What is traditional Irish food?
Potatoes or cabbage might spring to mind and while flavoured rapeseed oil and almond butter does not exactly roll of the tongue when considering typical Irish fare, these were a few of the products on offer at the Taste of Summer food festival in Belfast.
The sun was shining on Saturday, August 9 as local food and drink traders set up stalls in Saint Anne’s Square granting the public a rare opportunity to buy directly from producers.
Festival organiser and chef at Coppi restaurant, Tony O’Neill, was out on the Square conducting live cookery demonstrations and had hoped to create an open air market with a street food feel.
Tony said: “There is some fantastic produce available in this country and it is good to see all these local producers here today.”
Local traders showcasing their produce included Ewing’s Seafood, the Shankill Road fishmonger who has supplied fresh fish to local hotels and restaurants for 104-years, and Arcadia deli based on the Lisburn Road.
“Arcadia source the best local ingredients…”
Linda Allen from Arcadia has worked in the food industry for more than 40-years. Passionate about the goods she sells, Linda said Arcadia sources the best local ingredients and suppliers for their product range which includes Keen Almond butter, Belfast Relish, wheaten bread and a variety of Punjana speciality teas.
Linda said: “Different food products have always been around, but there is now a lot more variety and producers. People are really interested in food.”
David Thompson, the joint manager of Punjana, said the company has introduced a new range of speciality teas within the past 18-months and “people are now experimenting, more adventurous and less resistant to trying new things”.
Promoting her award winning range of flavoured Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil, Leona Kane explained how product development came about accidentally.
Leona said: “I ran out of olive oil one night while I was making dinner. My husband went down to the farm and brought up some unfiltered rapeseed oil. The taste was so much better than regular olive oil and it all started from there.”
The ingredients used to create the flavour infused rapeseed oils are produced on Broglasco Farm where the family live outside Limavady. The husband and wife team supply to restaurants and delis across Ireland and have recently won a contract with La Grande Epicerie de Paris; a Parisien department store similiar in stature and style to Harrods in London.
Coppi Restaurant had a quirky food van selling products from the restaurant including a range of homemade pastas and sauces.
Alan McBride who works at Coppi said the festival was a great way to show the public the range and variety of local food products available in Northern Ireland and thinks increased travel to different countries has made people think differently about food.
“We are travelling more which means we have greater exposure to other cuisines and when we come home want to be more creative in the kitchen”, Alan said.
With so many tempting goods available, purchases had to be made, and I bought a bake it at home wheaten bread and box set of infused rapeseed oils from the Arcadia stall.
The smell of sizzling meat from outside the Potted Hen Restaurant, one of many dotted around Saint Anne’s Square, left it impossible to resist one final indulgence; a Hen Dog consisting of Pork belly, sausage, hoisin sauce, mandarin orange and scallions.
The Summer Food Festival proved there is a real appetite in Northern Ireland for something different and as visitors relaxed, soaked up the sun and sampled the wide range of food and drink on offer, Tony O’Neill’s vision of bringing street food to Belfast had been achieved.