A STAMULLEN woman has enjoyed the sweet taste of success at a major All-Ireland food festival, which attracted over 2,000 entries.
Nicola Smith from the Big Red Kitchen in Stamullen scooped a number of awards, including a Gold Medal for her Lemon Curd jam and Raspberry Dessert Sauce. Nicola was competing in the annual Blas na hEireann/Dingle Food Festival in Benners Hotel in Dingle, Co. Kerry. It was just reward for the enterprising woman who was born and raised in London until she was 19 before returning to Ireland. 'I started working for Rivendell International (an international Chemical Consultancy company based in Stamullen) in 2007 and by the time I was made redundant in 2011 I was on the Board of Directors,' she stated.
She had started making jam as a hobby three years ago, helped by neighbour Pat Clarke of Clarkes Fresh Fruit . 'I distributed it as Christmas gifts that year. My great-grandmother made jam many years ago and entered county fair competitions, along with her daughters, and I remember making jam with my aunt when I visited Navan on holidays as a child. I got a great response from people for the jam I made, and my partner suggested I try selling the product at local craft fair.' The Environmental Health Department came out to inspect and approve her home kitchen and she started attending craft fairs and famers markets in Meath, Louth and North County Dublin .
'I started supplying a local café (Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul) and a few other local shops, and over the past 14 months (since my redundancy) I've managed to grow to the point where we supply about 25 independent gourmet stores, cafes and craft shops everywhere from Carlingford to Cork. I now attend a weekly food market "Honest2Goodness" in the Dublin Industrial Estate, Glasnevin along with some ad-hoc events.' She makes everything in her kitchen and always looks to use local growers.
'I have also formed relationships with some other Irish artisans who supply me with products like Raw Irish Honey, and also some traditional handmade boiled sweets, which I pack under the Big Red Kitchen brand. Currently we are building an online shop in response to the many requests I get from customers who want to be able to purchase my products from abroad,'she added. Her products include Raspberry & Vanilla Jam, Pear & Vanilla Jam, Chilli Jelly, Sage Jelly and Butterscotch Sauce. Locally, Nicola's products are available at Farm Fresh Fruit & Veg, Strand Street, Skerries; Gibneys, Malahide; The Cafe, Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul; The Trinket Box, Lusk; and Shane Curran Butchers, Stamullen.