Budding chefs urged to go wild in the Burren

Budding chefs urged to go wild in the Burren

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Jason Horner, organic vegetable farmer from Crusheen (Leen Organics) and Gerry Sweeney, Newquay fisherman and owner of Burren Seafoods. Photograph Yvonne Vaughan.
Jason Horner, organic vegetable farmer from Crusheen (Leen Organics) and Gerry Sweeney, Newquay fisherman and owner of Burren Seafoods. Photograph Yvonne Vaughan.

Budding chefs with a taste for the wild are being encouraged to take part in the second annual Burren Masterchef Cookery Competition.

Hosted by the Burren Ecotourism Network and supported by the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark, the competition invites participants to create a dish comprising home-grown ingredients and wild and foraged foods from around the Burren.

The competition takes place as part of the third annual Burren Food Fayre in Lisdoonvarna on Sunday, October 26th, featuring a comprehensive, free programme of food demonstrations and talks hosted by food writers, producers, nutritionists and restaurants from throughout the Burren and further afield.

The judging panel for the Burren Masterchef Cookery Competition includes Willie McCurdy (Belfast Chef and UK Masterchef regional finalist), Valerie O’Connor (Cook and Food Writer, Photographer and Author of ‘Bread on the Table’) and Chef John Sheedy (Sheedy’s Hotel, Lisdoonvarna).

From Hawthorn Berries to Seaweed the Burren contains plenty of natural ingredients for a variety of tasty dishes, according to the competition organisers.

“Last year’s Burren Masterchef Cookery Competition attracted a number of exceptionally talented amateur cooks who put their culinary skills and knowledge of foraged foods to the test,” explained Tina O’Dwyer, Sustainable Tourism Co-ordinator for the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark.

Ms. O’Dwyer continued: “The Burren Masterchef Cookery Competition and the Burren Food Fayre form part of our ongoing efforts to encourage local suppliers and restaurateurs to maximise the use of local ingredients in all prepared food.  In recent years, the Burren has witnessed the emergence of many award-winning chef-led restaurants and high quality artisan food producers, as well as an increase in practising market gardeners and growers.

First prize in the adult section of the competition is a half-day cookery course for two at the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School, courtesy of Darina Allen. The winner of the junior section will receive the prize of a half-day foraging walk and cooking demonstration at the Lahinch-based Wild Kitchen.

Oonagh O’Dwyer of the Wild Kitchen said: “We have about 8000 edible plants available to us globally and most of us eat only a tiny fraction of these.  Consequently, we often have a nutritional deficit, a taste deficit and a nature deficit, hence wild foods. This year after the beautiful summer the hedgerows and fields are heavy with nutritious free wild food, giving people an ideal opportunity to prepare a natural meal.”

The 2014 Burren Food Fayre opens at 12.30pm on Sunday, October 26th with tastings of local produce being provided at the array of food stalls inside The Pavilion in Lisdoonvarna.

The cookery demonstrations get underway at 1pm when Mathew Strefford (Head chef of Moy House Hotel, Lahinch) cooks a tasty meal using local goat’s meat and home-grown vegetables. Valerie O’Connor (Cook and Food Writer) will demonstrate simple ways to cook Boxty at 2pm and Linn Thorstensson (nutritional therapist) will “cook meals to keep your immunity strong during winter” at 3pm. Meanwhile, Cearbh Fhinnghusa will demonstrate how herbal drinks as alternatives to coffee and tea can be created using locally gathered wild herbs, flowers and seaweed.

As for talks and tastings, Cathleen Connole of Burren Fine Wine and Foods in Ballyvaughan will host “An Introduction To Fine Wine” at 1.45pm before Martina Sweeney of Burren Sea Foods in Newquay presents a talk on ‘ How to keep your Seafood fresh’ at 2.45pm.

From 1.30pm to 2.30pm, Wild Kitchen’s Oonagh O’Dwyer will host a foraging walk, sponsored by Lisdoonvarna Community Council, before hosting a workshop from 3-5pm in which she demonstrates how to turn foraged ingredients into edible dishes.

The Fayre concludes at 5.00pm with the announcement of the ‘Taste of the Fayre Award’ and the ‘Most Attractive Stall Award’, voted by the public.

There will also be a raffle at 4.45pm featuring a first prize of Afternoon Tea for four at Father Ted’s Parochial House, courtesy of the building’s owners Cheryl and Patrick McCormack, and a Hamper of locally produced goods for a second prize.

The 2014 Burren Food Fayre takes place from 12.30pm to 5.00pm on Sunday, October 26th. Visit www.burren.ie for more.

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