Eat Your Country!

Well not literally……  On Friday we decided to visit the Taste Northern Ireland food festival, it was hosted by Tesco, but hats off to them, they didn’t turn it into a huge Tesco PR machine. It was a showcase of brands, suppliers, producers and artisans, yes, they are all on sale or in the future will be on sale in Tesco stores, but that was were their involvement ended.  The event was totally focused on the local businesses and their products.

The array of wonderful food and drink on display was terrific.  Our girls ate from the front doors to the back doors, their two little mouths never stopped munching.  Everything from delicious Soda Farls to Coleraine Cheddar Cheese and Armagh apple juice – I sampled the Armagh Cider!  Soda Farls for those who don’t know are a bread product, not the same as soda bread recipes that you see.  They are a triangular bread about 5-6 cms deep, made with buttermilk and absolutely gorgeous, cut in half through the middle (like a scone) toasted and smothered in butter and jam.  I will do a post with a Soda Farl recipe and some pictures for you.  It is bread that is almost exclusive to the Island of Ireland.  I actually have friends in England who get me to post it to them!  Our fabulous Tayto brand crisps are in such demand by expats and holiday makers alike, that Tayto now ship them internationally from their website.  Now there’s some well-heeled potato crisps!

There were cheeses, yoghurt, preserves, chocolate and fudge, beautiful fresh vegetables and some of the most amazing sausages I’ve ever tasted, from The Good Little Company, who have a “buy one, give one free” motto.  What this means, is that for every pack you buy, they will give a staple meal to someone in the developing world for a week.  On top of that they will also donate another meal to anyone who follows them on Twitter or becomes a fan on FacebookThese are probably the most ethical sausages I’ve ever eaten, they have thought of all the little details, from their packaging, to what actually goes into their sausages and their desire to truly make a difference in the developing world.  I for one am very glad to have discovered this gem of a company.

I am a little ashamed to say that there were a few big brands there, that I hadn’t even realised were Northern Ireland producers.  I generally do read packaging labels in supermarkets as I am interested where my food comes from.  I try were possible to always buy British, Irish or in particular a Northern Ireland product.  I am a very firm believer in supporting local producers.  I want my meat to come from a few miles down the road, not Argentina – no offence to Argentina, I’m sure they produce very good meat.  However, it is unnecessary for a supermarket in the UK to import meat from thousands of miles away, when there is superb quality meat on their doorstep.  Northern Ireland pork, for example is award-winning and some of the best in the world.

My label reading however, does tend to centre mainly on meat, fruit, vegetables, fish and dairy and I am guilty of forgetting about all the other foodstuffs on sale.  If Friday taught me anything, it is to look at the packaging for everything.  A quick glance at the back will tell me where in the world the product came from and I can hopefully increase the amount of local produce that I purchase and thereby support a farmer, artisan or manufacturer in my own country.

If you get the opportunity to visit a food festival in your area, I highly recommend that you do.  Not only is it a great day out, with loads of gorgeous food and drink to sample and buy at great offer prices.  You may, like me, come away surprised an enlightened about the wonderful food that you didn’t realise was produced on your doorstep.


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