Sunday 19 November 2017

An honest-to-goodness fair trade

This artisan food market has almost everything for your weekly shop, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan

Lucinda O’Sullivan

Lucinda O’Sullivan

FOUR years ago this coming November, brother and sister team, Colm and Brid Carter took the risky step of launching Honest 2Goodness, an artisan food market, in a warehouse on Slaney Close in the Dublin Industrial Estate in Glasnevin. Since then, H2G has become one of the most popular destination food markets in Ireland operating every Saturday from 9.30am to 4pm. What struck us on a recent visit were the friendly and smiling faces – it had the feel of a real community, of people all willing to help and recommend their fellow vendors.

Brid runs the market whilst Colm heads up its very popular wine division. Like many people I met around the country, their interest in food and wine turned into a new career.

"I was a public servant for 30 years and my last job was as director of a small State company, which provided technology services to the city and county council. In 2007, I took early retirement, and the rest is history," says Brid. "I was incredibly lucky because I finished just before the big bang. I invested most of my lump sum into the business for my own future," she adds.

"For the first six months I used to worry whether stall holders would turn up, or whether customers would turn up. Eventually it started to settle and build from that. We're doing pretty well, we're down a little with the summer but I think everyone in the city is down, what with the weather," Brid says.

The market has roughly 20 stalls every week and the concept behind it is that you can go there and do your week's shopping, anything you could expect to buy in a supermarket, apart from toiletries.

Colm was formerly working "in the corporate jungle", selling electronic components across Europe for an American corporation. He says that when it comes to the wine business, they believe "in family-owned businesses that really concentrate on the quality of the wine, who work with indigenous grapes". They import from France, Spain, Italy and Germany, and will shortly be adding Austria to that list.

"The vineyard work is meticulous; one producer we work with in Germany farms only 10 hectares (around 25 acres) but it's spread over 100 plots mostly on 70-degree slopes! Due to the nature of this small production and high quality, these wines never end up on the shelves of the high street multiples," Colm says.

They now supply 80 to 100 customers, including Fallon & Byrne, Corkscrew, Black Pig Donnybrook, Jus de Vine Portmarnock, and some top restaurants.

PETER Whelan of The Whole Hoggs produces free-range pork and charcuterie in Slane, Co Meath. He too got into the business in a roundabout way: "I was running the dog pound for Meath County Council on a contract, and this was a kind of hobby on the side. I lost that contract, it was re-tendered and somebody else won. Rather than looking at a glass half empty, I said, let's make a go of this, and that is what I have done."

The main breed of pig kept by Peter is the Tamworth red. "They were originally called the Irish Grazer but, back in 1812, Sir Robert Peel, who founded the UK police force, was in Ireland where he saw them. He had a pig farm in Tamworth and he liked the lovely red Irish Grazer so much be brought them to England to improve his herd. In 1865 they became recognised by the British Pig Association as the 'Tamworth'. Everyone was saying there was no original Irish pig and when I found this out I became very passionate about it and I have tried to promote them. They have a smaller litter than the commercial pig, which is probably one of the reasons they became rare. The flavour is definitely different."

Peter dry cures his own rashers and makes his own sausages. "I really want to get into charcuterie so I am doing a bit of Spanish-style chorizo and salami as well."

Peter has been at the Honest2Goodness market for about a year: "This market has been very good to us, I've built up a regular clientele. It's like a family here, we've a great rapport. At the end of the day, if I've some sausages left I'll go over maybe to the baker and we'll do a bit of barter."

The Whole Hoggs sells garlic and chive, traditional breakfast, apple and sage, basil and tomato sausages, black and white pudding, Chinese glazed ribs and home cured hams. Peter supplies Tankardstown House and the Conyngham Arms, where you can enjoy a real Slane Breakfast.

SPRING Cottage Organic Farm is based in Kinnegad, Co Westmeath. The family-run organic vegetable and fruit business, which is managed by Rose O'Sullivan and Martin Fox, was started in 2005 and has about six acres and a "few polytunnels". It mainly does the markets and "a small bit of wholesale", including supplying Avoca.

ALAN and Lily Ramirez Foran, the couple behind the online business My Mexican Shop, met when they were both studying in Japan. Lily, who is from Mexico, moved here about 12 years ago. The day job for Alan is as a lecturer in business at Grafton College whilst Lily works for the charity, Localise.

"When Lily moved here, there weren't many Mexican ingredients available. Over time, Lily started writing a blog, putting up recipes, and adapting the Irish ingredients to it, and then started to bring some stuff in. We decided to do a shop together because people were asking for it. We ship all over Ireland, or they can collect their order here."

You will get all the refried beans, jalapeno chilies, corn tortillas you could ever want at My Mexican Shop. Look out for Maseca Masa-Harina corn flour, which is gluten free with no preservatives, cholesterol and transfats, as well as Salsa La Valentina Etiueqta Negra Tabasco sauce, which is a bestseller in Mexico and the US. They also have an Irish Mex section selling Mic's Chilli sauce, Llewellyn's Cider Vinegar, and Biddy Gonzalez BBQ sauce, made in Co Waterford.

AMAZING aromas were wafting from Draupadi's Pot, the new business of Gary McCarney, who is originally from Finglas. "The food is 100 per cent vegan and mostly gluten free," he says.

Gary has been cooking since 1983. "I've been a vegetarian for 20 years and have cooked at the Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant Govinda's," he explains. Tofu Tikka Masala with white or brown rice as well as Green Mung Bean Dal were on the menu on my visit along with chilli bites, potato pakoras and cucumber raita. He also had carrot halva, which is a fantastic easy-to-make Indian dessert.

ADAM Hoban, aged 19 and from Swords, Co Dublin, started the Purple Pantry earlier this year doing a range of chutneys, jams, and 'Teapig' loose leaf tea bags.

"Basically Purple Pantry started because I couldn't get a job. I had a background in cooking and blogging for the past few years so we decided we would try chutneys and jams. We have been operating since April and we have around 15 products at the moment," explains Adam.

Selling at €3.50 each or three for €9, they all looked delicious, with interesting combinations including peach and raspberry preserve, plum and blueberry jam, Irish whiskey and ginger marmalade, caramelised onion, and Eastern-inspired apple and pear chutney.

"Our Eastern inspired chutney has some fenugreek, cumin, and turmeric in it. I am in the kitchen day and night," says Adam. I think Adam is going to go a long way. He is made for TV.

THERE is one person you can't miss and that is the outgoing Peter Flynn of Arun Bakery whose artisan bread stall is a destination for many. Peter and his partner Master Baker Vlad Rainiss are based in SPADE in North King Street.

"We started here in the market retailing last March. We sold loaf by loaf, building it up from 20 to 30 to 40 to 50 and now we bring out three vanloads of pure sourdough. Vlad's had been 30 years baking. Both of us are in business together and we are partners together. I'm a Waterford man and I've stolen the Waterford recipes from my mum who was a baker!"

Peter says that sourdough has come and gone in Ireland. "It's been high ended, high pitched and targeted too narrowly. We're coming out there and making it a common bread reaching every quarter, building slowly. If you haven't got an order in by 5.30pm it doesn't matter who you are because we have to prove for 10 hours before we start baking or you don't get bread the following day."

Peter too changed career. "I was working in the Fraud Office until last August. I talked a lot with Brid Carter and Vlad as to whether or not I should jump ship – and I did. We knew our trade. Vlad was the baker. I knew the books, I knew how to audit, and I knew how to do some sales.

"It is a tight ship, you have to know what you are at. People are looking for good value, they know what good value is, and they know what good ingredients are," he says.

Arun supplies a number of individual shops now including Evergreen, Fresh, and the breads are in the Morrison Hotel, White Friar Grill, and Avoca Powerscourt. There wasn't a crumb of bread left on the Arun Bakery stall by 1.30pm, so get there early.

Sunday Independent

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