A Marlay menu from Meath to Macedonia
As the rapid rise of the artisan food producer continues, our local markets have been booming post-recession
The growth of small artisan businesses continues apace, with many testing the water at local markets. One very successful market is at Marlay Park in Rathfarnham, on Saturdays and Sundays, run by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council's Co Co Markets, who also run the market at the People's Park in Dun Laoghaire on Sundays.
Both locations draw huge, regular crowds who come to stock up on their favourite produce. Jackie Spillane is the Market Manager at Marlay Park, which is set in the stable yard of the 18th-century Marlay House, within a 247-acre park, which also has a par-3 golf course, a model railway, running- and walking-trails, tennis courts, football pitches and a cricket ground. Here I met not only Irish food producers, but traders originally from Macedonia, Slovakia, Morocco, Poland, and Lithuania, offering opportunities to try their country's foods.
We were greeted, as we entered the market, by two lots of wonderful breadmakers. One In The Oven had the delightful Rike baking super breads and delicious tartlets in the oven of their food truck, while across the way, The Baking House had focaccia topped with tomato and goats cheese, which had you wanting to grab it and devour it there and then! Lovin Catering, from Francis Street, had grated potato rostis with toppings like bacon, tomato and cheddar cheese, as well as duck or chicken and ham pies.
Pero and Kire are bringing a taste of their homeland to Ireland, through their MID (Macedonians in Dublin) company, with a range of Pelagonia jams, chutneys and dips, such as wild green fig, pumpkin, roasted red pepper and beetroot. "The recipes are very traditional, the sort of thing our grannies make at the end of the season and store them for the winter." They told me the Pelagonia range is sold in Yotam Ottolenghi shops in the UK. midfood.ie
The delightful Margaret Bourke of Kilmullen Farm in Co. Wicklow, was in the corporate world until 2013, when she was made redundant. "I said to my sheep farmer husband, 'let's take this a bit bigger, rather than me going back to get a 'grown up' job. Let me take it to the market'. We had about 20 lambs, now we sell about 300 this way. We don't sell any more to the factory. It's a beautiful product and, once you try it, like dating a good man, you don't really want to go back! We sell our 100pc pasture-fed lamb directly from the farm from August to December. Half boxes are €90 and full boxes €170. In Marlay, I sell various cuts for people who don't necessarily want a box. I do half-racks, butterflied legs, full legs, and so on. It's vacuum-packed from the farm, where we have our own cutting room, and you can order online. Jamie Oliver used our lamb at the Taste of Dublin 2012, and that really was a game-changer."
Api's Chocolate is based in Portlaoise. The business is named after Api Olah, a very competent 15-year-old young man, who told me his parents came to Ireland 12 years ago, his mother being from Slovakia and his father from Hungary.
"We started the business five years ago when my parents lost their jobs. We decided to do something we liked and chocolate was the thing. It's a handmade chocolate without any chemicals, preservatives or pesticides." The salted chocolate, chilli chocolate and rum and raisin flavours are very popular.
Jurijs Sujetins from Latvia has been in Ireland for a number of years, but just started his business at the end May. The Barn sells a huge range of dried fruits, seeds, nuts and so on. "I used to work for Google," he said. "I just liked the idea. I went travelling to Australia and similar businesses were quite successful there, so I thought it would be great to bring something like that to Ireland."
Rosaleen Coates of Rosaleen's Kitchen is based in Westmeath, and has a certified gluten-free bakery. "I lost my job about six years ago and I was also diagnosed coeliac shortly afterward. I always enjoyed baking, and, as I couldn't get any fresh gluten-free products anywhere, I decided to do my own products. Business is very good. We supply a number of coffee shops in Mullingar, as well as Supervalu there through the Food Academy programme."
Ray Dunne of Quarrymount Free Range Meats, near Tullamore, Co. Offaly, sells most of his meats at markets now. It makes the whole farming operation more sustainable. "I farm all the beef myself, my brother does free-range pork, under the name of Pigs on the Green, and Bertram Salter in Carlow does my chicken." Asking Ray what people want nowadays, he said, they want to see very clear pricing. "They want meat for the week, so I do a €20 family bundle with steak burgers, mince, chicken and sausages, very few people are buying Sunday roasts anymore." This ties in with the fact that the number of roast dinners cooked in the UK fell by 55 million last year!
Outside the food area, there were many other stalls selling everything from china to books to crafts, but one which really caught my eye was that of the Rediscovery Centre, a not-for-profit community enterprise based in Ballymun. Gerard Griffin told me "we recycle and re-use all the items you see here today - furniture, fashion, paint, bicycles, all recycled items that have come through our workshop from the public.
"The company was set up in 2006 and we have retail space in the front of our workshops in Ballymun. That is where we basically sell. It's community employment, so people who would be long-term unemployed on Social Welfare would come to us for training, and, indeed, we train quite a lot of people. We will be here every Saturday until November to promote our paint re-use project. When people have old tins in sheds or garages, they can take it to local recycle centres, they don't all take paint, certain ones do, such as Ballyogan and Ballymount. We go there and go through the paints and take the re-usable paint back to our workshops. We strain it, clean it, re-pot it and redistribute it to the public." All of the paint is offered at a minimal cost, a fraction of the price of new paint, making it very affordable.
Whatever you do at Marlay, make sure you visit the walled garden, it is a glorious oasis.