Post filled under : locally sourced
If you were to grow cranberries where would you start? Cranberry production has been largely aligned with American and Canadian growers over the years but as ingenious as us Irish always are we have found a unique way to bring one of our favorite festive fruits home to roost.
The bog is an unlikely place for anything to be grow let alone be farmed. It’s damp, unforgiving land has lent itself mostly to peat cutting, the odd poitin still and little else down through the centuries.
However in 2008 following a pilot project by Bord na Mona on a bog in Offaly, Ciara Morris decided that her dream was to cultivate cranberries in Ireland.
The ground and conditions in the bog proved to be favourable, and Ciara established Slievebloom Farmhouse, the only cranberry farm in Ireland. Over the last 5 years the berries have gone from strength to strength, and can now be found in some of the top kitchens in the country.
Supporting these small businesses is what Ireland is all about. At Kai we always recognise what small growers are doing, and welcome them into the kitchen. New or old products, the range and diversity is constantly increasing.
Ciara built her business from the ground up, literally. In doing so she branched out into developing other products and Slieve Bloom Farmhouse Foods have since received several accolades at the Great Taste Awards for their Cranberry and Mulled Wine Sauce, Lemon De Vine Marmalade, Spiced Marmalade and Lavender Marmalade.
It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of bog. These stories inspire us to do what we do and we hope that they will inspire you too.
Keep an eye out in the shops for these cranberries. They’re local, and they’re delish!
The Source of Achill island Sea Salt
“We started with pots and buckets”, said Marjorie O’Malley when I asked her how her business got started.
It sounds like a typical tale from one of our country’s wonderful cottage industries, but this is exactly how this wonderful business is still being run today.
What inspires a family on Achill Island to start a business producing sea salt? A good documentary, a book, a spot of googling, and heap of enthusiasm during a typical Irish winter – wonderful!
When Kieran and Marjorie’s interest in sea salt was sparked from a BBC documentary they looked out their window unto the wild Atlantic seashore and thought, ‘sure why don’t we try that here’.
As it turned out the idea was not novel to the area, as the couple discovered there was a salt factory in operation on the island in the 1820’s . Although its history has been lost down through the years, the couple have located maps that cleary mark out that a substantial salt business was once in operation on the island.
Living right on the coast the O’Malley’s were quick getting to work researching methods for sea salt production, and in no time were hauling buckets of sea water up the road and into their family kitchen.
Late nights boiling, drying and burning pots taught them how the whole process worked, and eventually to producing their first batches.
It quickly became a realisation that people may be interested in buying the locally produced salt. It didn’t take long for word to get out about the salt makers on the island, and in turn orders started coming in from local restaurants and shops.
Only making their first sales in June, Achill Sea Salt is already well on its way to success with demand increasing on a weekly basis. With a little help the island based company is planning to expand its weekly output to allow it to supply more businesses.
While Marjorie tells us that it all kind of happened by chance, it’s clear to see why the demand was so sudden. This is a completely natural Irish product, produced in a traditional manner on a small scale. This is what people want to support today, and this is where quality comes from.
While the company is not ready for a full-scale industrial setup just yet, the increase in business is enough to justify taking the operation out of the kitchen.
The future is very bright for Achill Sea Salt. We love their product; it’s local, natural, and made with love. This is how we cook at Kai, and suppliers like these are what allow us together to bring quality and flavor to our customers each and every day.
If you’re interested in getting your hands on some of their product drop in and ask us. It’s currently available in a small number of shops, but the greater the demand the greater the supply. So let’s help this island family get to every artisan store in the country
With Anne Marie Carroll
The last outpost of civilisation before you reach Salthill, when Kai opened, it opened with a bang and very quickly achieved a cult following. It suffered not a jot from teething problems, it was a fully formed concept practically from the word go. Kai was unpretentious and fun with flower and seed strewn salads piled on boards, big Ortiz tuna tins filled with bread, and the sun spilling through the skylight even on the dullest of days illuminating the lunchtime altar of cakes. Everyone’s favourite Kiwi chef Jess Murphy brings her own brand of kitchen voodoo and you know you are a regular when you grow to understand husband and partner-in-crime David Murphy’s accent at front of house.
Aside from the best brunch in town every Sunday, it is always well worth the extra trek and the couple of extra euro for the short, seasonal, lunch menu. Six or seven options that always showcase the best the west coast has to offer, from potted crab to gurnard fish finger sandwiches on Kai’s own foccacia, I have yet to be disappointed. Dinner is an equally short and ever changing menu with about five ‘beginnings’, ‘middles’, and ‘ends’.
I was last there for the cookbook club, held about once a month. This is a book club crossed with a supper club, where Jess and her team cook recipes from one book. Past books have included Ottolenghi’s book Plenty and Denis Cotter’s famous vegetarian cookbook Cafe Paradiso. The chosen book last month was What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davis. A great book, filled with lovely recipes and amazing photographs, it was one I had been promising myself. Originally a native of Dublin, now based in Australia, Katie Quinn Davis is a graphic designer turned food blogger and works as a freelance commercial photographer specialising in food.
I joined up with charming company, my new BFF, Jennie Browne from Goodness Cakes and reigning social media queen of Galway. We also had the wonderful Seamus Sheridan from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers and Peter Boland from Cases Warehouses at our table. Both were there to talk about the importance of local suppliers and supporting cottage industry, and also to introduce some wines and cheeses to the assembled diners. The dishes selected from the book came thick and fast from the kitchen, the best value three courses for €35 I have ever encountered.
Among the starter dishes were patatas bravas — spicy potatoes with crispy ham and wobbly eggs baked in enamel tins and served family-style to the table along with a red cabbage and fennel slaw, lightly dressed with a creamy, lemony, herbed yoghurt and studded with blood orange, goat’s cheese, and toasted pecans. There were jugs of lemon cordial with a hint of mint as well as the excellent wines. A creamy orecchiette pasta dish served in a pecorino sauce with scattered peas and pine nuts with pretty roasted vine tomatoes balanced on top and a generous bowl of wings and roasted limes to squeeze over.
For the second course Jess had chosen a lovely Panzanella with a punchy balsamic dressing and a fregola salad (a grain like giant couscous) with bacon and preserved lemons. A crunchy leek topped fish pie landed on the table alongside a ‘retro’ beef curry topped with caramelised bananas, piles of popadoms, and jars of relish, the dishes kept coming until there was barely room to set down your glass.
Dessert was a piquant rhubarb and hazelnut tart paired with an initially strange tasting strawberry, basil, and black pepper ice-cream, that grew on you eventually.
Alas that was the last cookbook club before the summer season kicks off, but the good news is that Kai is now opening seven days a week for your dining pleasure. Remember it seats just 45 so make sure you reserve a table, especially at weekends. The cookbook club will return after the summer, and I for one shall be keeping a beady eye on Kai’s Facebook page, so that I do not miss out on what is one of the best evenings out Galway has to offer. Totally Toto Africa.
sually in our blogs we cover seasonal food, food suppliers, recipes and mostly food based articles. This week however, seeing as the weather has already driven most of us to the drink already we would like to tell you a little bit about one of the smashing beers we stock in the restaurant.
If you are a regular to Kai Cafe and Restaurant you will know that the Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese is one of our favourites and appears quite regularly on the menu.
In order to support local suppliers, and in the continuing quest to find the best local ethical produce we love to serve Bluebell Falls.
The unique goats cheese is produced on the Keane family farm in County Clare, where goats are fed indoors on fresh grass which is cut once a day. The same grass is given to the animals in the morning and again in the evening.
After the goats have eaten they are free to roam outside in the sun(when we have it), and at the first sight of rain, they are all back under cover again.
Fresh grass makes up 85 per cent of the goats’ diet and the remainder is made up of barley, oats and wheat. The high quality flavour of the milk comes from the wide variety of grasses that they eat.
The cheese is produced every day with the goats milked twice daily.
Milk from the evening is stored overnight at 4 degrees and mixed with the following morning’s milk to make a range of quality cheeses.
Milk is not sourced from any outside farms allowing all the cheese to be completely produced on the farm.
Because the Keanes love what they do, and do it so well, we are able to get the best highest quality product delivered direct from the farm to the restaurant in small batches so we always have an excellent cheese to offer you guys.
If your interested in getting some cheese visit their website for a list of shops that stock the amazing cheese, or you can buy online. http://www.bluebellfalls.ie/index.php?ID=5