

MMlogo

According to an article in the Ecologist (by Hannah Corr, 27th September 2011) the process for making chocolate is fairly simple: heat cacao beans, grind into a liqueur, add fat and sweeten. However, subtle alterations at any of these stages can result in wildly different chocolate bars. The fundamental difference between your commercial chocolate bar (such as Cadbury’s or Green & Blacks) and raw chocolate is this: the cacao in raw chocolate is never heated above 45°C, unlike commercial chocolate which is roasted at 130°C, meaning all the anti-oxidants, enzymes and nutrients remain intact.

So how does it taste? The first one I tried were the Tutti Frutti Pralines:

Magic Mayan pralines magic Mayan pralines 1The appearance of these is really good – I loved the mayan images imprinted into the chocolates. The only thing was that the white chocolate looked a bit like “bloom“, which it wasn’t (the food science bit – blooming is what happens to chocolate if its warmed and then cooled during storage, not good). And so to taste….yuummmyy!!…..lovely bite, the chocolate cracked (a sign of good quality), and the praline centres were smooth, flavoursome and truly delicious. I had happily decided to try these sitting on my own at the kitchen table (my laboratory, I mean, controlled conditions etc), so had no disturbances and better still didn’t have to share! The centres were creamy and were really fruity – cherries, mango, strawberry & raspberry along with vanilla, lime and liquorice – excellent natural flavours.  They reminded me of Belgian pralines which traditionally have soft centres.  What a great start.

And so to the Crazy Caramel Bar. I wasn’t so crazy about this I’m afraid.

Magic Mayan bar

It might have got a bit battered in the post, but I think the packaging doesn’t look great. I suppose they are going for the “eco” look, the paper is recycled – and it looks it!

Magic mayan bar openIt’s certainly an unusual and interesting looking bar – the caramel is laid in a layer on top of the chocolate, and again inlaid with mayan printing. However, the caramel layer detached from the chocolate when I broke the bar. I decided to bring this one with me to my class of Food & Business Management students in St. Angela’s College in Sligo (where I lecture in European Food Legislation by the way, exciting!!)  to see what they thought, and here’s the feedback: bitty, not creamy, biscuit like, gritty, not smooth, caramel separates from chocolate, texture of caramel too hard, flavour not bad, doesn’t melt in the mouth.

There’s a way to go in developing this bar further to increase the acceptability. The raw foodians may be happy with it but if you’re going to try to convert the mass population, then there is some work to be done. Raw chocolate may be high in nutrients, but it needs to taste good too.

The raw chocolate market is a niche one. As with any niche market, it takes even more hard work than usual to make sales, promote your product and convert people from the mainstream. I really admire the Magic Mayan chocolatiers – well done and keep it up!!

I’ll be buying the pralines if I see them in shops – hope to see them in Leitrim or Sligo soon!!